The Following post first appeared on FactCheck.org.
An abortion rights group says that Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts is "straight-up lying" in a new ad that says he is "pro-choice, and he supports a woman's right to choose." That's wrong. Brown has consistently said he is a supporter of abortion rights dating back to 2004, and he urged the GOP this year to change its platform to be more inclusive of Republicans like him. The group's complaint concerns a few votes on matters such as federal funding and religious conscience clauses that have angered abortion rights organizations and earned support from anti-abortion groups.
Brown is in a tight race for reelection against Democrat Elizabeth Warren. His new ad, titled "Women for Brown," features several women talking about why they support him. Emily's List, a group that supports the election of Democratic women who are in favor of abortion rights and has donated to Warren's campaign, issued a press release criticizing the ad's claim that Brown is "pro-choice" and its claim that Brown will "fight" for "equal pay" for women. In addition to calling the ad "shockingly dishonest," the group's president said that Brown was "straight-up lying."
Brown's Abortion Rights Record
Brown has said that he supports abortion rights and some of his votes clearly reflect that — such as a vote last year against defunding Planned Parenthood and a vote on the Armed Services Committee to overturn a ban on women in the military receiving coverage for abortion services at military facilities in cases of rape and incest. Brown also asked the Republican Party to change anti-abortion language in this year's party platform, saying "I believe this is a mistake because it fails to recognize the views of pro-choice Republicans like myself."
As far back as 2004, when Brown was campaigning in a Republican primary, he publicly stated that he is in favor of abortion rights. An excerpt from a Jan. 5, 2004, article in Massachusetts' Sun Chronicle provided to us by the Brown campaign said that "he considers himself pro-choice and adds that abortion is not a big issue in the campaign. Brown said he believes abortion is an issue to be decided between a woman and her doctor."
And in a 2010 interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters, Brown said he was in favor of abortion rights but against partial birth abortion and federal funding of abortion. He said he was for "a strong parental consent notification law."
Brown, Jan. 31, 2010: And you know Roe v. Wade is the law of the land. But I think we need to do more to reduce the amount of abortions. And, and the difference between me and maybe others is that I'm very – I'm against partial birth abortions. I'm against federal funding of abortions. And I believe in a strong parental consent notification law. And, and we should do more for adoptions.
Barbara Walters: But you're still pro choice?
Brown: Yes. Because I feel this issue is best handled between a woman and her doctor and, and, and her family.
That may not be a good enough stance for groups like Emily's List, and, in fact, Brown's voting record has attracted support from anti-abortion groups.
NARAL Says 'Mixed Choice'
Among the U.S. Senate votes that abortion rights groups criticize is Brown's vote for an appropriations bill that, among many, many other things, would have eliminated funding for Title X family planning and defunded Planned Parenthood. He said he "would have had different priorities" for spending cuts. And he cosponsored the defeated Blunt amendment, which would have allowed employers or insurers to refuse to provide insurance coverage for certain medications or procedures if they objected for religious reasons.
That legislation was directed at contraception, coming after the Obama administration's announcement that religious-affiliated organizations, such as hospitals and colleges, would have to provide free contraception coverage for their employees. The president later amended that ruling, saying the free coverage would be paid for by insurance companies in that case. Brown said he supported the Blunt amendment because "no one should be forced by government to do something that violates the teachings of their faith."
Brown's 2011-2012 voting record led to an 80 percent anti-abortion voting score from the National Right to Life Committee, the support (but not endorsement) of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, and a 45 percent voting score from NARAL Pro-Choice America. NARAL put Brown in a category it calls "mixed choice."
The group has called the latest ad "misleading." NARAL President Nancy Keenan said in a press release that Brown's “support for women's reproductive health is inconsistent at best." NARAL's political action committee has donated to Warren's campaign, and the National Right to Life Committee's PAC donated to Brown in 2010.
Not all of the votes NARAL and NRLC monitor pertain strictly to abortion, however. NRLC includes votes on repealing the federal health care law and on the Disclose Act, which would have required independent groups to disclose donors giving more than $10,000 for political campaigns. NARAL includes votes on the nomination of a circuit court judge.
Anne Fox, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, has said that Brown "votes pro-life," but his stated "pro-choice" stance stops the group from fully endorsing him. She told us that while his voting record "does seem counterintuitive," he has been "consistent." Fox says: "He had the same record at the Statehouse." The group also supported him in 2010, when Brown was running for his Senate seat in a special election.
When he was a state senator, Brown backed a bill to require a 24-hour waiting period before a woman could have an abortion, during which time women would be given information about and pictures of the development of the fetus. He also voted in favor of keeping protesters at least 35 feet away from abortion clinics. He introduced an amendment to allow hospitals to opt-out on religious grounds of legislation requiring them to give emergency contraception to rape victims, but he later voted for the full bill anyway. He even voted to override then-Gov. Mitt Romney's veto of that bill.
Fox says that her group asked him about issues such as abortion funding, partial birth abortion, parental consent and conscience rights, and that Brown's votes on those issues since he won his Senate seat align with Massachusetts Citizens for Life.
Readers can make their own judgments about Brown's votes that are supported by anti-abortion groups. But Emily's List is wrong to say he is "lying." He has consistently said he is a supporter of abortion rights.
Brown's ad also says that he will "fight" for "equal pay" for women, another claim that has Emily's List crying foul. The group points to one vote — Brown's vote this year against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have required businesses to give a reason for disparities in pay. Republicans said it would encourage lawsuits and unreasonably hamper employers. Brown said: "It's the right cause but the wrong bill."
Brown's office told the Boston Globe that he "strongly supports" the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which expanded women's ability to sue in pay discrimination cases, and that he would have voted for it.
– Lori Robertson
Also on HuffPost:
Introduces Financial Product Safety Commission
Elizabeth Warren <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/10/financial-product-safety_n_173691.html" target="_hplink">announced</a> a bill creating a Financial Product Safety Commission with House and Senate Democrats in March 2009. The body was designed to have oversight over mortgages and other financial instruments to protect consumers against predatory practices. She said if the agency had existed before the subprime collapse then "there would have been millions of families who got tangled in predatory mortgages who never would have gotten them." HuffPost's Ryan Grim <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/10/financial-product-safety_n_173691.html" target="_hplink">reported</a>: <blockquote>Without all these toxic assets on banks' balance sheets, the institutions wouldn't be on the brink of collapse and the recession would be more manageable. "Consumer financial products were the front end of the destabilization of the American economic system." Sen. Charles Schumer's cosponsorship of the bill is notable because of his proximity to Wall Street. The bill's merit, the New York Democrat said, is that it regulates the actual financial product rather than the company producing it.</blockquote>
Geithner Opposes Her Heading CFPB
Tim Geithner expressed opposition to her nomination for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/15/tim-geithner-opposes-nomi_n_647691.html" target="_hplink">reported</a> HuffPost's Shahien Nasiripour. Geithner thought Warren's views on the big banks and Wall St. were too tough. Warren's oversight of the Treasury department as a watchdog for TARP apparently irked Geithner, agressively <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz7ruJw6byQ" target="_hplink">questioning him</a> during Congressional hearings: <blockquote>While her grilling of Geithner in September, over what members of Congress have called the "backdoor bailout" of Wall Street through AIG, inspired the "squirm" video, just last month Warren pressed Geithner on the administration's lackluster foreclosure-prevention plan, Making Home Affordable. Criticizing him for Treasury's failure to keep families in their homes, she questioned Treasury's commitment to homeowners.</blockquote>
Ready For A Fight
Elizabeth Warren <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/03/fight-for-the-cfpa-is-a-d_n_483707.html" target="_hplink">reiterated her desire</a> for a strong Consumer Financial Protection Agency to HuffPost's Shahien Nasiripour: <blockquote>"My first choice is a strong consumer agency," the Harvard Law professor and federal bailout watchdog said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "My second choice is no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor."</blockquote>
Named Interim Chief Of CFPB
In September of 2010, HuffPost's Ryan Grim <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/13/elizabeth-warren-interim-cfpb-chief-consideration_n_715457.html" target="_hplink">reported</a> that Elizabeth Warren was being considered as a candidate for interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Days later the announcement was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/15/white-house-taps-warren_n_715291.html" target="_hplink">official</a>. The move allowed Warren to set up the groundwork for the agency immediately without risking a GOP filibuster of her nomination, a response that seemed certain giving the <a href="http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2010/09/15/opposition_mounts_for_interim_appointment/" target="_hplink">public opposition expressed</a> by some Republican senators. When it came time to put forth an appointment for a longterm CFPB chief, Warren was overlooked, partially because she was seen as unfeasible, but also, HuffPost's Shahien Nasiripour <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/18/republican-opposition-to-elizabeth-warren_n_902165.html" target="_hplink">reported</a>, because she was a divisive figure within the Obama administration: <blockquote>Ultimately, Warren wanted the job, allies said. And near-united opposition from Senate Republicans -- 44 of them signed a letter saying they'd oppose any nominee -- should have made it easier for Obama to nominate her, since the Republicans publicly said they wouldn't support anyone for the role. Instead, the Republicans made it easy for the White House to deflect questions about the administration's lack of support for Warren. Asked how she squared the administration's public statements with its private ones, Warren declined. "I really have to say, I'm just not there. I'm not in the intricacies of the political part of this, and I can't comment," Warren said Monday. "The truth is I don't know anything about it."</blockquote>
Chats With HuffPost About Bureau
In October 2010, shortly after being tasked with building the groundwork for the CFPB, Warren stopped by HuffPost to chat with Ryan Grim and Shahien Nasiripour "This is the first real agency we've built in the 21st century -- well, there's Homeland Security, but one for the people. And it means we ought to think differently," said Warren. "The government can talk to people and people can talk to the government differently than when the Consumer Product Safety Commission was built, or when the FDA was built. And if we do this right, that should change the whole dynamic of who this agency really is." HuffPost's Ryan Grim <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/07/elizabeth-warren-consumer_1_n_754026.html" target="_hplink">reported</a>: <blockquote>By gathering information, contracts and documents from homeowners and consumers, and allowing watchdog groups and individual concerned citizens access to those documents, the agency can exponentially expand the manpower it has to review the operations of banks and lenders. The goal would be to become aware of a particularly fraudulent practice before it is rampant and insulates itself in the financial services industry.</blockquote> For full video of the interview, click <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/07/elizabeth-warren-consumer_1_n_754026.html" target="_hplink">here</a>.
GOP Calls Her A Liar
In May, Warren was called to testify before a House subcommittee and defend the merits of the CFPB. Some of the questions submitted by Republican representatives appeared confused and at times aggressive, leaving Warren to correct them on some basic facts about the actual purpose of the bureau. HuffPost's Mike McCauliff <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/24/elizabeth-warren-liar-gop-facts-cfpb_n_866505.html" target="_hplink">relays</a> one particularly contentious moment: <blockquote>The subcommittee chairman, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), began the proceedings by suggesting Warren had lied to the committee in a previous hearing that had questioned the CFPB's role in offering advice to state attorneys general negotiating a settlement with abusive mortgage servicers. At the time, Warren said she was proud her agency had been able to help, at the request of the treasury secretary. But McHenry brought up the memo again, suggesting it showed that she hid a larger role in the negotiations from Congress. "This is our job, and we're trying to do our job, to be helpful to other agencies, and to help those agencies to hold those who break the law accountable," Warren said, repeating that she was proud of the work.</blockquote>
Announces Senate Run
Elizabeth Warren <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/13/elizabeth-warren-senate-massachusetts_n_960510.html" target="_hplink">announced</a> on September 14, 2011 that she was running for the United States Senate seat currently held by Scott Brown (R-Mass.) "After listening to people all across our state who know that we can do better, folks who are frustrated like I am that Washington just doesn't get it, I'm running for the Senate so I can fight every day for Massachusetts families," Warren <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-warren/senate-announcement_b_961624.html" target="_hplink">wrote on The Huffington Post</a>.
One month into her campaign to secure the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Scott Brown in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren raised $3.15 million, largely <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/10/elizabeth-warren-raises-3_n_1003836.html" target="_hplink">from small donations</a>. According to a campaign email, 96 percent of donations were under $100. "These are pretty amazing numbers for our first official finance report, raised in a very short period of time," she said in an email to supporters. Warren's campaign has also attracted <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/18/elizabeth-warren-builds-s_n_1018334.html" target="_hplink">large liberal donors</a>, including colleagues from Harvard and well-known liberal donors like George Soros, Barbra Streisand, and DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. Warren <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/11/elizabeth-warren-scott-brown-fundraising_n_1199680.html " target="_hplink">raised</a> an impressive $5.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. In early January, the candidate's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/16/elizabeth-warren-money-bomb-fundraising_n_1208511.html?ref=mostpopular" target="_hplink">money bomb</a> pulled in more than $100,000 in just one weekend.
Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/23/elizabeth-warren-scott-brown-attack-ads_n_1223574.html" target="_hplink">signed a pledge</a> to curb third-party attack ads. If either campaign breaks the agreement, they would donate half the cost of the outside ad to a charity of their opponent's choice. "This may not work," <a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/david-catanese/2012/01/warren-this-may-not-work-112119.html" target="_hplink">Warren said in an email to supporters</a>. "But there's enough at stake to make it worthwhile to try to take back this election."