WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders is set to endorse abortion rights advocate Marie Newman in her primary challenge against Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski, one of the last remaining anti-abortion Democrats in Congress, the Sanders campaign told BuzzFeed News exclusively Tuesday. It is Sanders’ first congressional endorsement of the 2020 cycle.
Lipinski beat Newman by just two points in 2018, and the rematch has captured national attention as anti-abortion legislation has become law in states across the country in recent weeks.
“At a time when workers are under attack by Wall Street and women's rights are under attack by well-funded extremist groups across the country, I am proud to support Marie Newman's grassroots campaign for Congress,” Sanders said in a statement shared with BuzzFeed News. “Marie will challenge the establishment by fighting for Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, expanding workers’ rights, and she will be a powerful voice for upholding Roe v. Wade at a disturbing moment in our history when a woman’s right to control her own body and future is at stake.”
Newman has made her pro–abortion rights stance central to her campaign against Lipinski, a decision that has secured her the endorsements of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, MoveOn, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and Democracy for America.
Sanders, who also endorsed Newman in 2018, is the third Democratic presidential candidate to endorse her, following Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
Last month, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Cheri Bustos made news after it was reported that she would be appearing at a fundraiser for Lipinski in early June, as the DCCC has doubled-down on its policy of supporting incumbent Democrats. After backlash from progressives, Bustos pulled out.
“I’m proud to have a 100 percent pro-choice voting record and I’m deeply alarmed by the rapidly escalating attacks on women’s access to reproductive care in several states,” Bustos said in a statement when she canceled her appearance. But she reiterated that the DCCC would stand behind Lipinski and said she believes in a “big tent Democratic caucus.”
“Every dollar spent trying to defeat one of our Democratic incumbents is a dollar that we cannot spend defeating Republicans,” she said.
Amid the slew of recent abortion news, Lipinski himself has been largely absent on the issue. But he did tell the New York Times that he believes the disavowal of anti-abortion Democrats was “how we got President Trump — people felt like they weren’t welcome in the party.”
Sanders’ endorsement of Newman comes after Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana have, in recent weeks, enacted laws banning abortion after a heartbeat is detected, which usually occurs around five to six weeks into pregnancy — often before women know they’re pregnant at all. Several other states across the country have enacted similar laws, some of which have already been halted by the courts. Alabama went a step further, making it a felony to perform or assist with any abortion procedure except in cases that pose a major risk to the health of the mother.
“This type of legislation is authoritarian and totalitarian. There’s no other way to describe it,” Newman said in an interview with BuzzFeed News last week. “Let’s be honest about what it is. It’s taking us back 100 years, and that’s not exaggerating.”
Since launching his 2020 presidential campaign, Sanders has talked often about abortion. Last month, he encouraged men to speak out about the issue more often.
"This is not just a woman's issue,” he told a crowd in North Carolina. "This is an issue that impacts all of us. And the men must stand with the women in their moment of need."