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Why I’m pro-choice

by Chris Doherty

I’ve been mayor of Scranton for the past eight years, but outside of northeast Pennsylvania, people are still just getting to know me.

So for the last several weeks I’ve been traveling around the state, talking to people about the challenges we face and how we can work together to help create more jobs, grow our economy, and get Pennsylvania working again.

One question I get a lot is about my position on a woman’s right to choose. People look at me and they see a guy from Scranton who was one of 11 kids, a father of six and an active member of his church. They put those pieces together and they’re surprised when I tell them, I’m pro-choice.

I support a woman’s right to choose because, in my view, this is an extremely private, personal matter and every woman should have the right to decide for herself, with the input of her family, her doctor, and her faith. It is not an issue where government should decide. It is a private, personal choice.

Sometimes I get hypothetical questions about how I’d react to what the Supreme Court may or may not do or to a bill that doesn’t exist. To those questions I can only say that my position won’t change. I won’t support a bill that takes away a woman’s right to make her own decision.

Like any candidate, I’ve had occasion to fill out questionnaires on the subject. Such questionnaires are often worded in ways that fail to accurately reflect my position. The fact is, I support a woman’s right to choose. At the same time, I respect the rights of others to disagree, in some cases very passionately.

The right to passionately and intelligently advocate for your beliefs is one of the principles on which our country was founded and, as mayor, I have issued a proclamation acknowledging those who exercise that right on the other side of this issue. Supporting a woman’s right to choose while respecting the rights of others to disagree are not mutually exclusive positions. In fact, a shared bond of respect on this and most issues would serve us well as we work toward a common future.

And that common future will most likely be defined by the choices we make on Pennsylvania’s economy over the next several years, not by social issues. During the last eight years in Scranton, we’ve helped create thousands of new jobs and generate $500 million in new investment. We’ve enjoyed tremendous success by keeping our government focused on the things it can do best: creating jobs, growing the economy, and keeping our communities safe.

Pennsylvania’s next governor will face significant challenges and he or she would do well to keep the Pennsylvania government focused on the things it can do best—get Pennsylvanians working again and put the state’s economy back on the right track.

The writer, a Democrat and the mayor of Scranton, is considering a run for governor.

September 9, 2009 at 9:30 am

--Chris Doherty

comments

comments [31] | post a comment

  1. Brian

    Sep 9th, 2009

    Chris,

    I consider myself generally “pro-life,” but I applaud you on this measured explanation of your views. I certainly appreciate your reasoned candor, and I feel that people like you will help all of us to find a workable solution to this extremely difficult problem. Thank you.

  2. Christopher Mailen

    Sep 9th, 2009

    While I may not agree with him on the subject of abortion, I do agree with him that the issue for electing the next governor should be focused heavily on turning our economy around. If a person actually votes for a person solely because of a stance on one issue, they are not a well informed voter. There are too many social, economic and policy issues to just accept one issue as a reason to vote for a candidate or not. I’ll vote for the guy I think will do the best job, and I look forward to seeing which of these candidates will prove it to me. Because right now, I don’t know enough about all of them to stake that claim. God help us though.

  3. joe

    Sep 9th, 2009

    I was thrilled to read Doherty’s thoughtful op-ed. You have to give him credit for being honest and direct about a controversial issue that is important to many of us. I am strongly leaning toward supporting Doherty for governor instead of one of the Republican-lite wimps from Pittsburgh.

  4. steelerfan

    Sep 9th, 2009

    Joe, I take exception to your calling Jack Wagner a wimp and I tell you straight out why. This is a man who went into combat with 12 Marines and only five of them came out alive. None of the five survivors emerged without shedding blood. Wagner spent six months in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital recovering from his own wounds when they shipped him home on a stretcher. No one in either party running for Governor has had that experience which is all about quiet courage.

    The question about Doherty isn’t where he stands on the issue of abortion. The question is why a guy who had been in public life for so many years shocks his community by revealing this to be his position. He kept his position secret for years. And that reflects a quiet cowardice that should concern everyone.

  5. Marge

    Sep 9th, 2009

    steelerfan:

    I think Wagner should be applauded for his service as well. That said, I’m not supporting him for governor.

    Why would the mayor of Scranton discuss his position on abortion? It is a red herring and has nothing to do with his duties on that level.

    I agree with Joe that Doherty could have hedged on the issue but he was open and direct. Far from “quiet cowardice.” The cowards are the ones who will acknowledge their pro-choice leanings in DOZENS of private conversations over the years but still claim to be “pro-life” to save face for their conservative constituents. But you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you Dan Onorato?
    He kept his position secret for years. And that reflects a quiet cowardice that should concern everyone.

  6. Marge

    Sep 9th, 2009

    steelerfan:

    I think Wagner should be applauded for his service as well. That said, I’m not supporting him for governor.

    “He kept his position secret for years. And that reflects a quiet cowardice that should concern everyone.”
    Why would the mayor of Scranton discuss his position on abortion? It is a red herring and has nothing to do with his duties on that level.

    I agree with Joe that Doherty could have hedged on the issue but he was open and direct. Far from “quiet cowardice.” The cowards are the ones who will acknowledge their pro-choice leanings in DOZENS of private conversations over the years but still claim to be “pro-life” to save face for their conservative constituents. But you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you Dan Onorato?

  7. WESTPADEM6

    Sep 9th, 2009

    Im from western pa, im a pro life dem. I think he cannot compete with the likes in the race already. I like him. People from Scranton are much more like the western pa dems, as opposed to the SE corner.

  8. demdem

    Sep 9th, 2009

    Doherty is definitely going to give Wagner and Onorato a run for their money — as WESTPADEM6 says, he will appeal to W. PA-type voters. I do think, however, that this may only help whoever decides to come, whether it’s Knox or Hoeffel.

  9. demdem

    Sep 9th, 2009

    I meant to say “…to come out of the Southeast…” above.

  10. Gregorios

    Sep 9th, 2009

    I respect and appreciate the candor and directness of this piece. I’m with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice on this one – abortion is an issue of religious freedom and the government should keep out.

  11. WESTPADEM6

    Sep 9th, 2009

    Joe—

    Republican-lite wimps from Pittsburgh???? I think Pittsburgh and wimp in the same sentence sounds a little foolish, not to mention offensive and stupid.

  12. terrie g

    Sep 9th, 2009

    Hoeffel has been pro-choice, been vocal and been voting from the moment he entered politics. Doherty is obviously had a come to Jesus moment on this issue in order to muscle in on the SE Pa vote. He was so passionately pro-choice running in Scranton that he was tongue-tied.

  13. dave

    Sep 9th, 2009

    Hoeffel will not be running.

    Doherty’s guts is refreshing for a politician these days. i’m going to give him a serious look.

  14. jiffy

    Sep 9th, 2009

    Whatever his silence was for his entire political career, it was not guts. It is not as if the issue has not been aired out over and over again for Democratic pols up there. From Kerry to Casey, the bishop has been throwing fire and brimstone. Sooner or later, they are going to find a “I’m pro-life” statement from Doherty and Hoeffel or Knox will expose this guy as the squirmy sham that he is.

    And, by the way, Scranton has been in bankruptcy since 1992. What can he tell Pa. about the economy? He became mayor, operated under state supervision and the city is still bankrupt. We’ll need to put Pa. into Act 47 receivership if Doherty gets elected or maybe he’ll bring the state supervisors along to keep an eye on him.

  15. [...] an opinion editorial submitted to the web site, Pa2010.com, Mayor Chris Doherty expands upon his support of a [...]

  16. GOP

    Sep 9th, 2009

    I am for allowing parents to kill their toddlers and infants. This is a highly personal decision, and the gov’t should have no say! Infants and toddlers place terrible strains on young mothers trying to get their lives in order and their careers started. To have the burden of infants and toddlers isn’t fair.

  17. Nate

    Sep 9th, 2009

    I do not care if he is pro-abortion/choice or pro-life/anti-choice. What I care about is on what he advocates the spending of our tax dollars.

    If you are pro-choice and ‘respect the rights of others to disagree,’ but spend tax dollars on providing for abortions, you are compelling me to help pay for the murder of a child. I was taught that murder is wrong but as a good tax-paying citizen I should paying for it? That is not respecting my views – that is ignoring my views, showing disregard or indifference for my views, even demonstrating condescension toward my views.

    If you make me help pay for murder, that is not respect. It sounds lovely in a sound bite – that is true – but telling a lovely lie does not make it any less true.
    So, Your Honor, how do you propose we allocate the people’s tax dollars in regards to abortion? THAT is the real question. Answering that would be brave, indeed.

  18. obamarox

    Sep 9th, 2009

    Interesting discussion. Of course, the US Supreme Court has said that the state has a right to make some determinations about a woman’s right to choose based on the development of the child in the womb as well as the majority or minority status of the girl/woman seeking to exercise her choice as in parental notification. Doherty apparently does not know the relevant legal history to the issue based on his statement above.

  19. Pete

    Sep 9th, 2009

    re obamarox:

    “Doherty apparently does not know the relevant legal history to the issue based on his statement above.”

    Snark much?

    He said he won’t support a bill (from the state legislature, obviously) that further burdens a woman’s right to choose. Sounds like he understands the “legal history” just fine.

  20. GOPHAWK

    Sep 9th, 2009

    Scranton has had 8 years of Doherty and they still have not come out of bankruptcy. That is the important fact. When you are in Act 47, someone is always helping you. It is like junior mayoral government. I don’t see what he offers to a state pounded by recession and job losses.

    On this abortion question: if he was so passionately pro-choice, why did he issue a proclomation praising the pro-lifers but never praising the heroines of the pro-choice movement? He had eight years to issue a proclamation praising those passionate about the pro-choice cause. He never did.

    Could it be that he found his voice and his vision on the road to Harrisburg as did St. Paul on the road to Damascus?

  21. WESTPADEM6

    Sep 9th, 2009

    Doherty is a second tier candidate to wagner and onorato. I do like him, but no one out here has ever heard of him. Hey… the more the merrier. No one with exception of Knox has the money to go with Onorato, and thats a significant problem for many.

  22. steelerfan

    Sep 9th, 2009

    Onorato has money like Blago has money. Bought and paid for. He even brags about laying off union workers to reward his corporate sponsors. And he is a taxer. He taxed my beer and he taxed my parking and he taxed my food. But he won’t tax his rich friends in their big mansions.

  23. Christopher

    Sep 9th, 2009

    I’m not sure I understand Doherty, who says, in summary, “Common ground will be defined by economy, but let me talk about abortion.” To me this says, “I don’t know how to lead, and let me prove it by focusing on something that most Democrats think deserves a lower priority from the governor and which is irrelevant because Supreme Court decisions are already settled and aren’t going to change.” What are his proposals for the economy, the environment, education, health insurance, and government reform? $500 million in new investment? How is that calculated? What is the evidence for that? What were his contributions to accomplishing that? One may quarrel with the ideology and record of the two W. PA candidates, but at least they focus on what’s relevant.

  24. Barb

    Sep 10th, 2009

    I find it very telling that Mayor Doherty announced that he is pro-abortion exactly one week after Bishop Martino resigned. He knew he was now in safe terrority, he would not be called out on his announcement. Chris, it’s very simple but I guess you missed this lesson when you went to Church – YOU CAN’T BE CATHOLIC AND PRO-ABORTION. The Church has said time and time again, the pre-eminent issue is life. And the topper is he and his family actually sell religious articles to the Catholic Church. I never would have believed that he was a “Cafeteria Catholic.” I would like him to remember one thing – “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his soul?”

  25. WPA

    Sep 10th, 2009

    Don’t get why he is pushing this issue. Seems like a strange political move. The next election will be about the economy not abortion. PA is the only state in the union without a budget.

  26. Christopher Mailen

    Sep 10th, 2009

    That is true WPA, but he describes why he’s doing it in the first line. “I’ve been mayor of Scranton for the past eight years, but outside of northeast Pennsylvania, people are still just getting to know me.” If you’re going to get your name out to voters, you have to start somewhere so it might as well be social issues. The guy hasn’t announced he’s even running yet. Outside of Knox and maybe Wagner, I don’t know if any of the potential candidates have raised any economic ideas to fix our ailing state.

  27. [...] Doherty: Why I’m pro-choice… [...]

  28. The Scranton Guardian

    Sep 10th, 2009

    At least he tells you the truth, unlike Bob Casey.

  29. Brian Kline

    Sep 10th, 2009

    A very interesting way to open your candidacy. Outside of Scranton, most voters don’t know much about Doherty. But as his positon statement on abortion bubbles up from the blogs to the MSM, he will be tagged as the pro-choice Democrat from Scranton. Democratic activists in the southeast will be surprised, but definitely in favor. This is a smart move. Doherty has done his homework and understands the shifting demographics of the Democratic Party. Our base will be the progressive East, not the conservative West.

  30. The Rockin Traddy

    Sep 10th, 2009

    Chris,

    There’s been some discussion of you over at my blog. It’s interesting to watch you sell your soul in the hopes of attaining higher office.

    Since you are now a public sinner, and are placing yourself outside Holy Mother Church, will you dare to present yourself to receive the body of our Lord?

    I hope you have the courage to respond.

  31. flynnbw

    Sep 11th, 2009

    There are a LOT of pro-life Democrats across PA (not just in the west), but for many if not most of them, the abortion issue simply isn’t a game-changing issue. Many pro-life Dems support pro-choice candidates unless they just totally rub in everyone’s face that they’re pro-choice/make it the centerpiece of their campaign.

    Though the reverse isn’t always true, I think that Sen. Casey has made a lot of inroads with liberals generally in the last few years due to his strong support of unions, health care, and many other core Democratic issues.

    So we’ll see where this goes in the primary. I’m undecided right now – but just hope that Rep. Gerlach gives the AG a run for his money on the R side so that it isn’t another Santorum-Klink “GOP united, Dems in fractious disarray” story like in 2000.

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