By
The Cycle
updated 2/20/2013 9:47:57 PM ET 2013-02-21T02:47:57

Rep. Stephen Lynch, a self-described “pro-life” Democrat, faced intense grilling on his abortion views by The Cycle hosts Wednesday.

Massachusetts has a reputation for shining a political shade of bright blue, but there are still some pockets of the state that can lean socially conservative. One of those areas is South Boston, home to Congressman Stephen Lynch, one of the Democrats vying for the senate seat left open by John Kerry’s appointment to Secretary of State.

A self-described “pro-life” Democrat, Lynch faced grilling on his abortion views by The Cycle hosts Wednesday.

“Of course, yeah,” he said when asked if he would repeat his 2003 vote for the “partial-birth abortion” ban.

In the upcoming primary, Lynch, a former ironworker with strong union backing, is facing abortion rights supporter Edward Markey, a 36-year congressman who is endorsed by much of the state and national Democratic Party establishment.

Lynch’s record on reproductive rights has varied over his decade in Washington, as detailed by the Boston Globe. Now, as a candidate for Senate, Lynch attempts to delicately pivot from his more socially conservative South Boston stance to one closer to the socially progressive state of Massachusetts as a whole.

In 2005, Lynch voted against allowing military women access to privately-funded abortions at military facilities overseas. He told The Cycle’s Krystal Ball on Wednesday:

“The problem with having abortions on a military facility is that you have superior officers there. It is a command society, so do you really think a woman, you know with a rank, in a uniform, is going to have a free choice? Because there are no other free choices that are going on on military bases. That was my concern. I did support the right of women to have automatic leave where they wouldn’t be under the influence of military officers, their superiors, to make a truly independent decision.”

In 2009, Lynch voted for the proposed Stupak Amendment to the national health care law, which sought to prohibit federal funding for abortion and would have essentially banned insurance coverage for abortion under the Affordable Care Act.

“I did support that, yeah,” he said on The Cycle. “However, I have also supported funding for Planned Parenthood, because they do some of the best work in reducing unwanted pregnancies, and therefore also reduce abortions.”

Lynch said he doesn’t support “attacking” Roe v. Wade, because “all that’s going to do is change the location of abortions from a clinical setting to one that’s much more dangerous for women.”

He maintained that he would not support a Supreme Court nominee who openly opposes Roe v. Wade. “That would be a very radical nominee and I would oppose them,” he said. “Just to be clear.”

Lynch was given a grade of 75 by Planned Parenthood last year and a 50% rating from Massachusetts Citizens for Life in 2010. From 2004 to 2011, his rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America has varied all the way from 0 to 100%.

If elected, Lynch wouldn’t be the first Massachusetts man with a mixed history of abortion comments to win a recent state-wide election. The commonwealth elected Republican Mitt Romney as governor in 2002.

A recent poll by WBUR/Mass Inc. puts Lynch seven points behind Markey in a Democratic primary. Markey came in with 38%, Lynch 31%, and 26% didn’t know or refused to answer.

The state primary in Massachusetts is April 30, and the Senate special election is June 25.

Video: Democrats battle for Kerry seat in Massachusetts

  1. Closed captioning of: Democrats battle for Kerry seat in Massachusetts

    >> the republican party , but there was a civil war left open by john kerry becoming secretary of state given massachusetts 's partisan bit, the primary winner is likely to be the state's next senator. the race featured two congress men, ed marky who has been there for 36 years and an iron worker to came to congress a decade ago.

    >> there is no one like him there, they said. i thought about it for a few minutes and i happen to agree that this is true. i will not fit in in the u.s. senate , but either would you.

    >> that was stephen lynch at a kickoff and he joins us now from boston. congressman, the audio was not great, but i found myself watching that moment a few times. i think the line you used, i would not fit in and neither would you and the crowd went wild. i listened and said i think he is talking to the voter who kind of left the democratic party in massachusetts in 2010 and voted for scott brown . was that a message aimed at those voters?

    >> no, it was actually aimed at people who work for a living. i think people realize that the united states senate has been an exclusive club and many of the members don't share the daily life experiences of most working class americans.

    >> we should point out there was a poll for them to be on the show. they have an awful lot of establishments and john kerry endorsed him on the way out and national democrats were with him. a poll showed this to be a close race, 38-31 with marky ahead by seven points. when i talked to democrats up in massachusetts trying to figure out how to make sense of the race, if there was one criticism of you that i hear most often, i actually like the guy and agree with him, but he voted against health care in 2010 . he voted against the affordable care act when it came up for final passage. what's your answer to people who have that concern?

    >> people that want to know why i voted against it should look at the two bills, the house bill on health care reform and the so-called obama care house version and i voted for that and i voted against the senate version. three main reasons. one, the house version we took away the antitrust exemption that insurance companies enjoy. number two, we actually created a state-wide public option that creates competition and third, we stay away from taxing health care and benefits and plans. now over in the senate, what they did was gave back the antitrust exemption to experience companies that allow them to operate the cocktails and not increase the cost of health care . they took away the state-sponsored option that creates competition and thirdly, they piled up the taxes on health care . health care plans and employers who provide generous benefits for their employees and it's now creating incentive for employers to now back away from providing health care for the employees. i met with the president at the white house and i explained why i was against the bill. i made a promise to him that while i could not vote for the bill, i said i will work to fix this rather than repeal it. as a result the last 31 times that the republicans have put repeal on the floor of the house , i voted no all 31 times.

    >> one congressman, another source of concern is where you stand on a woman's right to choose. you described yourself as pro life , but you believe that the right to have an abortion is a constitutionally protected right, correct me if i am wrong on any of that.

    >> that's correct.

    >> i wanted to give you a chance of clearing up the record on where you stand on these issues. i grabbed a couple of previous votes. if you could try to stick to more or less yes or no whether you stand by the votes that you take.

    >> it's a profound issue in society and you want me to speak to yes or no? you invited me on. i would like to be allowed to talk.

    >> sure. after we go through those you can explain a bit more, but you voted to ban the procedure known as partial birth abortion . would you vote the same way today?

    >> of course, yeah.

    >> in 2005 , you voted having military women having privately funded abortions overseas?

    >> there were other issues in that as well. i voted to allow any woman in the military to basically have a leave to make her own decision. the problem with having abortions on a military facility is that you have superior officers there and it's a command society. do you think a woman with a rank in a uniform is going to have a free choice ? there no other free choices going on on military bases . that was my concern. i did support right of women to have automatic leave where they wouldn't be under the influence of military officers , their superiors, to make a truly independent decision.

    >> okay. going back to health care , you supported the stupak amendment and would have basically banned insurance coverage for abortion under the president's health care plan. is that a position you stand by as well?

    >> on the health care bill, look, the abortion or the reproductive rights issues within the health care act really wasn't any basis of my ability to support or oppose any bill. i don't think that it was a major issue in my ability to vote for or against either of the bills. in our states -- i did support that, yeah. also supported at. funding for planned parenthood because they do the best work in reducing unwanted pregnancies and therefore also reduce abortio abortions. that has been my position. i don't support attacking row v wade. that's all that it will do is change the locations from a clinical setting to one that is much more dangerous for women. and i did take the floor and i consider myself pro life . i know there pro life people saying i am not pro life or not pro life enough. i am not an expert on the church position on this, but i am an expert on my own beliefs and one of the way we can reduce abortion is doing what we have been doing which is providing full access to contraceptive services like planned parenthood does and the statistics also bear out that this might be working for the first time in 40 years, we are seeing a lower number of abortions because in part we have greater access to informed decisions being made by woman who have access to birth control counseling.

    >> absolutely. to that point and your support of row v wade, you told the boston globe you would absolutely vote for a supreme court nominee who opposed row v wade and said it was not a litmus test for you. do you stand by that?

    >> no. they asked me the same question nine times and anticipated the questions. i thought they could could you support a pro choice nominee and i said absolutely. that was the question i was asked. later on they said no, we switched it up when we asked you the last time. we said would you have someone who opposed. if a justice comes forward and they have a demonstrated opposition to row v wade and want to overturn constitutional law , that would be a radical nominee and i would a pose them, just to be clear.

    >> all right.

    >> all right, congressman lynch. obviously abortion will be one of the issues. from massachusetts , you describe yourself as a pro life democrat and people would be surprised in massachusetts and they would think it is a liberal state. there a lot of democrats in the population who call themselves pro life . there is the makings of an interesting primer. straight ahead , should you be running your home more like modern family. surprising tips for family bliss like leading kids pick their punishment as if forced to eat beef stew was not enough.

    >> word on the street is the under study steals the

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