This is not a Kojak trivia game.

The race in Massachusetts to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat in the Senate
is in its final week and it’s very close at this point. That alone is
fairly stunning, as it would be if….say….a Republican challenger came
along and won a mayoral race in Chicago right out from under the Daley
machine.

But what I find most interesting in this contest right now is its focus on abortion and women’s best interests.

“With the special US Senate election less than a week away, abortion
reemerged as a major flashpoint yesterday as Martha Coakley’s campaign
sent out several activists to champion the Democrat as a defender of
women’s rights and Republican Scott Brown called on his two daughters
to respond.”

This is a compelling drama.

“Coakley supporters, appearing at a Boston press conference,
bitterly railed against Brown, saying that his political positions were
dangerous to women and that he was using “smoke and mirrors’’ to
obscure his true beliefs and previous record. The primary focus of
their attack was his sponsorship of a measure that would have allowed
hospital personnel, on religious grounds, to deny rape victims
emergency contraception.”

Wait….that constitutes the freedom of conscience. Brown stands for
freedom of conscience, one of our fundamental rights. Even this
article, though perhaps unwittingly, later explains that protecting
this freedom for health care workers doesn’t deprive women of services
or medicines they seek. Read down a little further….

Just after the part where it says…

“He seeks to erode our reproductive rights,’’ said Christina
Knowles, state director for the Massachusetts Chapter of the National
Organization for Women.”

Here’s the explanation:

“The 2005 amendment that Brown sponsored in the state Senate would
have allowed a physician, nurse, or any other employee to deny rape
victims an emergency contraceptive if it “conflicts with a sincerely
held religious belief.’’ The facility would have had to have someone
else who could administer the contraceptive or refer the victim to
another facility at no additional cost to the patient.”

So freedom of conscience would have been upheld as a protected
liberty, and the woman’s right to obtain lawful drugs would have been
upheld as a guarantee, fulfilled by someone who doesn’t object on moral
grounds.

And, when it didn’t pass, Brown signed the eventual legislation.

But Coakley has turned this into the centerpiece of her attack ads.

“In Coakley’s latest ad, a narrator says, “Brown even favors letting hospitals deny emergency contraception to rape victims.’’

And so…

“Coakley, who is trying to become the first female US senator from
Massachusetts, has made women’s issues a strong component of her
campaign. Yesterday morning, she had five surrogates hold a press
conference at the headquarters of the Massachusetts Women’s Political
Caucus. Coakley, however, was not at the event.”

Okay. She also mis-spelled the name of the state for which she seeks
a seat in the Senate, or at least somebody in her campaign did (It read
“Massachusettes”), but we all have typos when we work in a hurry with
much to do. (Though we’re not all running for the U.S. Senate…)

Since Coakley is making this a woman thing, two of the Brown women stepped up and engaged.

“His two daughters headlined a press conference yesterday afternoon
to call on Coakley to take down a recent ad that highlighted the
emergency contraception amendment he filed in 2005.

“Martha Coakley’s new negative ad represents everything that
discourages young women from getting involved in politics,’’ Ayla
Brown, 21, told reporters at the Parker House downtown. “And as a young
woman, I’m completely offended by that. . . . My dad would always stand
up for the rights and needs of rape victims. And he’s kind,
understanding, and he’s a very compassionate father.’’

Good points. We need young men and women of intelligence and
integrity in politics. This type of disingenuous and negative
camaigning discourages them from getting involved. It is offensive.

And saying this campaign is about women’s rights obscures the truth that it – and all government – is really about human rights.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....