No new day for GOP

Divided: Struggle to redefine party is stymied by disagreement on the abortion issue.

May 03, 1999

WITH the 2000 presidential election on the horizon, Republicans must deal with an issue that again stands to thwart their efforts: abortion.

In 1980, the party's platform opposed abortion but recognized differences in opinion among party members. In 1996, the GOP condemned current abortion law. As the party has moved toward its evangelical right wing, it has lost voters.

If they are to present a new image, Republicans can ill afford a "one-view-must-fit-all" platform in 2000. While GOP presidential candidates oppose abortion, two -- Elizabeth H. Dole and Texas Gov. George W. Bush -- say the party should downplay the issue. Arizona Sen. John McCain says the party should remove abortion altogether from its platform.

Meanwhile, Gary Bauer, Dan Quayle and New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith want the issue in the forefront; Steve Forbes recently shared his vision of a "human life amendment" to outlaw abortions with California activists.

Eighty-four percent of Americans support abortion rights in some or all circumstances. They also support an end to the violence surrounding the debate. The Republican Party could emerge a leader on this issue by redirecting vitriolic and sometimes dangerous protest toward purposeful education, mentoring and counseling. These methods can have a lasting impact on reducing abortions -- and protect all human life.

The GOP should not allow itself to burn out on a matter that the rest of the country has decided -- more than once. Otherwise, it will again be the party divided and conquered.

Pub Date: 5/03/99

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