Two Catholic religious sisters on Wednesday expressed their support for a pro-abortion primary challenger to one of the last remaining pro-life Democrats in Congress.
The campaign of Marie Newman, a Democratic candidate running in a primary against Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois’ third congressional district, posted a video on Twitter Wednesday featuring two religious sisters—Sisters Patricia Murphy and JoAnn Persch of the Sisters of Mercy—endorsing Newman’s bid for Congress.
In the video, Sister Patricia Murphy cited Newman’s “incredible power to listen to people” as a reason for her support.
In the video, Sister JoAnn Persch said that she first met Newman “in front of Congressman Lipinski’s office” and saw her again at a local “march against hate,” but had “never met Congressman Dan Lipinski personally” in her time working in the district.
“I will respond by voting for Marie Newman,” Persch said. Murphy said in the video that Newman “will make a great congresswoman and she has my vote.”
Newman is mounting her second consecutive primary challenge to Rep. Lipinski, opposing his views on life and marriage issues while boasting of her support from pro-abortion groups.
Lipinski, a Catholic is an eight-term member of Congress and widely known as one of the few remaining pro-life Democrats in a federal office. He is supported by pro-life groups such as the Susan B. Anthony List and National Right to Life.
Lipinski has worked across the aisle to support pro-life measures, including signing a petition to force a vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act which would require medical care for infants who survive a botched abortion attempt. He co-sponsored a “pain-capable” 20-week abortion ban in 2017, has voted to defund Planned Parenthood, and has voted against taxpayer funding of abortion.
Newman, his challenger, has the support of several pro-abortion groups, including EMILYs List, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), and Planned Parenthood. She supports taxpayer-funded abortion.
In a video during her 2018 campaign, Newman said she was “so proud, and pleased” to accept NARAL’s endorsement and thanked the group “for all the amazing work you do at the local level and at the national level.”
“For too long, my opponent, Mr. Lipinski, has thrown reproductive freedom and women’s rights under the bus,” Newman said, adding that she would work to promote “women’s rights, worker’s rights, working family’s rights, health care for all, immigrants and LGBTQ folks, and Americans.”
Newman narrowly lost to Lipinski in the 2018 Democratic primary for the third congressional district, which is a safely-Democratic district.
In May 2019, NARAL announced that it was once again endorsing Newman, along with Planned Parenthood Action Fund and EMILY’s List. Lipinski, the group said, was known for “siding with anti-choice activists and supporting a bigoted agenda.” Newman said in a statement that she was “honored” to receive their support.
On Monday, a coalition of pro-abortion groups including NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and EMILY’s List, announced they would devote $1.4 million to advertising to target Lipinski’s pro-life record.
The coalition’s “independent expenditures” project would involve direct mail, television ad buys and digital ads, and would “highlight” Lipinski’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act and its contraceptive mandate, support for defunding Planned Parenthood, and support for overturning Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court, among other matters.
The sisters endorsing Newman are members of the Sisters of Mercy, which has a West/Midwest community with a “central administrative center” based in Omaha, Nebraska, and a satellite location in Chicago. According to the order’s website, Sister Patricia Murphy entered the order in 1947 and is a 70-year jubilarian. She has worked in education in Illinois and Wisconsin, and in Peru.
Persch and Murphy have been advocates for immigrants’ rights, starting the Su Casa Catholic Worker house for survivors of torture from Central America and holding regular prayer vigils outside the Chicago office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since 2007.
Their immigration advocacy took them to Washington, D.C. in 2019 when Sister Pat Murphy was among a group of demonstrators arrested at the Russell Senate Office Building. The group was protesting the treatment of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and the practice of child immigrant detention.
In a statement to CNA on Thursday, the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas said it “does not endorse any political candidates.”
“Political endorsements made by any individual sisters represent their own personal views,” the statement read.
The religious sisters’ endorsement of Newman is not the first prominent 2020 political endorsement by a priest or religious. Fr. Frank Pavone, a priest of the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, is the co-chair of President Trump’s 2020 pro-life campaign outreach.
Newman has drawn distinctions between herself and Lipinski on other issues apart from abortion.
She has supported Medicare-for-All and the Green New Deal, and opposed a 2017 tax law which Lipinski also voted against. She had attacked Lipinski for not supporting the Equality Act in 2019, a bill that would create protected classes in federal law for sexual orientation and gender identity and which forbade sex discrimination—a prohibition that pro-life groups warned would be interpreted by the courts to overturn abortion regulations.
Lipinski initially opposed the Equality Act but ultimately voted for it, saying that “all Americans deserve equal treatment under the law and should have these rights protected, including individuals in the LGBT community.”
The congressman has also said he still has religious freedom concerns about the bill, and that it could override the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Lipinski has said that “before [the Equality Act] becomes law, we must do more to ensure religious liberty.”
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