WASHINGTON - Both presidential campaigns this week attempted to soften their stands on the issue of abortion. The platform committee for the Democratic National Convention, setting the stage for the nomination of Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, bid to woo pro-life voters with proposals aimed at reducing the need for abortions.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the likely Republican presidential nominee, told an interviewer that he wouldn't necessarily rule out a pick for his running mate just because that person had been pro-choice. All GOP presidential candidates since Ronald Reagan in 1980 have been strongly anti-abortion, with the exception of George H.W. Bush in 1988, who wanted wiggle room on the issue.
"I think that the pro-life position is one of the important aspects or fundamentals of the Republican Party," McCain told an interviewer. "And I also feel that - and I'm not trying to equivocate here - that Americans want us to work together. You know (former Pennsylvania Gov.) Tom Ridge is one of the great leaders, and he happens to be pro-choice. And I don't think that would necessarily rule Tom Ridge out."
In 2000, Ridge was erased from the list of potential running mates for George W. Bush partly because the Catholic bishop of Erie, Pa., Donald Trautman, former vicar general of the Diocese of Buffalo, banned Ridge from attending Catholic functions outside of Mass in his diocese.
McCain's statement did him no good with the National Abortion Rights Action League, which supports Obama. NARAL President Nancy Keenan said no one will be fooled by what she described as a momentary "flip-flop" by a candidate who is worried about falling poll numbers among women.
The new Democratic language "strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and the availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support and caring adoption programs."
This would be added to platform language, in force since 1988, that guarantees a woman's right to choose.
Will these gestures to the great middle of the American opinion help either candidate?
-- Douglas Turner
taggedRace for the White House