Embattled anti-choice Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL) spoke at a March for Life-affiliated event alongside abortion foes aligned with the Trump administration’s agenda—just a day before he skipped his scheduled Friday address to the march, declining to put himself in what he called a “potentially morally compromised situation” by speaking at the same event as the president.
“So many have been driven out [of the Democratic Party]. And I have a lot of people tell me, ‘Well, just get out,’” Lipinski told the Law of Life Summit, according to an audio recording obtained by Rewire.
“And I always say, ‘Well, I think it’s important to evangelize. I think it’s important to have a voice, crying out in that wilderness, of the need to protect life,’” he continued. “And I’ve always believed, and I always say, the Democratic Party says it stands up for the little guy, and there’s no one who is more vulnerable than the unborn, who need the protection. And so I’m hanging in there.”
Lipinski wasn’t listed on Law of Life’s agenda, which included a panel featuring David Daleiden, the indicted Center for Medical Progress leader behind a smear campaign that targeted Planned Parenthood and led to an uptick in clinic violence. Three Republican-led congressional committee investigations, 13 states, and a Texas grand jury have disproved Daleiden’s allegations. Financial disclosure forms revealed last April that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway had consulted for the anti-choice front group.
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Lipinski was scheduled to speak at the main attraction: Friday’s March for Life on the National Mall. Doing so would have amounted to a prominent show of solidarity with congressional Republicans, shortly after he voted alongside them on an anti-abortion bill based on junk science and scare tactics.
A Lipinski spokesperson contacted Friday by Rewire could not immediately say why the lawmaker didn’t attend the march. Lipinski issued a statement Saturday to BuzzFeed News, citing the “potentially morally compromised situation” with the Twitter-happy Trump as the reason for his absence.
“I understand why appearing with the opposition party right now would make him feel uncomfortable,” Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, told BuzzFeed.
On Monday, the Lipinski spokesperson provided Rewire with the same statement given to BuzzFeed. Lipinski was “proud” to address Chicago’s March for Life earlier in the month, he noted via email.
Speaking at the Law of Life event, Lipinski initially joked about the position in which he found himself.
“Yes, I am one of the last pro-life Democrats, and they have figured it out now,” Lipinski said to laughter from the audience.
Fellow Illinois Democrats Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutiérrez recently endorsed Lipinski challenger Marie Newman ahead of the state’s March 20 primary. Lipinski lamented that NARAL Pro-Choice America, one of several prominent progressive groups backing Newman, is “all in” on the race because “they know that they cannot allow to have any [anti-choice] voices left in the Democratic Party.”
At that point, Lipinski underscored the need to “evangelize” anti-choice views to fellow Democrats.
“Science tells us life begins at conception,” Lipinski told the Law of Life audience, a position that could undermine his public statements in support of contraception. Lipinski told the Chicago Tribune last August that he voted 26 times to fund Title X, the federal family planning program for people with low incomes. Under Trump, he voted with Republicans to shred the program’s safeguards at a time when it’s under attack from within.
Lipinski’s comments about “science” struck a familiar tone—House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) made a similar appeal while at the March for Life on Friday. The comments also align with the conservative talking points and medically unsupported falsehoods pushed by Democrats for Life of America, a group Lipinski advises.
Lipinski further alluded to support for another far-right favorite: so-called personhood laws that seek to classify fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses as “persons,” and to grant them full legal protection under the U.S. Constitution, including the right to life from the moment of conception. If enacted, the laws would criminalize abortion with no exception and ban many forms of contraception, in vitro fertilization, and health care for pregnant people.
“This is, all science will tell us, this is a new person,” Lipinski said. “So, that person, like everyone else, deserves all the protection in the world.”
NARAL slammed Lipinski when his scheduled March for Life appearance was announced. The Law of Life appearance didn’t go over much better with the abortion rights group.
“Congressman Lipinski may be running scared but he can’t run from his long record of restricting women’s rights,” NARAL States Communications Director James Owens told Rewire.
“Now that Congressman Lipinski is in the fight of his political life, he’s trying to hide his unpopular and fringe agenda from Illinois voters. Yet what’s becoming clear is that everyone knows that Congressman Lipinski is out of touch, including Congressman Lipinski.”
Lipinski’s spokesperson forwarded Rewire‘s follow-up questions regarding the Law of Life Summit remarks to the lawmaker. Rewire did not receive a response by the time of publication.