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Donnelly expands pro-life definition

Bill Brink | Thursday, March 27, 2008

Congressman Joe Donnelly expanded on the meaning of “pro-life” to include supporting post-birth care – such as health care, insurance and school lunch programs – in his address to the Notre Dame Law School Wednesday.

Donnelly, the Democratic representative of Indiana’s second district said despite people’s impressions of the Democratic Party, the party is not inherently pro-choice.

He told a story of a question he received during a candidate night in his 2006 campaign. A woman asked why it was his business if she and her pregnant daughter decided an abortion was the best option for the child and family.

Donnelly responded that the issue became one of what is necessary to define human life. Since he defines an unborn baby as a human, he said, he is constitutionally required to protect it.

“That was the end of questioning on that subject for the night,” he said. “The point is to protect that child.”

A “working majority” of Congress, Donnelly said, is pro-life. That contingent is committed, he said, to more than just preventing abortion. Health care, education and nutrition also require attention.

He cited a bill that provided temporary assistance for needy families which helped pregnant women get the help they need during pregnancy. He also said he supported a bill which prohibited tax dollars from assisting institutions in foreign countries that perform or support abortions.

Stem cell research is another area where pro-life supporters can have an influence, he said.

“Stem cells are tough because everybody wants good outcomes,” he said.

He said pro-life supporters need to convince families who have children with diabetes, and other diseases which may be helped by stem cells, that there are other options available.

“We need to show them how we can achieve the same goal without going down that road,” he said, referring to stem cell research.

He called for increased funding for placental, chord and embryonic cell research as well as skin cell research. He made an analogy to fishing; the Democrats can throw 10 lines, or treatments, in the water, but they cannot cast the stem cell line.

Another of Donnelly’s post-birth facets of pro-life ideology included improving school lunches. Some students in the district, he said, had no stable home life and sometimes the only solid meals they eat comes from school. At Brown School in South Bend, he said, 85 percent of students were on a federal lunch program.

The best way to improve family life, Donnelly said, was to create jobs. Jobs provide income and allow people to spend time with their families, pay their mortgages and foster a good home environment, he said. Donnelly was optimistic about jobs in the area.

“We think we’re creating unbelievable job opportunities,” he said.

Healthcare is an issue for Donnelly himself, he said. His daughter has rheumatoid arthritis, which is treated by a drug that costs $1,800 a month. He can afford it because his wife, who works for Notre Dame, falls under the University’s insurance policy, but many others without insurance policies cannot.

“We have to come up with how a child in the red house can get the same insurance and health care as the child in the green house,” he said.

Donnelly graduated from Notre Dame in 1977 and the Notre Dame Law School in 1981.