Sunday, March 05, 2000

Hays picks fight over pro-life bills


Ky. Senate too soft, he says

BY PATRICK CROWLEY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        To absolutely no one's surprise, the first shot fired in the state Senate Republican primary between incumbent Sen. Dick Roeding of Lakeside Park and Boone County Commissioner Robert Hay has to do with abortion.

        Mr. Hay, who made his bones politically fighting against abortion, issued a press release last week castigating Mr. Roeding — also a long-time opponent of abortion — for not pursuing a stronger “pro-life agenda.”

        Mr. Hay is in a lather because he believes Mr. Roeding — the Senate's president pro tem — and other Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate have not worked hard enough at pushing legislation to curb abortions.

        “After it came to our attention that no pro-life bills have been introduced into the Kentucky Senate, we verified that indeed the Kentucky State Senate Republican leadership has adopted a policy of not introducing any bills until they come through the House first,” Mr. Hay said.

        “This is obviously a strategy not helpful to the pro-life movement,” he said. “Since Dick Roeding is the second ranking leader in the Senate, he must force the Senate leadership to allow pro-life bills to be introduced in the Senate. Failure to do so is a breach of duty to the constituents in his district, who are overwhelmingly pro-life.”

        Mr. Roeding said the Republican strategy all along has been to let the anti-abortion bills start down the hall in the House.

        “We know we'll pass the bills once they get to the Senate,” Mr. Roeding said earlier in the session. “But they are going to have a harder time in the House, so we wanted to get the bills through there first. That way we get the toughest part of passing the bills out of the way.”

        Bills dealing with abortion have been filed in the House by two Northern Kentucky lawmakers, Rep. Tom Kerr, D-Taylor Mill, and Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Fort Thomas.

        The bills would create the crime of fetal homicide, meaning that anyone who causes the death of an unborn fetus could be charged with murder. Another would protect pharmacists who refuse to dispense drugs such as the morning-after bill from being punished by their employers.

        But the bills are stalled in committee and may be held up by unfriendly Democratic chairmen. It would seem the bills would have an easier time in the Senate, where the committees are controlled by Republicans.

        Yet there has been talk in Frankfort that some of the moderate Senate Republicans, including President David Williams, are no longer eager for abortion bills to be introduced.

        Over the last few years, the Senate has gained a reputation of obsessing on abortion-related bills. But two of the fervent anti-abortionists — Gex Williams of Boone County and Tim Philpot of Lexington — are out of the Senate. Some of the remaining Republicans have advocated a more progressive agenda that puts less emphasis on abortion, even though most Senators still support bills designed to curb the procedure.

        That, however, plays right into the hands of Mr. Hay's political and personal agenda of opposing abortion and electing like-minded lawmakers.

        “The question remains,” Mr. Hay said. “Is Dick Roeding a fighter for the pro-life cause or just a talker?”

        Such rhetoric isn't playing well with Republicans who support Mr. Roeding and his long history of opposing abortion both personally and while in elected office.

        During the GOP's Lincoln/Reagan Day Dinner in Fort Mitchell recently, Mr. Roeding was given a long and loud standing ovation when he was introduced to the crowd. The applause was clearly meant as a sign to Mr. Hay — who must have lost his invitation to the event — that Mr. Roeding enjoys passionate support among the party's most active members.

Bauer surprise
        Newport native and former GOP presidential candidate Gary Bauer surprised some Republicans when, after dropping out of the primary race in February, he endorsed John McCain.

        But then Mr. McCain went off on the A Team of the Christian Right, televangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry “Teletubby” Falwell, heaping a good measure of egg right on Mr. Bauer's puss. “I call on Senator McCain to retract his recent statements and apologize to Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell, as well as all men and women of faith,” Mr. Bauer said in a statement. “Such rhetoric serves only to divide the party and place into the hands of the liberal elite material to falsely depict Christian conservatives as intolerant extremists,” he said.

        That's funny, Mr. Bauer chiding somebody for using religious rhetoric. When they weren't hustling money on their creepy TV shows, Mr. Falwell and Mr. Robertson practically invented using religion as a divisive weapon in modern political warfare.

        Mr. Bauer has learned a hard lesson about Mr. McCain, who sometimes puts his mouth in drive before slipping his brain into gear — not that his comments about the religious crowd weren't right on target.

        Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for The Kentucky Enquirer. He can be reached at 578-5581, or (502) 875-7526 in Frankfort, or by e-mail at crowleys@cinci.infi.net.