Gore says U.S. will not assert international right to abortion

August 26, 1994|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Al Gore said yesterday that although the United States will insist at a United Nations conference next month that every nation should decide for itself whether to permit abortions, the United States would never assert that a woman's right to choose an abortion should be internationally guaranteed.

Mr. Gore, who will head the U.S. delegation to the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt, in two weeks, defended the Clinton administration's policies on issues to be discussed there.

The draft program to be debated in Cairo has been strongly criticized by the Roman Catholic Church, which opposes abortion and contraception, and by some fundamentalist Islamic leaders, largely for the same reasons. The draft's final position on abortion and other issues is being negotiated.

In a speech to the National Press Club, Mr. Gore defended the Clinton administration's position at length, but broke no new ground. The vice president reaffirmed the administration's position that abortions should be "rare" and that a key to ensuring this is to make contraception widely and readily available.

Mr. Gore's speech was arranged hastily this week at White House initiative, in an attempt, he said, to make sure that news reports of the administration's dispute with the Vatican did not obscure what he called a broad consensus behind the U.N. program.

The vice president cited the draft program's calls for supporting education, women's rights, children's health and economic development as tools to rein in global population.

He said the administration does not promote abortion, nor does it view abortion as an appropriate method of family planning, and it condemns any coercive abortion, whether legal, economic or psychological.

"We believe that decisions about the extent to which abortion is acceptable should be the province of each government within the context of its own laws and national circumstances," he said. "Therefore, throughout these negotiations, we have supported language . . . that clearly establishes this principle for all of the Cairo recommendations. And we fully expect, and will insist at Cairo, that this principle be affirmed in the final document."

He added: "The United States has not sought, does not seek and will not seek to establish any international right to an abortion. That is a red herring."

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