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Trying to parse a Massachusetts Senate candidate's view on abortion

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.

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.