.- Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Martha Coakley has come under fire for saying pro-life medical workers with conscientious objections to some treatments âprobably shouldnât work in the emergency room.â One critic said her remarks are a âwake-up callâ about the threats to the religious freedom of orthodox Catholics.
Coakley, a Democrat and Massachusetts Attorney General, is seeking to fill the former seat of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Recently her campaign has targeted her Republican opponent, state senator Scott Brown, for proposing an amendment to 2005 state legislation which mandated the provision of emergency contraception to victims of sexual assault.
Brownâs amendment, which was defeated, would have provided conscience protections for medical workers âto the extent that contraception conflicts with a sincerely held religious belief.â
Ethical and religious objections to âemergency contraceptionâ for victims of sexual assault center on the possibility that the treatment will prevent the uterine implantation of any embryo conceived in the assault or in sexual relations before the assault.
Normally the drug works by preventing ovulation. There is debate over whether it renders a womanâs womb hostile to a fertilized egg, a new human being, if she has already ovulated.
Coakleyâs controversial comments came in a Thursday interview with WBSM radio talk show host Ken Pittman.
Pittman asked if she would support health care legislation what would protect a âconscientious objectorâ to procedures such as abortion.
Coakley said she did not exactly understand the question and then criticized Brownâs 2005 amendment.
âI would not pass a bill, as Scott Brown filed an amendment, to say that if people believe that donât want to provide services that are required under the law and under Roe v. Wade, but taken individually decides to not follow the law, the answer to that question is âno.â
She repeated that the amendment would allow hospital and emergency room personnel to deny emergency contraception to âa woman who has came whoâd been raped.â
âRight, if you are a Catholic, and believe what the Pope teaches that any form of birth control is a sin. Ah, you donât want to do that,â Pittmann responded.
Coakley replied: âNo we have a separation of church and state, Ken, letâs be clear.â
âIn the emergency room you still have your religious freedom,â he replied.
After a short stutter, Coakley commented: âThe law says that people are allowed to have that. You can have religious freedom but you probably shouldnât work in the emergency room.â
âWow,â Pittman remarked.
Her remarks drew sharp criticism from some Catholic leaders.
Political commentator Deal Hudson, writing at the organization Catholic Advocate, said Coakleyâs comments on the separation of Church and State were a âdissenting, reflex reactionâ that marked the radio conversationâs descent into âthe pit of puerile anti-Catholicism.â
âIf politicians like Coakley are put in charge of âhealth care reform,â the day may come when orthodox Catholics will be excluded from any medical services where they might decide not to provide an abortion, prescribe contraception, or euthanize a suffering patient,â Hudson warned.
Noting her position as state attorney general, he continued: âCoakleyâs willingness to use her political power against orthodox Catholics serving in the medical profession should be a wake-up call.â
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, also was critical.
Commenting in a Friday statement, he charged that Coakley was âso completely wedded to the extremists in the pro-abortion communityâ that she would not allow âCatholic doctors and nursesâwho unlike her accept the teachings of Catholicismâto recuse themselves from participating in procedures they find morally repugnant.â
In Donohueâs view, the Senate candidate denied the right to exercise religious liberty objections.
âPresident Obama says he supports conscience rights for health care workers. The Catholic bishops support conscience rights. Survey after survey show that the American people support conscience rights. But Martha Coakley does notâshe says theyâre all wrong. Glad to know which side of religious liberty she is on.â