On the contentious issue of abortion, candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore are poles apart: Mr. Bush is a right-to-life candidate, while Mr. Gore is pro-choice. The Texas governor supports a range of policies designed to minimize the occurrence of abortion, while the vice president has committed himself to policies aimed at maximizing access to and availability of abortion for women, and even girls.
Given the striking differences between the two candidates on this impassioning issue, it would seem to be an oddity of the campaign that abortion has not been more prominently debated. This omission just might reflect an almost mutual strategy that the candidates are following in their quest to win swing voters both moderates who favor abortion rights, and moderates perturbed by the sexual license of the president and the permissive culture it reflects.
Interestingly enough, both men say they oppose abortion. But where Mr. Bush has made his political stand on his beliefs, Mr. Gore has been a good soldier in the cause of abortion rights, earning plaudits from abortion-rights groups, such as the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) and Voters for Choice, the political action committee co-founded by Gloria Steinem. Mr. Bush, whose opposition to abortion makes exceptions in the case of rape, incest or the endangered life of the mother, supports parental-notification laws that require parents be informed before young daughters undergo the operation. Mr. Gore opposes such family-friendly legislation. Mr. Bush would sign the partial-birth abortion ban as passed by Congress, while Mr. Gore says he would veto it because it lacks an exemption for a mother’s health. Mr. Bush opposes using taxpayer money for abortion, while Mr. Gore has said he supports Medicaid funding for abortion. In sum, Mr. Bush supports legislation that puts the brakes on the rate of abortion, while Mr. Gore backs measures that would streamline the terrible process.
And what about abortion rights and the Supreme Court? “Abortion is not going to be outlawed until a lot of minds have been changed,” Mr. Bush has said. Indeed, Mr. Bush claims he would use no “litmus test” in his judicial selection process, a claim borne out by the fact that three of the four justices Mr. Bush has appointed to the Texas Supreme Court may be described as being in favor of abortion rights. At the same time, Mr. Bush has frequently upheld Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas (both of whom oppose abortion) as being exemplars of the kind of strict constructionists he would seek for the bench. Meanwhile, Mr. Gore, who points to the late Justice William Brennan as being the kind of liberal activist he would like to appoint, has been straightforward about it: He would pick justices who favor abortion rights.
In short, the candidates’ positions could hardly be more different. For all his “personal” opposition, it is clear that Mr. Gore would do nothing as president to curb the numbing status quo of abortion-on-demand, a desensitizing practice with disturbing ramifications for the culture we live in. Mr. Bush’s efforts to preserve unborn life deserve the voters’ ardent support.