GOP ABORTION PLATFORM: Campbell Asks Party to Soften Stance
Rep. Tom Campbell (R-Calif.) Tuesday called on fellow party members to moderate their antiabortion stance at the GOP National Convention, which begins Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports. In a letter sent to federal and state officials who support abortion rights, Campbell said, "The purpose ... will not be to stir discontent. Rather it is my hope that through such dialogues we can rally our forces to keep the pro-choice movement alive and to send a message to the American people that there is a home in the Republican Party for those who support a woman's right to choose." In his challenge to unseat Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Campbell already has raised the ire of abortion-rights opponents in his own party, receiving boos at the state Republican convention when he espoused his support for abortion rights. But he could appeal to national convention delegates who are less conservative on the issue. A recent Associated Press survey of state GOP delegates to the Philadelphia convention found that 45% opposed the party platform's call for a constitutional amendment banning abortion, while just 15% supported the proposed ban. Abortion-rights supporters, Campbell wrote in his letter, "are as important to our coalition as any other voting group." To alienate them would simply improve the Democrats' chances of victory in November, he argued. The publicity generated by his letter, he said, was important "to get the message out that we Republicans tolerate more than one view." Campbell noted several prominent abortion-rights supporters within the party, including retired Gen. Colin Powell and Govs. Tom Ridge (Pa.), Christine Todd Whitman (N.J.) and George Pataki (N.Y.) (Krikorian, 7/26).
Not a Good Choice
While Campbell was making his appeal, the conservative California Republican Assembly was calling for the ouster of the state's delegation representative to the national Platform Committee Toni Casey, an abortion-rights supporter. CRA President Sergio Picchio argued that Casey's position on the issue "would be in direct contradiction" to the California Republican Party. Picchio said, "It's obvious that she's fighting for things that we don't agree with. She's also going against the presidential nominee and the vice presidential nominee. ... I don't think we ought to embarrass either one of them." California delegation chair Gerry Parsky defended Casey's selection, saying, "There is no one view for the California delegation. We thought it was appropriate that we pick a woman for the platform committee ... who has a broad view of this subject." For her part, Casey said that abortion "should be taken out of politics" and the party platform entirely (Doyle/Smith, Sacramento Bee, 7/27).
Will They Listen?
While Campbell "knows that no Republican can win an election in California without supporting abortion rights," a San Francisco Chronicle editorial questions whether the lawmakers can "persuade his party that they must embrace pro-choice candidates and voters or face the prospect of losing elections in November?" If Campbell fails, the editorial argues that "it's not for lack of trying." The editorial notes that Campbell "faces fierce opposition" as Bush "will not disavow the GOP's platform" and Dick Cheney, Bush's vice presidential selection, "voted against abortion even in cases of rape and incest" during his tenure in Congress. Questioning whether the "influence of the religious right [has] diminished enough to allow a genuine debate over abortion," the editorial states, "Anything is possible, but don't count on it." Still, the editorial praises Campbell for demonstrating "strategic savvy as well as commendable courage," in taking on formidable task. The editorial concludes: "Now it's up to leading pro-choice Republicans to end the abortion wars next week in Philadelphia. If wise, they will follow Campbell's lead. But if they can't -- or won't -- their lack of initiative just may translate into unnecessary losses in the November election" (7/28).