ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- An insurgent group of Republicans dedicated to inserting abortion-rights language into the 1992 platform convened yesterday to plot state-by-state strategies.
"We are not going to roll over again. We have stopped being civil and silent," Ann Stone, leader of the group, Republicans for Choice, said to enthusiastic applause. "We may continue to be somewhat civil, but we're not going to be silent."
About 75 Republican officials and activists from across the nation met to begin organizing their crusade to elect abortion-rights activists as delegates to the Republican National Convention in Houston in August 1992.
Their meeting signals the beginning of an internal confrontation that threatens to disrupt Republican politics over the next year by injecting the emotionally divisive abortion issue directly into the heart of the party's decision-making.
Since 1980, the Republican platform has included strict anti-abortion language as official doctrine. The insurgent group wants the platform to recognize abortion as a decision to be made by individuals, not the government.
A new urgency attends the issue, group leaders said, because the Supreme Court seems inclined to overturn its 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, which recognized abortion decisions as protected by a woman's right to privacy.
The GOP activists portrayed their cause as a matter of both principle and conscience and as a necessary way to build their party's following, especially among young voters.
"The message we want to begin sending throughout this country is that you can believe in a strong national defense and economic conservatism and lower taxes and free enterprise and freedom of choice," said Representative Susan Molinari, R-N.Y.
President Bush opposes abortion. The Republican abortion-rights activists insist that they support Mr. Bush but are intent upon electing pro-Bush delegates who are also dedicated to upholding abortion rights.
To do that, the insurgents may run "favorite daughter" abortion-rights candidates as alternatives to Mr. Bush in next year's Republican primaries, a risky gambit that could make abortion rights the highest-profile issue in internal party politics
at primary time.
Ms. Stone said the favorite-daughter strategy is unlikely to be the group's preferred national strategy but might be pursued in certain states where delegate-selection rules make it advantageous. Any delegates won by abortion-rights candidates would be pledged to back both Mr. Bush and abortion rights, Ms. Stone said.
Republicans for Choice claims more than 400 elected Republican officials and 10,000 national activists as members. It is based in Alexandria.