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Abortion Topic All But Absent: 2000 Presidential Campaign Avoids Controversial Issue

Wednesday, August 16, 2000 at 3:49 PM

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This campaign season abortion is not quite the front and center issue it has been in the past. Republican campaigns in the past have been bold in denouncing abortion and the landmark Roe Vs. Wade Supreme Court Decision that guaranteed abortion rights. Democrats have campaigned equally hard on upholding Roe v. Wade. 90.3's Bill Rice looks at why abortion has thus far remained largely on the sidelines in the Gore/Bush race.

Bill Rice- This year, during a July appearance in Cleveland, George W. Bush uttered what some now consider to be only a token reference to abortion.

Bush- Unlike Al Gore, I pledge to fight for a ban on partial birth abortions.

Two weeks ago, in his Republican National Convention speech, Bush made a similar statement, talking not about abortion in general, but only about a particular method called dilation and extraction or D&X - known among abortion foes as “partial birth abortion.” It was the last of the specific policy items Bush addressed in his speech, and he confined his comments to one sentence.

Make no mistake though, say both anti-abortion and pro-choice advocates, Bush and the Republican Party are still squarely behind overturning Roe v. Wade. They’re just not talking about it. Why? Denise MacKura, Director of Cleveland Right to Life, has one theory.

Denise MacKura- There was a group of people that were trying to amend the platform to change it from a pro-life platform to a non-committal platform. So it really wouldn’t have done him any good to bring it up at the convention. He already had the people there, so it wouldn’t have been wise for him to do that.

BR- Some analysts, however, say the absence of abortion as a visible campaign issue is part of a deliberate effort to keep the conservative right on the sidelines, and thus make the party seem more moderate and attract more swing voters. Herb Asher is a political science professor at Ohio State University. He says there’s a simple reason for this: They want to win the election.

Herb Asher- If the rep(ublican) convention had looked too cons and if the religious right looked too prominent, too dominant that would have hurt Governor Bush in the election. It was pure pragmatism, and it’s interesting because if you look at Pat Buchanon, who used to be a rep(ublican), he’s complaining mightily about the tone of the republican convention, saying they in fact have gone soft on the abortion issue.

Buchanon- For these lost innocents there was barely a word of compassion from the party of compassionate conservatism. Well, republicans may be running away from life, but as long as there’s life in me, I will never run away from the unborn because their cause is my cause and their cause is God’s cause!

BR- Asher says he believes the democrats will also maintain a low profile on the abortion issue during and after this week’s convention.

HA- They will re-affirm in their platform a woman’s right to choose, and utter the appropriate lines there but I don’t think the democrats are going to, at their convention, be stressing abortion a lot.

BR- Meanwhile pro-choice activists worry that by sidelining the abortion issue Bush has succeeded in convincing voters - especially swing voters - that he is more moderate, when his past record shows otherwise. Brittany O’Connor is director of Education at the National Abortion Rights Action League of Ohio.

Brittany O’Connor- George W. Bush has said that he believes Roe vs. Wade was a reach, that it overstepped the constitutional bounds. He has also said that he supports the Republican Party’s platform on abortion that calls for the outlawing of abortion in all cases - no exceptions. And he’s also said that Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court is his model justice. Now he is the most outspoken opponent of Roe vs. Wade on the court.

BR- O’Conner says the Supreme Court is where a president, either anti-abortion or pro choice, can have the most profound impact on abortion - by appointing like-minded justices. She says that’s a political aspect many pro-choice voters don’t think about, and that if democrats downplay abortion rights as an election issue, those rights could ultimately suffer. In Cleveland, Bill Rice, 90.3 WCPN, 90.3 FM.

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