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Jewish World Review Apr. 14, 1999 /28 Nissan 5759

Cal Thomas

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Elizabeth Dole's choice

(JWR) ---- (
POTENTIAL PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE Elizabeth Dole has spoken out on abortion.

Dole has stated her political position, but she has not revealed her moral position. Perhaps that will come later when it is sufficiently developed.

Dole is correct when she says there currently is no hope of passing a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision. But in 1954, when the Supreme Court decided "separate but equal'' unconstitutionally segregated the races, full equality for blacks seemed far away. Great strides have been made toward that objective because principled people led opinion instead of following it.

Dole says that a constitutional amendment "is not going to happen,'' and so she doesn't want to be drawn into "dead-end debates'' over the subject. A reminder: It is the babies who are dying. The debate doesn't have to expire with them. And who better than a Republican woman to help keep this issue alive and to shape public opinion in the direction of life? The reluctance of many Republicans to speak of this horror has made other categories of life more vulnerable. That's why the health care debate has brought us to euthanasia's door.

In a letter to an Arizona woman, Dole said she opposes abortion "except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.'' She added that Republican women in leadership positions can set an example by stopping partial-birth abortions, enacting parental notification requirements, continuing the ban on government funding "and do whatever possible to place unwanted babies with adoptive parents who will love and care for them.''

This is the politics of incrementalism, a good strategy. What Dole needs to do now is to give us the moral foundation for her opposition to abortion. Do Republicans want to stand only for the possible and pragmatic, or should they lead with truth? Does she believe a baby's legal rights and personhood begin at conception? If not, when do they begin, and why?

These questions need answers because many politicians who once held positions similar to Dole's reversed course when they feared a pro-life stance might end their political careers.

Here are quotes from some of the more prominent turncoats: "I am opposed to abortion and to government funding of abortions. We should not spend state funds on abortions because so many people believe abortion is wrong.'' (Gov. Bill Clinton in a 1986 letter to Arkansas Right to Life)

"Life is the division of human cells, a process that begins with conception .... The (Supreme Court's ruling) was unjust, and it is incumbent on the Congress to correct the injustice .... I have always been supportive of pro-life legislation. I intend to remain steadfast on the issue .... I believe that the life of the unborn should be protected at all costs.'' (Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), 1977)

In 1984 Sen. Al Gore wrote a constituent of his "deep personal conviction that abortion is wrong,'' and he voted to amend the Civil Rights Act to define the word "person'' to "include unborn children from the moment of conception.'' Apparently Gore's "conviction'' wasn't that deep. He now favors unrestricted abortion.

In a 1971 letter, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) wrote that "human life, even at its earliest stages, has a certain right which must be recognized -- the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.''

Rev. Jesse Jackson once endorsed the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federally funded abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is endangered. In an open letter to Congress, Jackson said he opposed the use of federal funds for "killing infants.'' In 1977 Jackson wrote an article for National Right to Life News that said: "It takes three to make a baby: a man, a woman and the Holy Spirit. What happens to the mind of a person, and the moral fabric of a nation, that accepts the aborting of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience? What kind of a person and what kind of a society will we have 20 years hence if life can be taken so casually?''

Those questions remain valid, though Jackson no longer asks them. Elizabeth Dole has answered the political question. It is because so many have abandoned positions they once claimed to have held on principle that Dole should state her moral position and say whether it is deeper than Al Gore's.


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