WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - As Washington braces for battle over ideological control of the Supreme Court, other fights are unfolding over key seats on Capitol Hill. One of the most important races will decide who represents Indiana in the U.S. Senate beginning in 2019.
The contest is of special interest for Catholics because, while both candidates claim fidelity to the Faith, a closer study reveals differences in how they apply Catholic principles to policy.
Though Sen. Donnelly is widely touted as a moderate or even conservative Democrat, his voting record runs counter to most conservative positions.
The senator's departure from Church teaching on LGBT issues and abortion has earned low ratings from pro-family policy groups. Eagle Forum, founded by Catholic conservative Phyllis Schlafly, gives him a 19 percent positive rating. The American Family Association ranks him lower, at zero percent.
Donnelly was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006. As his career took root in Washington, he threw his support behind gay activism and later cast his lot with abortion supporters.
In October 2009, the congressman voted to expand federal hate crime laws to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. He followed in December 2010 by voting to allow gays to serve openly in the military.
Mindful of Indiana's conservative bent, Donnelly declared opposition to same-sex "marriage" during his 2012 campaign for the Senate. Five months later, after winning the election, he reversed course, taking to social media to announce his backing for gay "marriage." His declaration sparked dismay among faithful Catholics, with one challenging him on Facebook: "Is there any Catholic belief you won't sacrifice for popularity? I don't think I can refer to you as my Catholic Senator anymore."
While in the Senate, Donnelly's opposition to abortion also unraveled.
Donnelly describes himself as "committed to protecting the sanctity of life," touting his endorsement by Democrats for Life of America, his vote to ban abortion after 20 weeks and his co-sponsorship of a ban on taxpayer funding of abortion as pro-life credentials.
But a closer look reveals that, as senator, Donnelly has sided with Planned Parenthood in two out of every three abortion-related votes.
He has voted repeatedly against federal defunding of Planned Parenthood. Since 2016, he has voted consistently to preserve more than half a billion dollars in taxpayer funding for the nation's largest abortion provider, responsible for more than 300,000 unborn deaths each year — 900 every day.
In 2017, he remained silent as the Democratic National Committee presented Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards a lifetime achievement award, earning the rebuke of pro-life groups.
Fed up with Donnelly's betrayal of the pro-life cause, the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) has launched a campaign to expose his "true nature," sponsoring a door-to-door field team to inform Hoosiers that the senator is "dramatically out of step with Indiana voters" on abortion. Since the launch of the campaign, the pro-life canvassers have visited more than 120,000 Indiana homes.
In March, SBA List National Campaign Chair Jill Stanek spoke out against Sen. Donnelly's commitment to Planned Parenthood's abortion regime.
"Planned Parenthood ends the lives of more than 300,000 babies each year and wounds that many mothers," she said. "They are under investigation for their role in the harvest and sale of baby body parts. Hoosiers deserve a Senator who will side with them, unlike Sen. Donnelly, who stands with the brutal abortion lobby."
Stanek was echoed by Sue Swayze Liebel, SBA List's Indiana state chair.
"Senator Donnelly tells Hoosiers he opposes taxpayer funding of abortion, but in Washington, he's voted repeatedly to continue sending tax dollars to Planned Parenthood, the country's biggest abortion business," she said. "His votes are dramatically out of step with our pro-life state."
"We won't stop until he is defeated at the ballot box in November," Liebel added.
The SBA List has been joined by other pro-life groups in opposing Donnelly's re-election. In April, Indiana Right to Life endorsed the senator's Republican challenger, Mike Braun. Earlier this month, National Right to Life declared that it, too, is backing Braun.
"National Right to Life is pleased to endorse Mike Braun for the U.S. Senate. Mike Braun's position on life reflects the true values of Indiana's voters," said Carol Tobias, National Right to Life president. "Many Indiana voters will be surprised to learn that, while Joe Donnelly claims to be pro-life, he has voted pro-life less than one-third of the time over his six-year term."
"Indiana voters who are concerned with the right to life and with the protection of the most vulnerable among us should vote for Mike Braun in November," she added. "Indiana's unborn children deserve a senator like Mike Braun, who will vote to protect their lives, rather than Joe Donnelly, who votes to protect the financial interests of the abortion industry."
Braun declares himself to be "100 percent pro-life" and has pledged he "will support legislation that says that life begins at conception."