A group of women supporting Democrat Martha Coakley bitterly railed this morning against her Republican rival, Scott Brown, saying that his political positions were dangerous for women and that he was using "smoke and mirrors" to obscure his true beliefs and previous record.
"Time and again, Scott Brown has shown that he is willing to compromise, for political gain, the health and well-being of some of the most vulnerable women in Massachusetts," said Andrea Miller, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. "And this includes victims of sexual assault."
Brown has fought such charges with gusto -- pointing to a household full of women as evidence that he supports women's rights -- and is planning to hold a press conference this afternoon with his two daughters and co-chair of "Women for Brown" Angela Davis.
"Martha Coakley and her political machine have repeatedly misrepresented Brown's positions in a desperate attempt to distract Massachusetts voters from her misguided positions on the critical issues facing the Commonwealth," his campaign said in a statement.
The back-and-forth comes over a 24-hour period when each campaign has released new TV ads and their disputes are getting far more intense during the final week of the abbreviated campaign. A photo of Brown, until recently a relatively little-known state senator from Wrentham, has been featured for much of the day on the Drudge Report, a popular right-leaning website, with a headline, "Will this man end Dem super majority?"
Coakley, the state attorney general, who is trying to become the first female US senator from Massachusetts, has made women’s issues a strong component of her campaign. This morning, she had five surrogates hold a press conference at the headquarters of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus. Coakley herself, however, was not at the event.
“He says one thing, and actually does something else,” said Dianne Luby, who is president of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and group's political arm, the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund.
“He seeks to erode our reproductive rights,” added Christina Knowles, state director for the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women.
Part of the dispute is over a 2005 amendment that Brown sponsored in the state Senate. The amendment would have allowed a doctor, nurse, or hospital to deny rape victims an emergency contraceptive if it “conflicts with a sincerely held religious belief.”
The amendment, which did not pass, was attached to a bill that he ultimately voted for, which required emergency rooms to provide the contraceptives to rape victims.
Coakley challenged Brown in last night’s debate over the issue, and Brown fought back.
“To think I wouldn’t, even especially with my two young daughters here, with all due respect, that I wouldn’t allow them the opportunity if they were raped to have the immediate attention, I think is abhorrent,’’ Brown said. “Even to infer I would do that is abhorrent.’’
Still, Coakley never mentioned Brown’s daughters, and the amendment would have limited options for rape victims after the crime.
More recently, Brown proposed legislation that would allow the state to review about three dozen mandates that require insurance companies to cover certain procedures. State law currently mandates that every health plan include coverage for mammograms, minimum maternity stays, in vitro fertilization, chiropractic care, hearing screenings for newborns, and alcoholism rehabilitation.
Coakley and her supporters have seized on that proposal, saying Brown wants to halt coverage of things like mammograms. Brown has said that his legislation is aimed at stemming requirements for things like chiropractic care, not mammograms and minimum maternity stays.
“For Scott Brown, it seems that choice means choosing on any given day whether he is for or against women’s reproductive rights,” said Pam Nourse, vice president of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus Board of Directors. “The choice in this race is obvious: it’s Martha Coakley for US Senate.”
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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