- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2000

Abortion may have taken a back seat to education and taxes in the Virginia Senate campaign, but the Democratic and Republican candidates offer starkly different positions on the divisive issue.

Democratic Sen. Charles S. Robb consistently votes for federal funding for elective abortions through Medicaid and has voted against most abortion restrictions that have come to the Senate floor. He also voted against a bill that would have prohibited minors from being transported across state lines to avoid parental-notification requirements.

Republican challenger George F. Allen is a staunch opponent of taxpayer-funded abortions. He supported most abortion restrictions that came before him during his single term in Congress, and as Virginia's governor he signed a strict parental-notification law.

Mr. Robb claims as his guiding light the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which recognized abortion as a right but gave states latitude to restrict post-viability abortions.

"I believe a woman has a right to make that most personal decision consistent with the opinion rendered in Roe v. Wade, and as a public official I am going to continue to fight to protect a woman's right to make that decision," Mr. Robb said when the two men debated in Richmond last month.

Mr. Robb then asked Mr. Allen whether he supports the concepts in Roe v. Wade.

Mr. Allen demurred on that, but said he supports looking to science if the Supreme Court were to turn the issue back to the states. He said the state has an interest in protecting the fetus with exceptions for rape, incest, gross fetal abnormality or physical health of the mother when there's a heartbeat or in-utero thumb-sucking or brain waves.

That, he admitted, could be in the first trimester, which would put him at odds with the standard set in Roe v. Wade.

But Mr. Allen said the abortion issues likely to come before the Senate are much narrower foremost among them the effort to ban dilation-and-extraction abortions, commonly called partial-birth abortions, in which the fetus is partially delivered before a doctor pierces its skull with scissors and sucks out its brain through a tube.

On partial-birth abortions, Mr. Robb consistently voted to uphold the president's veto of a bill that would have banned the procedure in all cases except where the life of the mother is threatened.

Mr. Robb says the bills he voted against didn't allow for abortions to protect the health of the mother. He touts his vote for the Daschle amendment, that would have allowed for partial-birth abortions when there's a risk of "grievous" injury to the health of the mother.

But he also voted for a looser version that allowed abortions when the mother could suffer "serious adverse health consequences" a bill opponents and even a prominent doctor who performs abortions said wouldn't have stopped any abortions.

Those votes have prompted Mr. Allen to accuse the senator of not being sincere in his opposition to partial-birth abortion.

"No matter what statements you might have in the Congressional Record, Chuck, the reality is when the vote is called, you vote wrong and you keep partial-birth abortion alive," Mr. Allen said.

Both men said they wouldn't impose a litmus test on potential Supreme Court justices, and Mr. Robb has voted to confirm justices who have ruled on both sides of the issue, including Clarence Thomas, one of the court's fiercest abortion opponents.

Each candidate has the backing of advocates on either end of the issue as well Mr. Robb earns a perfect grade from the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and Mr. Allen has been endorsed by the Virginia Society for Human Life, Virginia's leading abortion opposition.

In Virginia, polls show support for abortion rights, but consistently show support for prohibiting partial-birth abortions, for parental notification for minors and even for a waiting period between the time a woman seeks and has an abortion.

In that sense the race is different from the other highly touted Senate race, in New York, where the debate is over whether to have any restrictions at all.

Republican Rep. Rick Lazio supports abortion rights with few restrictions he would limit federal funding for elective abortions and opposes partial-birth abortions. His critics and his opponent, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, say even those restrictions go too far in cutting at Roe v. Wade.

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