Ethics & Public Policy Center

In Illinois, a Pro-Life Democrat and Not So Pro-Life Republican

Published in National Review Online on February 12, 2018


It begins like any other recruitment ad for a leadership position at an influential organization. Planned Parenthood of Illinois recently engaged an exclusive recruiting firm to help it find a new president and CEO, one who has the “ability to lead and execute strategic plans.”

Shortly into the job description, one finds an interesting requirement. The president and CEO will need to to launch a capital campaign that “will result in four new” Planned Parenthood “health centers.” Planned Parenthood already operates 17 clinics in Illinois, including a mega-clinic in Aurora, strategically located within an hour’s drive of both the Indiana and the Wisconsin borders. (Illinois law does not require a minor to be a state resident to get a judicial waiver to have an abortion.) And just last month, Planned Parenthood opened a clinic in Flossmoor, a suburban village that, while affluent and racially diverse, is almost entirely surrounded by economically challenged communities, largely populated by people of color. The new Flossmoor clinic offers medical (i.e., the abortion pill) and elective surgical abortions up to the 20th week of pregnancy.

Why the sudden expansion? Four new centers, in addition to Flossmoor? Why would the nation’s largest provider of abortions open additional clinics when even its former research affiliate, the Guttmacher Institute, has noted that nationally the number of women choosing to end their pregnancies is declining?

The job description may provide a clue: The new president and CEO will “capitalize on the ongoing changes” in local and national health care to enhance the “organization’s financial success.” Couple that with the requirement, or “must,” that the new officer “actively cultivate relationships at the top levels” of the state’s “legislative and administrative leadership” and you have your answer.

Last year, Republican governor Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 40, which provides all Illinois Medicaid recipients and employees of the state of Illinois with abortion services at taxpayer expense. This new abortion benefit is limited with respect neither to the number of procedures a woman chooses to have nor to the stage in her pregnancy at which she chooses to have them.

After he had publicly promised that he would veto HB40, Rauner signed it, over the objection of most of those who put him into office. Not one of the 73 Illinois House and Senate Republicans voted for it. While no one knows for sure what goes on in backroom politics, it’s fairly obvious that Rauner’s decision has allowed Planned Parenthood to “capitalize on the ongoing changes” in Illinois as it seeks to expand its reach. At taxpayer expense — and at the expense of the developmentally disabled, who continue to see a reduction in the services they need because of Illinois’s ongoing fiscal crisis and failure to reimburse private social-service agencies.

The governor’s betrayal of those who trusted him inspired state representative Jeannie Ives, a mother of five who is a West Point graduate with a degree in economics, to challenge him in the March 20 primary. Ives’s instinct, that Rauner’s capitulation to the abortion lobby would ultimately cost him his base of support, seems to be proving correct. Initially dismissed as having virtually no chance of defeating the multimillionaire Rauner, she turned the tables on the sitting governor in a recent debate before the Chicago Tribune editorial board, at some points leaving him speechless.

It’s now a race to watch — and not just because real money has begun to pour into the Ives headquarters. Over the weekend, the Ives campaign released an intentionally provocative commercial,  a parody of one her opponent’s early ads. The media reaction was a firestorm, as national outlets picked up the story. Against widespread criticism, Ives defended the ad, arguing that its purpose was to draw attention to issues, not people:

The commercial does not attack people, it tackles issues by truthfully illustrating the constituencies Rauner has chosen to serve to the exclusion of others. As Christians, we believe that every person is made in God’s image and is deserving of dignity. I respect people who are different from me. I respect people who have different views than me. In fact, it seems that the converse is not true among many with whom I disagree. They shouldn’t be silenced — but neither should I. And I won’t be.

And the Ives–Rauner contest may inadvertently affect another closely watched and important  race in the Illinois primary: that of Democratic congressman Dan Lipinski. Important because the outcome will send a message to more-moderate Democrats, especially those who are practicing Catholics and Evangelical Christians, about whether they are welcome in the Democratic party. Lipinski has represented the third congressional district for 13 years.

He’s being challenged by Marie Newman, who has never served as an elected official or served in government but has amassed a list that reads like a Who’s Who of the hard Left: Gloria Steinem, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Emily’s List, the Feminist Majority, MoveOn.org, and Daily Kos, among others. Breaking with both professional courtesies and a long-standing tradition of neutrality in primary races, two of Lipinski’s Democratic colleagues in the U.S. House, Representatives Luis Gutiérrez and Jan Schakowsky, both of Illinois, have endorsed Newman. Along with Marie Newman, Gutiérrez and Schakowsky are both backed by NARAL, which opposes any limit on abortion, during any time in pregnancy, for any reason whatsoever. Gutiérrez and Schakowsky recently voted against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, essentially supporting elective abortion at 20 weeks’ gestation and later.

Newman’s endorsements don’t reflect the people of the district. Illinois’s third is a snapshot of socially conservative but traditionally Democratic-leaning Americans, although they occasionally cross party lines. Think of “Reagan Democrats” and you get the picture. The largest ethnic population is Hispanic, followed by those of Irish descent. The district is heavily Catholic, with many thriving Catholic parishes and schools. Before the Rauner–Ives contest became tight, many Republicans in the district had planned to cross party lines again, as they had for Reagan, to vote to reelect Dan Lipinski.

Lipinski is a pro-life Democrat in the model of the late Pennsylvania governor Robert Casey: He supports good jobs, affordable health care, and immigration reform that reflects the concerns of many of his Hispanic constituents. The district includes a lot of industry and many small businesses — and many middle-class families who are pragmatic and like the independent, more moderate perspective that Lipinski brings to the Democratic party on social issues and that, by and large, they share. His candidacy means they’re not faced with the agonizing burden of choosing between their other political preferences and their opposition to late-term abortion.

It’s strange that Newman has chosen as her wedge between Lipinski and the district’s mainstream the very issue that, as David Brooks points out, has lost the Democratic party so many votes, particularly among traditional Democratic constituencies. While other issues certainly are at play, too, the race — as evidenced by Newman’s support from the lucrative abortion industry, its political lobby, and its most extreme advocacy groups — has centered largely on abortion or, as Newman prefers, “reproductive rights.”

Most Americans, including most American women, support a ban on abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation. While no poll on late-term abortions has been taken exclusively in the Illinois third, it would strain credulity to argue that such a traditionally conservative district would embrace late-term procedures that the nation as a whole opposes.

Decades ago, Governor Casey, barred from speaking at the Democratic National Convention because he was pro-life, urged the members of his party to be “open to debate and discussion; to move away from a lock-step litmus test which advocates abortion on demand.” Casey called fellow Democrats to be true to their better, more inclusive selves, to principles of diversity and fairness. He advocated a “mainstream Democratic approach.” He warned that the party’s enthusiastic embrace of the abortion license was not only “wrong in principle” but also “out of the mainstream of our party’s historic commitment to protecting the powerless.”

Even in “bright blue” states like Illinois, both parties would be wise to heed the late Governor Casey’s warnings, especially as scientific advances make it more and more difficult for them to defend unrestricted abortion. And in Illinois in particular, this year’s primary elections pose a larger question to candidates and parties alike: Is protecting abortion on demand worth the cost, not only in votes but in human lives?

— Mary Hallan FioRito is an attorney and is the Cardinal Francis George Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Comments are closed.



RELATED PUBLICATIONS