Thursday, January 14, 2010

Brown, Coakley, and Emergency Contraception.

The Boston Phoenix has a bit on the issue of provider refusals, the Catholic church and the senate race in Boston:

A lot has been made recently in the US Senate race about Scott Brown's 2005 "conscience clause" amendment; Yvonne Abrahams does a nice job on it in today'sBoston Globe, Janet Wu hit him the other night on WCVB-TV, and of course Martha Coakley ran an ad mentioning it while showing a cowering rape victim in a stairwell. Brown's daughters, in response, held a press conference and recorded a radio ad defending their father against the charge.

The issue is fairly straightforward. If you were, say, a woman in Brighton who had been raped, and you went to St. Elizabeth's Medical Center -- a Caritas Christi hospital -- and asked for emergency contraception so that you would not become impregnated with the rapist's baby, they would tell you no dice. The state legislature wanted to make the hospital provide the pill. The Catholic Church opposed that mandate. (Abraham, in her otherwise excellent column, suggests that the law was largely about allowing individual practitioners to opt out. While that would have been an effect, the legislative battle was entirely about the state's Catholic hospitals' refusal, as policy, to offer emergency contraception.)

There's a legitimate debate to be had on that issue (not to mention, on whether the refusal to provide the pill is an act of good "conscience"), and that debate was waged among the Democrats controlling the legislature, and the Church lost. So, they needed a Republican to try a Stupak-like attempt to introduce a "conscience clause" amendment to the mandate bill, in hopes that they could pressure enough legislators to win an open up-or-down vote. They got Brown to introduce it.

And frankly, his daughters may very well be correct when they insist that this was not because Brown is a cold-hearted, misogynistic bastard. Instead, it was more likely because he owed a big favor to the cold-hearted, misogynistic Church, which had just played a major role in getting him elected.

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