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Ind. Dem. Donnelly walks careful line on abortion

Associated Press Modified: October 31, 2012 at 4:48 pm •  Published: October 31, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Democratic Senate hopeful Joe Donnelly is being careful how he uses his Republican rival's remark about abortion after rape because of his own record sponsoring legislation on the issue.

His ads slam Republican rival Richard Mourdock for saying that pregnancies resulting from rape are something "God intended." But what they don't mention_and what Donnelly doesn't bring up on the campaign trail_is that the Democrat twice supported a bill that would have denied federal abortion funding even in cases of rape and incest.

In fact, Donnelly and Mourdock oppose abortion. Donnelly would support it in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is endangered by the pregnancy, which conflicts with the bill he supported. Mourdock only supports an exception for life of the mother.

Donnelly explains that while he opposes abortion he didn't initially realize the bill would have gone that far, yet the issue has made it difficult for him to capitalize on Mourdock's comment, even as it reverberated in the national battle for control of the Senate. Republicans must gain four seats to win control if President Barack Obama is reelected; three if Republican Mitt Romney prevails. Indiana is one of a series of states in which the Senate race remains stubbornly tied.

From President Barack Obama to outside groups, Democrats have made much of Mourdock's rape comment. But inside Indiana, the similarities between the two candidates and an electorate with deeply rooted socially conservative beliefs have limited Donnelly's options on how to capitalize on it.

Immediately after the debate in which Mourdock made the comment, Donnelly joined a chorus of Democrats and even some Republicans in denouncing it. But Donnelly took few questions at a press conference he called the following day, and later turned over the sharp rhetoric to the state's former Democratic Party chairwoman.

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