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Doherty Shifts Abortion Stance

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Just weeks after announcing his run for Congress, former State Police Supt. Brendan Doherty is already apparently changing his position on a key issue—abortion.

One week ago, his campaign Web site said that Doherty “support[ed] the decisions of the United States Supreme Court,” including its rulings that abortion is legal, even though he “personally” was pro-life. But now that statement has been scrapped in favor of simpler language: “I am pro-life.” (See screen grabs from campaign site.)

‘You either are pro-life or pro-choice’

State Rep Doreen Costa, who is pro-life, said she was troubled to hear that Doherty had changed his position. “You either are pro-life or pro-choice. You can’t change your position in the middle of an election to appease either the Republicans or the conservative base,” said Costa, R-North Kingstown. “We all change our minds but this is something you don’t change your mind on.”

But Costa, who is a supporter of Doherty's opponent for the GOP nomination, John Loughlin, said she is withholding any judgment until Doherty has a chance to explain himself to her. She said she had previously scheduled a meeting with him and will raise the abortion issue then.

Robert Carlin, the head of the East Providence Republican City Committee, called Doherty’s first position on abortion a “typical liberal response.”

He said Doherty’s change on abortion gives him one more reason to question his GOP credentials. Carlin noted that Doherty has voted in Democratic primaries in the past. “I have some real concerns about his political background,” Carlin said. “I have concerns about his affiliation with the Democratic Party.”

Spokesman: Doherty merely ‘clarified’ position

A spokesman for Doherty said he did not change his position. Instead, he said the update to the Web site was a “clarification of his position as he felt the former language might be a little confusing.”

“His position on abortion is as stated in both exhibits,” added spokesman Dante Bellini. “He is pro-life but acknowledges and respects that the Roe decision is an established judicial precedent.”

Ken McKay, the state GOP chairman, also did not think Doherty had really changed his position.

“I know Brendan Doherty. I know he’s pro-life and I’m proud to be in a party with him,” McKay said. “He’s a law enforcement guy. He follows the law. … As a law enforcement guy he was trying to be as clear as possible.”

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