- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2000

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. New York Senate candidates first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rep. Rick A. Lazio can split hairs on their abortion stances, but they both fall under the label "pro-choice."

The sign spotted at a rally for Mr. Lazio was worth a thousand words: a 5-foot-high poster of the first lady with these words in a cartoon balloon: "Lazio and I share views on abortion, gun control, the environment."

As a Republican, Mr. Lazio will undoubtedly endure attacks on his stance, a view he did not mention during his stump speeches last week. He could have mentioned that he has spoken out against partial-birth abortions and voted against government funding for the procedure.

But while pro-lifers are rankled by any abortion options at all, Mr. Lazio's abortion stance is not liberal enough for the members of EMILY's List, a political group of pro-choice women.

In response to an invitation to a June 27 reception for Mr. Lazio, the group's president, Ellen R. Malcolm, declined, asserting that Mr. Lazio is "not pro-choice."

"Any restrictions to Roe. vs. Wade would preclude our support," said an aide to Miss Malcolm.

It seems like Mr. Lazio can't win the Democrats disparage his failure to support abortion across the board, and some Republicans are put off by his support of the procedure at all.

Even a young Republican like David Franzonello, who is vehemently opposed to Mrs. Clinton and her full support of abortion, can't abide by Mr. Lazio's stance.

"Traditionally, Republicans are pro-life, not pro-abortion," said the 19-year-old, whose mother carried the Hillary sign at the central New York rally last week.

"On one hand, I hate to see Hillary get in there," Mr. Franzonello said. "But on the other hand, I have a lot of questions about this guy."

Mr. Lazio acknowledges that his pro-choice stance can cause him trouble.

"I respect their point of view, and this is such an emotional issue," Mr. Lazio said.

He spoke with the sign carriers and promised to listen to them and their camp during the campaign.

"But I have supported choice, and I think that's how most New Yorkers feel."

Mrs. Clinton has supported abortion in virtually all cases, earning her the wrath of Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a fellow Democrat whose coveted seat is up for grabs in New York. Mr. Moynihan called partial-birth abortion "infanticide."

Republican pollster Kelleyanne Fitzpatrick noted that Mrs. Clinton has seized upon Mr. Lazio's abortion restrictions.

"It's political naivete to believe that she can cast Lazio as extreme on abortion," Miss Fitzpatrick said.

Indeed, the traditionally Democratic state has generally elected pro-choice candidates. Even New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who was to be the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate until bowing out because of health problems, supported partial-birth abortions.

That stance would have cost the mayor the backing of the state's Conservative Party, which nominated Mr. Lazio as its candidate Saturday.

"This party is pro-life, and I would rather have a pro-life candidate," said party Chairman Michael Long. "But that's not the real world."

The Conservative Party delivered 330,000 votes in 1994, providing the margin of victory in Republican George E. Pataki's bid for governor.

The pro-choice stance "will take some of the enthusiasm from some of our people," Mr. Long said. "There are some people who will clearly go for the Right to Life candidate."

The state's Right to Life Party has about 50,000 enrolled voters, but never even considered supporting Mr. Lazio.

"He says he's against partial-birth abortions, but they are only 1 percent of abortions," said party chairman Kenneth Diem. "It's a total sham. He's so pro-choice, he wants abortion on demand."

The candidate has broken ranks with his Roman Catholic religion, although many other politicians, notably the Kennedys, are also Catholic pro-choicers. Catholic leadership has always been pro-life. Even the advent of birth-control pills nettled the church in the 1960s.

"The church has traditionally opposed abortion, period," said Frank DeRosa, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

"I don't know how the public will react to that, but the hope here is that it would lead to a total opposition of abortion," Mr. DeRosa said.

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