Wednesday, March 10, 1999

Bush gets abortion criticism


Opponent Bauer attacks from right

BY PATRICK CROWLEY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It didn't take long for Republican presidential hopeful George W. Bush's stance on abortion to draw an attack from the social conservative wing of the GOP.

        Gary Bauer, a Newport native and Republican presidential contender, has called on Mr. Bush to take a tougher stand against abortion.

        “I challenge (Mr.) Bush today to make an unambiguous commitment to defend the sanctity of human life,” Mr. Bauer said in a statement issued Tuesday by his presidential exploratory committee.

        “If we are truly to be seen as a party rooted in compassion and dedicated to leaving no one behind, then we must speak out forcefully and unapologetically for the innocent victims of abortion,” Mr. Bauer said.

        The two-term governor of Texas and son of former President George Bush, Mr. Bush is leading other Republican contenders in public opinion polls.

        Over the weekend, Mr. Bush announced plans to begin exploring a run for the White House. In interviews this week he has laid out his position on abortion:

        • He considers himself “pro-life.”

        • He won't say whether the party platform should include an anti-abortion plank.

        • All abortions should be banned except for circumstances threatening the life of the mother, rape or incest.

        “I'm a realistic enough person to know that America is not ready to ban abortions,” Mr. Bush told the Associated Press. “America as a country is not prepared to send a message to senators and House members that we want you do this — we want you to amend the Constitution” to ban abortions.

        Many Republicans who consider themselves social conservatives and fundamentalist Christians do not support abortion under any circumstances.

        “Our party should not simply have a "pro-life tenor' but a clear commitment to the intrinsic value of every unborn child,” Mr. Bauer said.

        Mr. Bush said lawmakers should focus on more attainable goals, such as requiring parental notification or consent for a teen-ager's abortion and banning late term so-called “partial-birth” abortions.

        “We ought to say, "We understand that the issue has been very polarizing. It's been debated for 30 years. There's strong positions on both sides.' But, in the meantime, until America's hearts change, put policies in place ... that reduce abortions.”

        “Our goal cannot simply be to ban partial-birth abortions, but rather to extend the right to life to the most vulnerable members of the American family,” Mr. Bauer said.

        Stu Rothenberg, the editor and publisher of Washington's Rothenberg Political Report newsletter, said Mr. Bush can expect more of the same from Mr. Bauer as well as Pat Buchanan, the conservative commentator also seeking the presidency.

        “I tend to think it doesn't help” Mr. Bush, Mr. Rothenberg said. “It forces (Mr.) Bush to confront over and over again an issue he would rather just deal with and go away.

        “Not that he is wrong. He is pro-life, and that's the right position in the Republican Party. But this issue is divisive ... and I don't think Republicans are helped by focusing on moral issues,” Mr. Rothenberg said.

       



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