Monday, January 12, 2004

Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark says he would not appoint judges who oppose the right to abortion and that such decisions should be left to the mother because a woman’s choice is what defines the beginning of human life.

“Life,” Mr. Clark said in an interview with the Manchester Union Leader in New Hampshire last week “begins with the mother’s decision.”

“I don’t think you should get the law involved in abortion,” he told the Union Leader. “It’s between a woman, her doctor, her faith and her family and her conscience. You don’t put the law in there.”

He also told the Union Leader that he would not appoint pro-life judges to the federal bench.

When asked how he would do this without applying a litmus test to the nominee, Mr. Clark explained, “You just work through what the judge has done and if you find guys who follow judicial and established precedent, you’re not going to find a judge who is pro-life.”

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster based in Atlanta, said Mr. Clark’s comments put him “on the far left extreme of the abortion debate. He essentially said government has no right to intervene in any decision involving an unborn child.”

Mr. Ayres said this view would be “outside the mainstream of thinking in the more liberal parts of the country much less the more conservative parts.”

He said Mr. Clark’s statement that life begins with the mother’s decision, essentially means he is “in favor of a ‘partial-birth abortion’ and any other form of abortion up to the minute before a baby is delivered.”

Clark spokesman Bill Buck yesterday said that his boss “supports Roe v. Wade,” the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortion a constitutional right, but that some state regulation of abortion is permissible. Mr. Buck said his boss, a retired general, opposes the federal ban on partial-birth abortion because it doesn’t allow the procedure to preserve the mother’s health.

Mr. Buck also said that when it comes to judicial nominees, the retired Army general “said he would not appoint judges that would change settled constitutional precedents.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said Mr. Clark’s “radical” statements do not line up with Mr. Buck’s contention that he supports the Roe decision.

Mr. Perkins explained that the court has allowed some state regulation of abortion under Roe, but Mr. Clark said the law does not belong at all in abortion decisions.

“It could be that he does not understand these issues,” Mr. Perkins said, adding that, “the general needs to regroup his troops.”

But Carol Tobias, political director for the National Right to Life Committee said Mr. Clark’s views actually do line up with the Roe decision, because states cannot regulate abortions when the life or health of the mother is at stake.

These exceptions, she said, mean a woman can get an abortion virtually any time she wants, a position Mr. Clark seems to support.

Meanwhile, Kate Michelman, president of NARAL Prochoice America, said the bottom line is that all the Democratic presidential candidates are pro-choice and would be much better than President Bush.

Calling the upcoming presidential election “the most important in my lifetime,” Mrs. Michelman, who resigns her post in April, said abortion was a decisive factor in motivating swing voters to put Bill Clinton in office in 1992.

“We mobilized … we put a pro-choice president in the White House,” she said in a speech to the National Press Club yesterday. “And we can do it again.”

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