BY BEN JOHNSON
WASHINGTON, D.C., November 20, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Sources tell LifeSiteNews.com that several Senate Democrats, some of them facing tough re-election campaigns in 2014, may consider signing on to a national bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks. And pro-life groups in six states are demanding the senators take a public stand – or face the consequences.
Some of the group of six senators campaigned as “pro-life Democrats.” While others, facing a pro-life electorate and a rising backlash against the president's health care reforms, may seek political cover by supporting the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which passed the House in June and was introduced in the Senate this month.
LifeSiteNews.com contacted all six Senators: Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. None responded after a period of several days.
But while the six have not yet taken a public position on the bill, state pro-life organizations believe some of them could be persuaded to co-sponsor or vote for pro-life protections. Here is how they break down:
Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia
Manchin, who campaigned as a pro-life Democrat, is considered a likely yes vote. Wanda Franz, president of West Virginia for Life, says that sources told her Manchin is not linclined to co-sponsor the bill, but Franz believes he would vote for the bill if it comes to the floor for a vote.
“As far as I'm concerned, that's a problem,” Franz told LifeSiteNews.com “That is not pro-life leadership, and we expect pro-life leadership from him.”
Manchin has seen his popularity slip by 20 percent since 2011, according to the Democrat-leaning firm Public Policy Polling.
Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas
Two-term Senator Mark Pryor is considered vulnerable in his bid for a third term in 2014. Polls show the incumbent in a dead heat, or slightly trailing, Republican Congressman Tom Cotton.
“Senator Pryor is in a very difficult campaign for re-election and Arkansans will certainly be watching his vote on this important issue, which not only protects unborn children from an excruciatingly painful death by abortion but educates the public of the humanity of the child,” Arkansas Right to Life Executive Director Rose Mimms told LifeSiteNews.
She confirmed that Pryor's office said he has not yet taken a position on the bill.
Pryor's voting record – 66 percent pro-life in this Congress – “gave the pro-life movement in Arkansas a reason for hope, but it never materialized into any significant support for the protection of the unborn.”
“I do not feel that he will support S. 1670,” she said.
That could pose a problem for him. A February poll showed 60 percent of Arkansas residents supported banning abortion after 12 weeks.
Whatever his position on the bill, Mimms said it will not be his biggest liability next fall.
“Senator Pryor's vote on ObamaCare is the pro-abortion, pro-rationing anti-life vote that will be hardest for him to overcome in this election,” she said. “Regardless of his first pro-life or the ones that have followed, he voted in support of government funding of abortion on demand, and rationing of life-saving treatment in the ACA. That is one anti-life vote that he will be held accountable for the most in the 2014 election.”
Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana
Joe Donnelly scored a surprise victory in 2012 after Republican candidate Richard Mourdock made a comment about abortion and rape. Since Donnelly told Hoosier voters he, too, was pro-life, Indiana Right to Life President and CEO Mike Fichter told LifeSiteNews.com that they were “highly disappointed that Sen. Donnelly's name was missing” from the list of co-sponsors 20 week ban.
“Hoosiers are eager to see Sen. Donnelly stand up for 20-week preborn babies capable of feeling pain during horrific late-term abortions,” Fichter said. “We urge him to do so immediately.” The state has already passed a law protecting babies capable of feeling pain.
“Co-sponsoring should be an easy decision,” Fichter said. “Explaining to his constituents the absence of his name on the list of co-sponsors won't be so easy.”
“If Senator Donnelly is unwilling to support the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, he will have to answer to his constituents,” he said.
Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana
The incumbent is seeking a fourth term in the Senate, but polls show Landrieu trailing Bill Cassidy and tied with Elbert Guillory. Observers say supporting the bill – which is already state law in Louisiana – would bolster her chances.
“It is imperative for the passage of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that Senator Landrieu not only vote for the legislation, but co-sponsor as well,” Benjamin Clapper, executive director of the Louisiana Right to Life Federation, told LifeSiteNews.com. “Since Louisiana is a pro-life state, it would only make sense for our senior Senator to work for the passage of this common-sense legislation.”
“Unfortunately, since her re-election, Senator Landrieu has voted against the pro-life cause at every instance,” Clapper said. “Her record does not make us too optimistic.”
The group held a series of press conferences outside Landrieu's offices in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lake Charles on November 7, demanding that she take a public position on the bill.
“We still hold a hope that that Senator Landrieu will listen to the desires of her constituents and help us protect babies from feeling pain,” Clapper told LifeSiteNews.
Kay Hagan, D-North Carolina
Kay Hagan is considered among the most vulnerable Democratic Senators in 2014. In September, Hagan led state House Speaker Thom Tillis by 15 points. Despite the aid of a Democratic SuperPAC, Public Policy Polling (PPP) now shows her in a statistical dead heat with both Tillis and Greg Bannon.
Last Thursday the Susan B. Anthony List, the North Carolina Family Policy Council and the North Carolina Values Coalition issued a statement asking her to align her vote with the views of her mostly pro-life constituents.
Family Policy Council President John L. Rustin said, “North Carolina citizens want to know where Senator Hagan comes down on this most pressing issue that impacts the weakest and most vulnerable among us.” A recent Elon University poll shows a plurality of state voters support restrictions that would make abortion more difficult to obtain.
In the past Hagan has called herself “a strong supporter of a woman’s right to choose,” making her support doubtful. But with her poll numbers slipping and Americans for Prosperity buying $1.5 million in negative ads, she may have a change of heart.
Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania
Bob Casey's father, the late Governor Robert P. Casey, was not simply a pro-life Democrat; he wasthe pro-life Democrat. Bill Clinton barred Robert Casey from delivering a pro-life speech at the 1992 Democratic National Convention. That year, he told the DNC platform committee that, at a minimum, abortions should be restricted to the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.
But Pennsylvania's pro-life movement says, despite his name and pedigree, Senator Bob Casey Jr. has sometimes been aloof since his election in 2006.
“It took two years to get a meeting with him,” said Helen Gohsler of the Pennsylvanians for Human Life chapter in Scranton, Casey's hometown.
While he has supported restrictions for abortion, such as parental notification, Casey has yet to declare a position on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
Gohsler told LifeSiteNews she wanted Casey to speak up, “just to get his rationale for what he will or will not support.”
Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation Executive Director Michael Ciccocioppo and Legislative Director Maria Vitale Gallagher did not respond to LSN requests for comment.
Senate contact information: