Why This Pro-Life Catholic Liberal Supports Martha Coakley

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January 17, 2010 by D Stack

The special election in Massachusetts to choose the successor for the late Ted Kennedy has been extremely tight, with Republican Scott Brown making a very strong showing against Democrat Martha Coakley. As far as campaigns go, I think Brown has run a good campaign, taking advantage of Coakley’s coasting after winning the Democratic primary. Despite that I strongly support the election of Martha Coakley. Let us look on the issues…

Health Care. The biggest issue. To be honest I could disagree with Coakley on every other issue and at least for this election I would support her. She indicates her support of the health care reform soon to be reconciled between the House and Senate. Brown pledges to be the killing vote. Brown claims to support the idea of reforming health care by strengthening the existing system. To be frank, even were he to be truthful in this, the Republican party has shown no desire to support health care reform ever. If it is killed now and “started over” it will be at least another decade until health care reform gets this close. Are the bills in Congress perfect? Not even close. But they will improve the health care system, open up health care to those have been locked out by insurers, and enshrine the idea that people have a right to health care. This is a starting point, much like the initial implementation of social security and unemployment insurance was a starting point in the 1930s. The process has been ugly – the people of the country have been exposed to the process of making a law, a difficult law, and like making sausage, it is not a pretty side. But this is something we need if we are to endure as a nation. Health care costs are going out of reach to average Americans. Real people are dying as a result of this.

The Economy. Scott Brown is an advocate of lower taxes. Martha Coakley is an advocate of increased regulation of the financial sector. The past three decades, especially the last ten years, have seen a culture of lowering taxes and decreased regulation of the financial sector. How has that worked out? Scott Brown states “Our economy works best when individuals have more of their income to spend, and businesses have money to invest and add jobs.” The past thirty years has seen tax cuts which largely benefit the wealthiest – as they must, as when you are on the lower end of the scale cutting taxes doesn’t do much for you. Yet with all these tax cuts the median income of the nation has not kept up with inflation while the deregulation and lower taxes have seen the income of the wealthiest skyrocket by orders of magnitude as a multiple of the median income. Brown has also come out against taxing the banks who, freed from regulation, were able to ruin the economy and needed to be bailed out with taxpayer money.

Abortion. To be frank, I’m not in love with the Democratic party’s embrace of abortion. But that said, I believe that a liberal welfare state will lead to far less abortions than even an outright ban of them, something that will not happen. If Roe v. Wade could somehow be overturned, abortion would become an issue decided by the states. Countries like Germany, where abortion is legal (and not the wedge issue it is in the United States), the abortion rate if far lower than it is in the United States. Germany has universal health care, paid parental leave of over a year, and a child care stipend. Any Republican would be revolted at the thought of one of these. Yet these methods clearly remove one of the most common reasons for abortion – financial. Meanwhile, in developing countries where abortion is illegal, the abortion rate is considerably higher than it is in the United States. I believe that to truly eliminate abortion in the United States, a strong liberal welfare state is a prerequisite.

While on the subject of abortion, I’d like to talk about the Brown campaign’s suggestion that Coakley said “Catholics shouldn’t work in ERs”.  It is something which has been repeated so many times that it is treated as an actual quote. My previous blog post was centered around this, but what she did say was that someone whose conscience would not allow them to comply with Federal or State laws on medical care should probably not work in an emergency room. The interview she was at when this was said was discussing emergency contraception. The interviewer mentioned how Catholics are supposed to be opposed to contraception in all cases. That is simply untrue. Indeed the Catholic church has come out in favor of contraceptives after a rape in order to prevent conception. With regard to the morning-after pill, the controversy has been centered around does it trigger an abortion. Initially that was believed to be the case, that it worked by preventing the implantation of the fertilized egg. Newer research has indicated that does not seem to be the case. The Catholic Health Association has written that the chances of it causing an abortion are incredibly unlikely and Catholic bishops in some states have already given their explicit approval to use this medication.

On social issues, Coakley is a strong advocate of LGBT rights. She has, as Massachusetts attorney general, filed lawsuit to end DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) as discriminatory against same-sex marriages which are legal in Massachusetts (and other states). She has come out in favor of dropping the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Scott Brown has come out against same-sex marriage unless endorsed by voters or their representatives. However, holding a minority’s rights subject to the will of the majority has often led to forms of oppression in the United States. Would schools have been integrated without court orders? Yes, my own faith is against same-sex marriage, but I am referring in this instance to the civil institution. George W. Bush’s solicitor general, the strongly conservative Ted Olson, is even now defending the rights of same-sex couples in California in his effort to overturn California’s Proposition 8 which banned same-sex marriages. Here I applaud Martha Coakley for taking a stand on an issue that society is having a difficult time coming to terms with.

Scott Brown has also come out in favor of “enhanced interrogation” for terrorism suspects. This euphemism includes waterboarding, a technique which we considered a war crime during World War II. Martha Coakley has recognized that we must remain true to our ideals as a nation – not for the benefit of those who are against us, but for ourselves. It’s not about them, it’s about us.

Coming full circle to heath care. Brown has stated countless times that this is not the “Kennedy senate seat” or the “Democrat’s seat” but the “people’s seat”. The people saw fit to keep Ted Kennedy in that seat for decades. The cause he fought for the most in his last years (and throughout most of his career) was that of health care reform. Up until his death he was advocating for it. It seems an odd way to honor his memory with a man whose prime goal is to kill that. On January 19, if you are a registered voter in Massachusetts, I strongly suggest you vote for Martha Coakley for senate.

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