Sunday, February 15, 2004

An abortion advocacy group — in conjunction with several Democratic governors — has pledged to raise $25 million to defeat President Bush this fall and elect leaders on all levels who support abortion rights.

NARAL Pro-Choice America announced last week that its fund-raising campaign will be spearheaded by Democratic Govs. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, Tom Vilsack of Iowa and James E. Doyle of Wisconsin.

“This A-team of some of America’s finest governors will work with us to make sure that we have the funds we need to fight the battles ahead in Congress, state legislatures, communities around the country and the all-important race to see who will be the president who picks the next new justices to the Supreme Court,” said NARAL President Kate Michelman.

Pro-life groups say NARAL and the governors have their work cut out for them this election season because the public’s views on abortion are more in line with those of Mr. Bush than NARAL.

“They’re going to have to spend a lot of money to convince the public that this president is … extreme on the life issue,” said Genevieve Wood, vice president for communications at the Family Research Council.

Polls show a majority of Americans support a partial-birth abortion ban, which NARAL opposed and which Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts — the Democratic front-runner — voted against in October.

In light of new campaign-finance law that limits political parties’ ability to raise money, Ms. Michelman highlighted NARAL’s status as a nonprofit organization that doesn’t take corporate or union contributions.

She said this makes it “one of a small handful of organizations that will be allowed to run television, print and radio ads expressly advocating the defeat of George Bush [and] the election of his pro-choice opponent right up until Election Day.” NARAL’s money will be used for voter education and get-out-the vote efforts, as well as ads.

Ms. Michelman took the opportunity during Tuesday’s announcement to attack Mr. Bush’s pro-life record.

“We have a Supreme Court that is no more than two justices away from completely overturning Roe v. Wade,” she said, adding that Mr. Bush also, “crossed a new line when he signed the first-ever federal abortion ban into law” — a reference to the ban on partial-birth abortion.

Mr. Bush and the Republican-led Congress have been pushing for “common-sense” abortion-related legislation that “increasingly a large number of Americans are supportive of” and that “scares” groups like NARAL, Mrs. Wood said.

An example is a bill — opposed by NARAL and due to come before the House soon — that would allow federal prosecutors to file separate murder charges against a suspect for killing a fetus in the commission of a crime against a pregnant woman. A Fox News poll from July 2003 found 79 percent thought prosecutors should be allowed to do this.

“Increasingly, the numbers show us that people feel these types of [efforts] are very good public policy,” Mrs. Wood said.

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