There are many sorrows of this time of coronavirus, and one of them is political. On the first Tuesday we were really truly grappling with the pandemic as a country, one of our national leaders in defense of innocent human life lost his primary race. Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois is pretty much the pro-life Democrat, at least in Washington, D.C.
Lipinski is a man of conscience and courage. And my first thought when news came in that he had lost was: We don't deserve him.
There wasn't a lot of press time given to Lipinski's loss, for obvious reasons, but I found the closing remarks of his campaign important. "There was one issue that loomed especially large in this campaign: the fact that I am pro-life," he said.
"I was shunned by many of my colleagues and other Democratic Party members and operators because of my pro-life stance. The pressure in the Democratic Party on the life issue has never been as great as it is now. ... I have always said that I would never give up being pro-life and standing up for babies in the womb." As Lipinski testifies, the pressure to conform on abortion issues has gotten worse instead of better.
He was clear in his beliefs, which spring from his Catholic faith: "Life begins at conception. Knowing this, I could never give up protecting the most vulnerable human beings in the world simply to win an election. My faith teaches, and the Democratic Party preaches, that we should serve everyone, especially the most vulnerable. To stand in solidarity with the vulnerable is to become vulnerable. But there is no higher calling for anyone."
And aren't we all vulnerable now? The worldwide pandemic puts everything in a new perspective -- or at least it should. You don't have to agree with me, obviously, but can we take some of this time to reflect on some important subjects? What is life? What is its value? Why do we make sacrifices for others, and why are we sometimes thoughtlessly selfish?
In his concession speech, Lipinski ran with the idea of a new reality: "Right now, everyone in our country, and many other countries, are vulnerable in a way that we never imagined as we face the coronavirus pandemic. We are a very polarized nation where people are often looking for ways to cause more division, but it is time for us to realize that we are all in this fight together. This is a threat that can only be defeated by all of us listening to and following guidance from health care experts and caring for the good of our neighbors ... Now is the time for common sense and solidarity, and we can minimize the suffering from this pandemic."
I find myself somewhat stunned about a lot of things these days, and among them is the fact that so many of us, regardless of our party affiliations, ideological loyalties or other convictions of a more enduring sort, are joined in common cause in defense of human life.
And I've been watching New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who not only expanded abortion in my home state, but also once told pro-life New Yorkers that we are unwelcome here. In these days, though, he is rising to the occasion of protecting and defending human life. This is exactly what people in government should do -- it's exactly, frankly, what we all should do. And so I am grateful. And even without Mass to attend, I find myself praying not only for healing and an end to this pandemic, but that when we find ourselves on the other side of this, we might reconsider some of our debates, and find common cause on a whole lot more as people of goodwill. Our recalcitrant back-and-forth over abortion should be retired. Not after we have spent all these weeks and months defending innocent human life! Can we rethink things a bit? Can we see our common humanity?
(Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book "A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living." She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan's pro-life commission in New York. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)