Indiana’s Democratic Senator, Joe Donnelly, was one of two, blue, senators voting with Republicans in an unsuccessful effort to defund Planned Parenthood.
This, I believe, was a massive mistake on Donnelly’s part.
Planned Parenthood provides essential reproductive health services to Indiana families, with a special emphasis on low income women who rely on Medicaid. The organization has been the target of a smear campaign because it offers abortion services.
Yet it does nothing illegal.
And the Federal funds Donnelly voted to withhold cannot be used to fund abortions.
So what was Donnelly thinking when he cast this vote?
Well, like a lot of people, he was probably appalled by the video of a Planned Parenthood official talking about the selling of fetal organs. This is deeply disturbing stuff.
But those organs are used for scientific research; they’re helping to find cures for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
What’s more, Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voted to legalize “reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue” associated with elective abortions back in 1993.
Finally, when the Indiana State Department of Health was ordered to investigate whether or not Indiana Planned Parenthood clinics were illegally profiting from fetal organ donations, the investigators reported “there was no evidence of this type of activity.”
Donnelly is a Notre Dame-educated Catholic, who has received significant campaign contributions from his alma mater. He’s made no secret of his opposition to abortion. This undoubtedly makes him uncomfortable with the abortion services Planned Parenthood provides.
But access to abortion is just one of those services, which include Pap tests, breast and testicular cancer screenings, contraception, and STD testing and treatment. When services like these are cut, there are consequences for communities. Indiana’s Scott County made national news after undergoing a spike in HIV infections following closure of a Planned Parenthood clinic there in 2013.
Perhaps Joe Donnelly forgets that he is only in the Senate because he drew Richard Mourdock for his opponent in the election of 2012. Mourdock, you will recall, took a public nosedive after saying he believed pregnancies resulting from rapes were God-intended. He said this while explaining why he was against abortion — and it made him unelectable. A senate seat held by Republicans for over 35 years was turned over to a Democrat named Joe Donnelly.
"While Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana do not partake in fetal tissue donation and were found to be following the law, today's vote is about Planned Parenthood clinics around the country," said Donnelly, explaining his vote. "I cannot in good faith support federal funding for this organization until the questions of whether other clinics are complying with federal and state laws are answered."
But those Indiana clinics would have lost their funding if this Republican effort had succeeded. And it would have succeeded with Joe Donnelly’s help.
Joe Donnelly has said he’s proud of being able to work with Republicans “to get things done.” Fortunately for Indiana, there were enough real Democrats in the U.S. Senate to keep this from happening.