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Most Catholic College Alumni in U.S. Senate Support Abortion Rights

AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles

Kim Scharfenberger - published on 01/22/15 - updated on 06/08/17

An analysis of voting records and support for abortion rights in the Senate

An analysis of the current United States Senate reveals that, of senators who attended Catholic colleges and universities, most have either voted or taken a public position in support of abortion rights, despite unchanging Catholic teaching on the dignity of human life beginning at conception.

A total of 13 U.S. senators received an education from Catholic colleges and universities, yet 11 of those have supported abortion rights in some way. In fact, several of these senators have garnered 100 percent ratings from the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), indicating a consistent pro-abortion rights voting record.

Lisa Murkowski and
Dan Sullivan of Alaska were both educated at
Georgetown University. Murkowski has voted in support of delivering federal grant funds to groups like Planned Parenthood, but on the condition that abortions be considered a prohibited activity. Murkowski stated in 2011, according to, “As a woman, and as a mother, I believe that abortion is a very personal issue that must be left to a woman and her physician, and not to elected officials.” Furthermore, Murkowski is listed by the WISH List—a group dedicated to supporting and electing “pro-choice Republican women”—as one of its “Stars”. Sullivan reportedly makes an exception in the cases of “rape, incest or when the mother’s life was at risk.”* 

Dick Durbin and
Mark Kirk, senators from Illinois who attended
Georgetown University and
Georgetown Law Center respectively, were given 100 percent ratings by NARAL. Durbin 
voted against banning partial birth abortions and also voted against barring federal grants to organizations that perform abortions. Kirk “strongly support[s] a woman’s right to choose,” according to 
On The Issues, and voted against restricting interstate transport of minors attempting to get abortions.

Joe Donnelly from Indiana, who graduated from the
University of Notre Dame, although he has voted in favor of many pro-life issues, has reportedly 
supported some federal abortion funding. Additionally, he has reportedly indicated 
support for allowing abortions “in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother.”

Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who was educated at
Boston College, garnered a 100 percent NARAL rating and has been officially endorsed by Planned Parenthood. He voted against banning partial-birth abortions. He has also stated that he “would not vote for a Supreme Court justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade,” reported to 
On The Issues.

Jon Tester of Montana, educated at the
University of Great Falls, also reportedly 
voted against prohibiting minors from crossing state lines for abortions. Tester also voted against barring HHS grants to organizations that perform abortion.

Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire attended
Villanova University. While generally opposing abortion, Ayotte reportedly makes an exception in the cases of “rape, incest or medical emergency,” according to 
On The Issues.

Bob Menendez of New Jersey, an alumnus of
Saint Peter’s University, received a 100 percent grade from NARAL. He stated that the Supreme Court must have “justices who will uphold Roe v. Wade” and voted against notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions, according to 
On The Issues.

Bob Casey, Jr., of Pennsylvania was educated at
College of the Holy Cross. Although he has opposed abortion at times, Casey reportedly 
would support legislation making exceptions for abortion “for rape, for incest, and for the life of the mother.” Casey also voted against barring HHS grants to organizations that perform abortions and reportedly supports public funding for abortion.

Patrick Leahy of Vermont, educated at
St. Michael’s College, also reportedly 
voted against notifying parents of minors getting out-of-state abortions. He also voted against barring HHS grants to organizations that perform abortions.

It is also notable that of the 11 senators mentioned above, seven attended Jesuit universities. And out of that number, five attended Georgetown.

*This paragraph was updated following a comment from Sen. Murkowski’s office stating that she does not support federal abortion funding. 

Kim Scharfenberger
writes for Catholic Education Daily, an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. This article was originally published at Catholic Education Daily and is reprinted here with permission.

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