10 Crucial Senate Elections And What They Mean For The Pro-Life Movement

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By Mark Jennings

The 2018 midterm elections are almost upon us, as many states begin the process of selecting candidates for various offices. Included in these elections are 35 senate seats, many of which are hotly contested. It is important for pro-lifers to be mindful of these elections and select candidates who best represent their ideals.

Our current Senate is essentially deadlocked, with 47 Democrats (and two Democrat-leaning independents) and 51 Republicans (some of whom regularly vote with Democrats), and this midterm election could have a major impact on this congressional chamber’s leaning on important issues. The abortion issue is no exception, so it is critical for pro-life advocates to understand these races.

An asterisk (*) designates an incumbent


Pundit Rating: Toss Up

Background: Arizona is unique because it is a microcosm of the Republican Party’s civil war. With incumbent Senator Jeff Flake retiring, the race to be the Republican Nominee is perspiring with drama. The primary, which will take place at the end of August, will consist of “establishment” Republican Martha McSally, liberty Republican Kelli Ward, and right-wing populist Joe Arpaio. The winner of this primary will likely face Democratic front-runner Kyrsten Sinema.

Regardless of who wins the Republican nomination, defeating Kyrsten Sinema should be the goal of pro-life Arizonans. As a representative, Sinema co-sponsored two bills removing restrictions on abortion access: one of which Live Action referred to as “Roe v. Wade on steroids.” The most pro-life candidate in this race is Kelli Ward. While McSally claims to oppose abortion, she voted to advance the massive omnibus spending bill which included funding for Planned Parenthood, a decision Kelli Ward vehemently opposed.


Pundit Rating: Toss Up

Background: Incumbent Senator Bill Nelson faces stiff competition in a challenge from the fairly popular Governor Rick Scott. Scott has already launched a vicious ad campaign against Nelson and is willing to self-finance parts of his campaign with his multi-million-dollar fortune. Scott has maintained a slight edge in the polls as of late, slamming Nelson as an out-of-touch career politician. Regardless of the competitiveness of this race, one thing is for sure: it will be Senator Nelson’s toughest, most expensive race to date.

The National Right to Life PAC has given Senator Nelson a lifetime rating of 0%. Nelson abstained when the Senate voted to advance a bill which would ban abortions past 20 weeks. He also voted to fund the United Nations’ population control policies in 2009 and voted no on a bill which would punish criminals for harming preborn children in the execution of crimes in 2004. Governor Scott has a much better track record. Scott opposes federal funding of abortions. In 2016, he signed a bill prohibiting the sale of fetal remains, barring abortion clinics from receiving taxpayer money, and mandating inspection of abortion facilities.


Pundit Rating: Toss Up

Background: Wealthy businessman and former state representative Mike Braun will be taking on Joe Donnelly for Indiana’s class one Senate seat in November. Donnelly is a moderate Democrat who has reached across the aisle on a number of important issues. He is one of three Democrats to have voted to confirm Justice Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and also voted to outlaw abortion past the point when the preborn can feel pain. National Right to Life PAC has given Donnelly a lifetime rating of 23%, which is higher than most Democrats.

Nevertheless, Donnelly maintains a dodgy track record on the abortion issue. In 2006, he declared himself pro-life; however, in 2010, he admitted to supporting funding abortion facilities with taxpayer money. Mike Braun is more reliably pro-life. According to Braun’s campaign website, “The right to life is deeply important to him and in the Senate, Mike will support legislation that says that life begins at conception.”

The Hoosier State is largely Republican, so Senator Donnelly faces an uphill battle. He was first elected in 2012, after his opponent made an offensive gaffe about rape. However, if Braun refrains from saying anything particularly problematic, Donnelly could be in real trouble.


Pundit Rating: Likely Democrat  

Background: The competitiveness of this race largely comes down to who wins the August 7th Republican primary to take on Debbie Stabenow. President Trump was able to narrowly eke out a victory in Michigan, so a strong candidate could indeed give the sitting senator a run for her money. That strong candidate is John James. He is young, charismatic, well-spoken, and is running an excellent campaign.

Both James and Pensler are rigidly pro-life. Pensler’s campaign website states he believes Roe v. Wade was “wrongly decided” and he would vote to defund Planned Parenthood. James’s campaign website is more concise, stating, “I am 100% pro-life. Always have been. Always will be.”

Stabenow, on the other hand, has been one of the Senate’s staunchest abortion advocates. Radical abortion advocacy group NARAL has given her a 100% rating. She has voted to expand abortion and remove restrictions on it whenever possible. She even believes it should be legal to abort a pain-capable fetus.


Pundit Rating: Toss Up  

Background: Incumbent Claire McCaskill is in a tough spot. She won re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2012 primarily because of her abysmal opponent Todd Akin. McCaskill knew this from the onset of the primary election, so she donated to his campaign. This time around, she faces considerable challenges from both Attorney General Josh Hawley and former Libertarian presidential candidate Austin Petersen. Lately, the “Show Me State” has been trending more and more red, meaning McCaskill could have some real problems.

This is good news for pro-lifers. Despite the fact McCaskill supported a ban on late-term abortions after her election in 2006, she voted against a similar ban when it was taken to a vote in 2018. Meanwhile, Hawley and Petersen are both pro-life. Hawley supported a measure restricting abortion in his home state while Petersen’s campaign website says he wishes to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

With two pro-life candidates in the August 7th Republican primary, the issue becomes which of the two men would be the best against McCaskill. Despite many observers believing Josh Hawley is a shoo-in, Petersen has gained a ton of momentum in recent months, developing a nationwide following among libertarian-leaning Republicans. Petersen should not be underestimated in this race.


Pundit Rating: Lean Democrat  

Background: “The Treasure State” is one of the most Republican states in the nation, yet it houses a Democrat in one of its Senate seats. However, like some of the previously mentioned senators, Jon Tester has been lucky to face weak candidates. In 2006, he faced an incumbent who insulted firefighters putting out a major forest fire, and in 2012, he beat out a challenger whose PACs mistakenly accused Tester of supporting certain legislation. This time around, he faces a strong candidate in Matt Rosendale. Experts expect Tester to win because Rosendale lacks significant name recognition, but if the Republican campaigns hard enough and refrains from making any major gaffes, he might be able to unseat the two-term Democrat.

While many red-state Democrats swing more moderate than those in other states, Tester maintains strong left-wing convictions. He voted “No” on 2018’s legislation to ban late-term abortion and supports funding abortion facilities with taxpayer money. Rosendale, on the other hand, states on his campaign website he is “pro-life in all circumstances. No exceptions.”


Pundit Rating: Toss Up  

Background: Nevada is the only state with a Class 1 Republican Senator which Hillary Clinton won in 2016. This puts Dean Heller on the chopping block for the 2018 midterm election. Senator Heller is facing a challenge from Representative Jacky Rosen. Rosen supports the public funding of abortion facilities and even wants to force taxpayers to fund the procedures themselves. She also opposes legislation requiring parental notification before abortions can be performed on minors.

Heller, on the other hand, has been regarded as more of a moderate Republican. However, he is an exponentially better choice than Rosen for pro-life voters. In 2011, Senator Heller voted to ban taxpayer funding of abortions. He also voted to ban abortions past 20 weeks in 2018. It is highly unlikely Rosen would do the same.

North Dakota

Pundit Rating: Toss Up  

Background: Heidi Heitkamp is in trouble. In 2012, she was barely able to edge out a victory against Republican candidate Rick Berg. Now she faces North Dakota’s sole representative who won almost 70% of the state’s vote in 2016. For this reason, several pundits have ranked North Dakota’s Senate seat the most likely Democrat seat to flip in November.

While running for her first Senate term, Heitkamp said she opposed public funding for abortion and thought late-term abortion should be illegal if the mother’s life was not in danger. However, in 2015, Heitkamp voted to filibuster a bill to ban late-term abortion. She also voted against 2018’s bill to outlaw abortions on pain-capable fetuses. Cramer, on the other hand, voted to apply the protections guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the preborn, voted to prohibit information about abortion in schools, and has been adamant about his belief life begins at conception. For pro-life North Dakotans, the choice of who to support is clear as day.


Pundit Rating: Lean Democrat    

Background: President Trump pulled off a stunning upset when he won a state which Obama carried twice by a sizeable margin. Now, Jim Renacci hopes to do the same against incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown. While Ohio is undeniably trending red, Brown is a shrewd and adept politician, who many pundits believe will defend his seat. Renacci took the helm after the well-known Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel left the race, giving the Democrats a slight edge. Renacci does not enjoy the same name recognition as Mandel, which could work in the Democrats’ favor.

Sherrod Brown has voted against almost every pro-life bill in his career as a legislator. This includes 2018’s measure banning abortion on pain-capable fetuses, and 2009’s restriction on funding the U.N.’s population control measures. He also supports the public funding of Planned Parenthood. Renacci, however, is vehemently pro-life. While in the House of Representatives, Renacci voted to ban federal funding of Planned Parenthood in 2011, and voted to ban federal funding of any federal assistance for abortions.

West Virginia

Pundit Rating: Toss Up  

Background: West Virginia is the most Republican state in the nation to be represented by a Democratic Senator. Because of this, Republicans see a major pickup opportunity in the “Mountain State.” That is easier said than done, however, as Manchin’s moderate stances make him a more popular Senator than one would think. Manchin definitely enjoys higher approval ratings than any other person with a D next to his name would in this blood-red state, but West Virginia’s attorney general Patrick Morrisey has stepped up to the plate to replace the senior senator.

Manchin’s moderate political positions make it difficult to gauge where he truly stands on the abortion issue. In 2010, Manchin declared himself “pro-life, pro-NRA and anti-EPA.” He was also one of only three Democrats to vote for the 2018 bill which would outlaw abortion past 20 weeks. However, Manchin has been accused of flip-flopping on the issue, as he has been caught posing for pictures with pro-life as well as pro-Planned Parenthood activists. Additionally, he voted to continue funding Planned Parenthood, even after the organization was caught selling fetal tissue.

AG Morrisey is much more consistent in his pro-life views. He was endorsed by West Virginians for Life. His campaign website describes him as “one hundred percent pro-life” and boasts he helped to pass a ban on late-term abortions in West Virginia. He also wishes to see Roe v. Wade overturned and wants to end all taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood: a policy position he will almost definitely use to set him apart from his Democratic opponent.  

For further reading on the candidates’ opinions on abortion, please refer to the following links:

Kyrsten Sinema
Martha McSally
Kelly Ward
Bill Nelson
Rick Scott
Joe Donnelly
Debbie Stabenow
Claire McCaskill
Josh Hawley
Jon Tester
Dean Heller
Jacky Rosen
Heidi Heitkamp
Kevin Kramer
Sherrod Brown
Jim Renacci
Joe Manchin

10 Crucial Senate Elections And What They Mean For The Pro-Life Movement
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