Tuesday, August 01, 2000
Whitman: Abortion plank meaningless
By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer
PHILADELPHIA - New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, whose pro-choice opinions may have knocked her off the list of potential running mates for George W. Bush, said Monday the strong anti-abortion language in the party platform may not mean much.
The governor was the featured speaker Monday morning at an Ohio delegation breakfast hosted by Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery.
Ms. Whitman did not mention abortion in her speech, but afterward told The Enquirer that while she disagrees with the party's official position on abortion, she does not think the platform plan will cost the Republicans any votes this fall.
I have never known anybody at any level who actually ran on the party platform, Ms. Whitman said.
This is a deeply personal issue, she said. The platform has relevance for a week or two and then everybody forgets about it.
Gov. Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin, who chaired the platform committee, presented the platform to convention delegates with the abortion language intact.
In a voice vote, without any discussion, the delegates adopted a platform that retains 20-year-old language calling for a constitutional amendment banning abortion, despite the efforts of hundreds of Republican pro-choice' volunteeers and delegates.
The wrangling over the abortion language was effectively concluded last week by a committee drafting the platform.
Ms. Whitman said that if the party could not be convinced to drop the language it could have instead inserted some language saying that people with different views on abortion are welcome in the party.
This platform language goes way beyond even what George W. Bush believes, said Ms. Whitman. Mr. Bush has said he opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother. The platform language makes no exceptions.
Many here - particularly pro-choice women delegates - believe Ms. Whitman was scratched from the list of potential running mates because of her pro-choice position, because the Bush campaign feared a backlash from conservative pro-life Republicans.
Ms. Whitman doesn't share that view.
I think he was looking for someone with substantial experience in foreign policy and defense, and that's what he got in Dick Cheney, Ms. Whitman said.
Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, who was Ohio's representative on the party platfgorm committee, said that she did not push to have the anti-abortion language removed even though she has great doubts about it.
Our nominee did not want any change in the platform and I'm here to get George W. Bush elected, she said. I felt it was counterprductive to have allowed a big debate to develop over this. My interest was in party unity.
Ms. Davidson pointed out that there is language in the preamble to the platform section saying that the Republican party welcomes people of different viewpoints. But the language is not attached to the anti-abortion plank, which is what many pro-choice Republicans wanted.
Councilman Charles Winburn, an alternate delegate and a self-
described pro-life Republican, said he is glad that the party did not bend to pressure from pro-choice Republicans.
It's not so much the politics of it, it is just the right thing to do, Mr. Winburn said. That constitutional amendment means something.
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