Massachusetts Republicans are scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to replace their issues platform with the version embraced at the Republican National Convention, a blueprint that includes antiabortion language so conservative that US Senator Scott Brown spoke out against its adoption last month.
State party members voted in June, with just one dissenter, to place the issue on the Sept. 13 meeting agenda. Only one of the 76 members present voted against the discussion, according to meeting minutes obtained by the Globe. At the time, the national party platform had not yet been adopted.
The Republicans’ national platform has proved controversial in large part due to its antiabortion plank affirming an
unborn child’s right to life, without exception for cases of rape or to save the life of the pregnant mother. Democrats seized on the language, especially on the heels of comments by US Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, who said women who are raped rarely get pregnant.
Brown quickly denounced Akin’s comment and called for him to quit the race for US Senate. Nonetheless, Warren’s campaign jumped on the controversy with a radio ad aimed at women.
Massachusetts has historically been more moderate than the national party. The state’s current platform, adopted two years ago, does not address abortion at all and makes no mention of gay marriage, which the national platform denounces. The Massachusetts GOP platform also includes language supporting smaller government and individual liberty, lower taxes and, after years of corruption scandals on Beacon Hill, accountability and transparency.
Traditionally, the state party adopts a platform, essentially an outline of its guiding principles, every four years. Massachusetts Republicans last updated their plan in 2010, meaning they are not due for another update until 2014.
But at a June meeting, state committeewoman Patricia B. Doherty proposed that the 80-member state committee adopt the national platform this year. Doherty works for Catholic Citizenship, a group that supports the public policy initiatives of the Roman Catholic bishops of Massachusetts, as well as for the Coalition for Marriage and Family, which opposes gay marriage. She did not return a phone call for comment, but had requested that questions be sent to her in writing.
The platform proposal, coming from the conservative wing of the party, threatens to put Brown in a precarious position. The freshman senator is locked in a tough reelection battle with Democrat Elizabeth Warren, whose campaign has pushed to link Brown to the more conservative elements of the national party.
Brown has been mum on the Massachusetts proposal. A campaign spokeswoman declined to describe the senator’s position on the platform, over which he has influence, but no direct control.
Neither Massachusetts Republican chairman Robert A. Maginn Jr. nor party spokesman Tim Buckley would comment.
Brown’s 2010 special election to the Senate was buffeted by a tidal wave of activism from Tea Party conservatives. But he has disappointed some conservatives, within Massachusetts and nationwide, by refusing to stand in line with the right wing. His reelection in this state, where Republicans are far outnumbered, depends in large part on his appeal to independents, who make up the majority of voters.
Last month, Brown criticized the national platform for its unequivocal opposition to abortion in a letter he wrote to Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus.
“There are people of goodwill on both sides of the abortion issue, and we need to send a message to voters that there is room in the Republican Party for differing perspectives,” Brown wrote.”
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Correction: Because of reporting errors, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Patricia B. Doherty’s place of employment. She works for Catholic Citizenship, a group that supports the public policy initiatives of the Roman Catholic bishops of Massachusetts, as well as for the Coalition for Marriage and Family, which opposes gay marriage. The story also should have said that Doherty did not return a phone call for comment, but had requested that questions be sent to her in writing.