Friday January 15, 2010

Dem Candidate: Devout Catholics ‘Probably Shouldn’t Work in the Emergency Room’

Potential health care reform killer Scott Brown leaps ahead in polls

By Kathleen Gilbert

BOSTON, Massachusetts, January 15, 2010 ( – In a local radio interview Thursday, the Democrat candidate for Massachusetts’ special U.S. senate election, Martha Coakley, said that those who object to participating in abortion and contraception, “probably shouldn’t work in the emergency room.”

Coakley was responding to WBSM radio host Ken Pittman as he questioned her on her views about the role of conscience rights for health care workers.

Pittman asked, “Would you pass a health care bill that had [provisions protecting] conscientious objector[s] towards certain procedures including abortion?”

Coakley said she opposed an amendment filed by Republican candidate and state senator Scott Brown in a Massachusetts measure to protect the right of health care workers’ not to distribute emergency contraception against their religious beliefs.

PITTMAN: Right, if you are a Catholic, and believe what the Pope teaches that any form of birth control is a sin, uh, you don’t want to do that.

COAKLEY: No, but we have a seperation of church and state Ken, let’s be clear.

PITTMAN: Yeah, in the emergency room, you still have your religious freedom.

COAKLEY: [stuttering] The law says that people are allowed to have that. And so then, you can have religious freedom, but you probably shouldn’t work in the emergency room.


Bill Donohue of the Catholic League expressed shock at Coakley’s apparent disregard for religious liberty.

“Conscientious objector rights are essential to religous liberty,” Donohue told (LSN) Friday morning. “I don’t quite understand how someone – even if someone were an atheist – it’s a staple in a free society that people cannot be forced to violate their conscience on something that’s morally repugnant. But she doesn’t seem to care.”

The special election pitting Coakley against Republican Scott Brown in next Tuesday’s election has received national attention: the unexpected popularity of the dark horse Republican could jeopardize the future of President Obama’s health care bill by robbing Senate Democrats of their filibuster-proof 60 vote majority. Brown has vowed to be the “41st vote” against the health care overhaul, a platform that appears to have attracted rapid support for his candidacy amid widespread public discontent over the bill.

Once considered the easy favorite, Coakley has suffered a dramatic drop in poll numbers this week: a CrossTarget poll Thursday showed Brown ahead by 15.4%, while a Suffolk University Political Research Center published Thursday morning showed Brown ahead by 4%.

Some Massachusetts officials say, however, that even should Brown win the election, the swearing-in process could be delayed for weeks – long enough for the health bill to be pushed through.

See related coverage:

Massachusetts Dark Horse Candidate Could Kill Health Bill