Donnelly took same stance as Mourdock in abortion bill

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Seeking to capture an Indiana Senate seat Democrats haven't held for four decades, Joe Donnelly's television ads depict him as an earnest moderate while slamming his tea party-backed Senate opponent for an abortion remark that ignited a firestorm of criticism from members of both parties.

What the ads don't mention — and what the Democratic congressman doesn't bring up on the campaign trail — is that last year he backed a measure that would have denied federal abortion funding even in cases of rape and incest.

Donnelly explains that while he opposes abortion he didn't initially realize the bill would have gone that far, yet the issue has made it difficult for him to capitalize on Republican Richard Mourdock's comment in a televised debate that life is "God intended " even when it results from a pregnancy caused by rape.

The abortion policy similarities between the two candidates and an electorate with deeply rooted social conservative beliefs have muted the impact of Mourdock's words in Indiana.

By comparison, Republicans quickly withdrew money and support from Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin after his controversial comment on abortion, and Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill — an abortion rights supporter — surged in the polls. Akin's statement went further than Mourdock by saying that women's bodies have the ability to reject pregnancies in the case of a "legitimate rape."

Because Donnelly has campaigned carefully as a consensus-builder, the refocus of the race on abortion threatens to not just fail to help him but alienate voters who rallied to his cause because they view his policies as less-divisive.

Although many Democrats had hoped Mourdock's comment would be the October surprise needed to push Donnelly to victory, Donnelly instead has been forced to re-explain why he initially supported a measure that would have effectively created a separate class of "forcible rape."

"I said in February of 2011, 'Look, I want to prevent federal funds from being used for abortion-related services, but unless this language is taken out, I cannot vote for it,'" Donnelly said Tuesday while visiting a senior housing complex in Indianapolis. "I've been very clear that I'm a pro-life candidate. But this isn't about pro-life. This is about very hurtful remarks that are hurtful to women, to survivors of rape and to their families."

Immediately after the debate, Donnelly joined a chorus of Democrats and even some Republicans, including presidential contender Mitt Romney and Rep. Mike Pence, who's running for governor, in denouncing Mourdock's comments.

But Donnelly took few questions last week at a press conference he called the day after Mourdock's comments. And he quickly turned over the sharp rhetoric to surrogates such as the state's former Democratic Party chairwoman, allowing her to throw more haymakers while he got back to painting himself as a moderate.

A new ad by a Democratic-aligned super PAC ties Pence to Mourdock on the basis of the congressman's support for the legislation, but leaves out Donnelly's support for the same measure. And the Donnelly campaign began airing a new commercial this week hitting Mourdock for his comments, while again making no mention of his support for the legislation.

The strategy is one Democrats have employed throughout the campaign.

Beginning with Mourdock's GOP primary upset of veteran moderate U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and continuing with comments in the days after the primary that the highlight of politics for him is "inflicting" his opinion on others, Democrats have been able to keep much of the campaign narrative focused away from Donnelly.

Donnelly's own campaign ads omit any reference to his party. Those efforts to stress bipartisanship have kept him afloat as a rare bright spot for Indiana Democrats, who lost two congressional seats and control of the state House in the last election.

The anti-abortion slant of Indiana's electorate is hardly in doubt. Gov. Mitch Daniels approved an effort last year to defund Planned Parenthood, and Pence has led the effort in Congress to cut support for the group. Both Donnelly and Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg oppose abortions, except in limited cases.

Republicans who initially blasted Donnelly's support for the abortion bill have since tried to move away from Mourdock's abortion comments, returning to their main theme that Donnelly is a partisan Democrat who's supported many of President Barack Obama's controversial measures, such as the auto bailout and federal health care overhaul.

Mourdock's staff has griped to reporters that Donnelly is getting a free pass on his support for the forcible rape legislation.

Mourdock says his words during the debate were "twisted" by Democrats and others but said it's Donnelly's choice if he wants to crack open the abortion issue on the campaign trail.

"The fact that he's going to politicize that issue, I think, is a decision he has to make," Mourdock said. "I just saw, even as we were speaking, a quote up on the TV from the Wall Street Journal where they called it 'sleazy.' Certainly I think that's an apt description if he wants to politicize that issue, which is certainly not one that I tried to politicize."

Many voters say they understood what Mourdock meant when he made his comment about pregnancy. That doesn't mean they like it.

Sara Jacobs, 69, said she talked with Donnelly about Mourdock's comments during his visit to her senior living complex.

"He put not one, but both feet in his mouth," Jacobs said.

Amy Leonard, a South Bend mother of three, said she understood Mourdock was trying to say that all life is precious but disagrees with how the words came out. She plans to split her ticket, voting Republican for governor and Democrat in the Senate race.

"That is one topic I stay away from, is abortion. No matter what, you are going to make somebody mad. You can never give the right answer," she said.


  • Doesn't the truth matter
    It is dismaying to see that almost all of the comments here focus on bias and where the IBJ chose to run the article - does it matter to any of you that they chose to tell you a truth that you did not know??? I long for news media to tell me the FACTS, not their opinion, so that I can make my own decision. I too am frustrated at biased reporting by "journalists" who think they know what is best for me to know. I applaud the IBJ for telling me something (FACTS, not their opinion) that I did not know. It does have an effect on my opinion of Donnelly and my decision on who to vote for. Personally, I do not care where they put it and EVERYTHING POLITICS has an effect on business.
  • Re: AP not IBJ
    The IBJ chose to run the article. It is an AP article but the editorial team made the decision to run it in their daily news.
  • AP not IBJ
    Kay and others who claim this article is biased: This is not an IBJ article; it's Associated Press. An IBJ article would never call Indiana a state with "deeply rooted social conservative beliefs" because almost anyone here knows it isn't true. Only an East Coast based media establishment that has never stepped foot here in Flyoverland would draw that conclusion when there are at least a dozen states with more deeply held social conservative beliefs. The basic legality of abortion has never been challenged in Indiana the way it has in other states. Indiana is much more fiscally conservative than socially, which is why we have so many candidates running as Libertarians, who occasionally even win. That said, it does seem strange that IBJ would choose to promote such an article. It has nothing to do with business in Indianapolis.
    • Obama and demorcrats are frauds
      not that many will read this but since the liberal media does a bang up job of protecting obama and basically campaigning pretty hard for him, some might want a little more background on Obama. http://washingtonexaminer.com/obama#.UJKZXmea6dA http://redalertpolitics.com/2012/10/30/a-better-choice-the-case-for-mitt-romney/ Its frustrating as a republican seeing the country with continued high unemployment, increased government dependence with food stamps and welfare at all time highs, coverups in foreign policy, 6 trillion additional debt, trillion deficit, and to think that people still want Obama in office. He has forced Obamacare through without american popular support or partisan support, which has never been done by any president on legislation this important. Its been my way or the highway, thats where the lack of leadership originates. Libs can continue to blame congress, but fact is obama had majority first two years and still couldn't accomplish anything. Obama hasn't even come up with a budget. He's put billions into several 'green' companies who are now ALL bankrupt. Government knows how to do one thing well, waste money. If you support gay marriage, right to abortion, etc that your own opinion and i wont criticize that. i'm actually for states deciding both. There are bigger issues and Obama is threatening the future of this country. Forget what you think of Bush, how in the world is it possible to think Obama deserves or even has plans to turn things around and create a better future. The guy has not accomplished a single thing before presidency or in the last 4 years. He is resorting to trying to discredit and shame Romney when instead he should be coming up with a real plan for the future. His speeches and promises are great and all, but fact is we're in worse shape than 2008 and heading toward a financial cliff. He has divided this country and further seperated the hatred between democrats and republicans more than ever, all while he promised to bring the country together in 2008. Like all his promises, the exact opposite occurred. The idea that republicans are rich and hate the poor is disgusting. Republicans want a fair chance to be successful. Continuing to create government dependence and less incentive to be successful along with the increased regulation and tax when starting a business hurts those attempting to be successful. Go vote for Obama if you really believe that taxing the rich will create jobs or you want to continue to take the easy excuse and blame Bush. What got us in the mess isn't Romney. its fannie mae and risky mortages that finally caught up to the homeowners spending more that they could afford. its a whole lot more than Bush. But to think that Obama is the guy to fix things when all he's done is stepped on the accelerator towards financial disaster. Obama is the biggest fraud in all of history. He can continue to campaign to get the moron vote or the uninformed, continue to make his promises, continue to spend his way to bankruptcy, continue to alienate Americas allies, continue a track to increased unemployment and increased government dependence, lower quality of healthcare and shortage of doctors, and continue to blame Bush. I won't blame Obama, i'll blame the ignorance and entitlement mindset on the Obama voters. If you read this much i'll be surprised, but Obama supporters make me sick. they have no plan, no solution, no future. they only want to blame the past, promise the future, and label republicans and old rich white men. i'm not old, and definitely not rich, but can see the direction that Obama wants to take this country....and its anything but FORWARD
    • To Whiteout
      Thank you, WhiteOut. You successfully make the perfect argument against Romney, who I'm assuming you're behind. He can't determine what side of an issue he's on, so he chooses all sides. Heck, in my book, he's still an undecided voter. PATHETIC! And I 100% agree with Wesley. This article didn't even appear in the general news section. It has absolutely nothing to do with business. If the IBJ wants to endorse a candidate, then do it the right way--not under the guise of journalism.
    • Really?
      If you guys as a paper wanted to be taken seriously, this article wouldn't be here. If you want to endorse Mourdock, you write an opinion piece explaining why you endorse him. You don't simply write an article trashing his opponent. And isn't it the Indianapolis "Business" Journal? What does abortion have to do with Indianapolis Business? Additionally, how do all of the conservatives posting here have the nerve to talk about Joe Donnelly having multiple positions when your candidate for president is the MVP of that sport? I don't like either of them, but to me you must be crazy if you vote for Mourdock.
    • Thank You, Kay...
      ...for making my point for me. So because candidate A is honest about what he believes, you extrapolate that to him ramming it down everyone else's bucket, but Candidate B, who cannot or will not state a position clearly is to be believed? In what? So let's think carefully about this: How do we predict what B actually believes on ? And how do we know he doesn't actually believe what A believes? And how do we extrapolate that to B being a better listener than A (for whatever that's worth)? At some point, B has to stand for something regarding and vote on it. Do we know what that is? Does his record prove it? Clearly not based on his own words. And we're more comfortable electing B whose position is less known/less predictable versus A who is more known/more predictable? Is this how companies hire employees?
      • Joe Donnelly
        Unfortunately, the Republicans chose to select a loon to replace Dick Lugar, so I imagine Donnelly can win the election without lifting a finger.
      • KAY
        Really???? All us republicans are what again? Use to be Hoosiers were for all Hoosiers. Now I understand why everyone mocks the region.
      • SAY NO TO JOE
      • Is this unbiased journalism?
        Sometimes I really wonder about IBJ and whether or not they are reporting things in an unbiased manner. This really helps answer that question and it's clear who they support in this election. However, I would rather vote for someone who is willing to listen to all people and not just force their ideas on everyone else. That makes it a clear choice for me. Donnelly will make much more of an effort to work together and create solutions that work. It seems to me that Republicans are so caught up in "being right" that they force their overused mistakes on everyone.
        • Precisely
          Hoosierlib. Precisely the issue. It appears Donnelly wants it both ways, and if pressed won't stand up for what he claims is his pro-life stance: 'I didn't realize the bill said that yada yada'...that sounds pretty squishy. On the other hand, Mourdock humbly and succinctly stated his position. Like him or hate him, you know where he stands on this single issue. The electorate is fickle: on one hand voters complain about politicians who double-speak...so a guy like Mourdock states his stance and takes his arrows, and the same voters blast him *for something he DID NOT say*! The only way he could have made the statement any more clear was to have said 'God intended *that child* to be conceived' vs 'God intended *it to happen*' (the 'it' being the word/meaning that the Left has chosen to intentionally twist).
        • Wake Up Hoosiers
          This is the liberal way of running an election. They are all loud mouths that cannot run on their socialist record, so they start the lies, cover-ups, and insults. This election is about jobs and the economy...dumbocrats epic failure, not about abortion and rape. Lets try to stay focused. Dumbocrats, try to stop lying and talking out both sides of your mouths. When it comes to topics like abortion, nothing can be said that sounds good and works for both parties.
        • The big takeaway...
          Donnelly didn't publicly say that pregnancies that result from rape are God's will.

        Post a comment to this story

        We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
        You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
        Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
        No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
        We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

        Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

        Sponsored by

        facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

        Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
        Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
        thisissue1-092914.jpg 092914

        Subscribe to IBJ