Yesterday, it became clear that two important Democratic senators are not seeking re-election this year. Senator Byron Dorgan (ND) formally announced that he was not seeking re-election and rumours swirled that Senator Christopher Dodd (Conn) would make a similar announcement today. Both were facing serious challenges but the Dorgan announcement was still a surprise.

According the National Right to Life Committee, on 54 scored votes going back to 1997, Dodd voted pro-life precisely once (the Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act of 1997 which passed unanimously 99-0). There are two ways to look at this. The first is that Dodd was reeling, mostly because of he chairs a committee that is responsible for oversight of America’s financial institutions and he is getting blamed for the financial meltdown in 2008. The Republicans were likely to pick up Connecticut facing a weakened Senator Dodd. The Democrat nominee is probably going to be state attorney general Richard Blumenthal, whom the Washington Post reports is the “most popular politician in the state.” The other way to look at Dodd’s departure is that whoever replaces him could not be any worse, as it would be difficult to be as anti-life as Dodd was during his 35-year tenure in Congress (House and Senate). The Republicans already vying for the party’s nomination are former Rep. Rob Simmons and “businesswoman” Linda McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment. It says a lot about Dodd that the head of a professional wrestling company would represent an upgrade.

Senator Dorgan is often refered to as a moderate Democrat and that title is not entirely unearned. He voted for the Nelson-Hatch Amendment (restricting abortion funding in health care) last month, but also voted for the manager’s amendment and Harry Reid’s health care bill which were scored by the NRLC as anti-life votes. Since 1997, Dorgan has voted pro-life 17 of 55 times. Seven of his 17 pro-life votes came in 2003-2004 in the run-up to his last re-election bid, so there might be some political calculation to his votes. Since then, he has some curious anti-life votes, including supporting embryonic stem cell research, backing Democrat efforts to overturn the Mexico City Policy, and opposing efforts to restrict funding of international organizations and agencies that fund coercive abortion programs. Polls of a hypothetical contest between Dorgan and popular North Dakota Governor John Hoeven had the challenger leading by double digits. Hoeven, who is pro-life, will run and is almost assured victory. Hoeven will be a pro-life pickup for Republicans.

With the generic poll showing the Republicans ahead, there is talk about the GOP re-taking the Senate and/or the House of Representatives. This seems unlikely and the Dodd retirement might set back that goal. What is clear, however, is that the Democrats will no longer have a filibuster-proof majority and the pro-life contingent in Congress will grow. Some of the Republicans are “moderates” which means they will seldom vote pro-life, so picking up California (Carly Fiorina) or Delaware (Mike Castle) is only helpful in reducing the pro-abortion stranglehold on the Senate, but with Harry Reid vulnerable in Nevada and Arlen Specter likely to lose to pro-life Republican Pat Toomeyif he survives a primary challenge before the general election, there will be little opportunity for Barack Obama and his pro-abortion Congressional allies to push a radical anti-life agenda after the midterm elections. That will make the next nine months (interesting time-frame, isn’t it?) critically important. The pro-abortion feminists that were so irrate with the lack of action on the part of their allies during the Stupak amendment debates will be clamouring for increased access to abortion knowing that there will be more political hurdles in the next Congress. It could be a rancorous year on the abortion front.