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Abortion becomes issue in Massachusetts race for U.S. Senate
Martha Coakley / Sen. Scott Brown
Martha Coakley / Sen. Scott Brown

.- Abortion has become a live issue in the Jan. 19 special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts. While both candidates generally support permissive abortion law, controversy has centered upon pro-life conscience protections, partial-birth abortion and the place of abortion in the health care bill.

State Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican, is running against Democrat Martha Coakley, the state Attorney General.

According to Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Brown opposes taxpayer funding for abortion and the so-called Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). Unlike Brown, Coakley opposes a ban on partial birth abortion, parental consent requirements for minors seeking abortions, and favors taxpayer funding for abortion.

While Brown supports specifically exempting abortion from health care, Coakley opposes it.

Massachusetts Citizens for Life has supported Brown, claiming the less consistently pro-abortion rights candidate will be “a pro-life vote in the Senate,” the Boston Herald reports.

At the recent Monday night candidate debate, Coakley said she would not vote for a health care bill with a Stupak Amendment in it. She also asked Brown if he accepted the endorsement of a Massachusetts right-to-life organization.

Brown said he had a “very big tent.”

“You and I both have the same position on abortion,” he continued. “Roe v. Wade is the law of the land.”

He said there was a “very real difference” in that he opposed partial-birth abortion and she did not.

Coakley denied that characterization, but Brown said she had criticized the ban on partial birth abortion in an editorial.

Brown said he did not believe in federal funding of abortion but did support a “very strong” parental notification law. He charged that Coakley would be a “social crusader” on behalf of the pro-abortion rights group EMILY’s List.

For her part, Coakley cited Brown for supporting legislation that would allow hospital employees to “deny emergency care to rape victims if it was their choice.”

Brown defended his amendment, which failed in a 2005 vote, saying it allowed hospitals with “religious preferences” not to perform abortions or provide those services.

The Coakley campaign is now running a campaign ad on the issue.

Catholic hospitals have sought conscience exemptions from laws mandating emergency contraception for victims of sexual assault, citing concerns the treatment could kill any newly-conceived human being.

Brown and Coakley are among the candidates seeking to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy left by the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy.

While Massachusetts is a heavily Democratic state, some polls show a close race between the Republican and Democratic candidates.

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