'Pro-Choice' Republicans Condemn Platform

— The GOP is trying to put forward a united front at its national convention in Philadelphia, but Republican abortion rights activists call the party platform a “disgrace,” and blame George W. Bush for excluding their views from the document.

“The platform calls for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion,” says Lynn Greef, national director of the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition. “The platform still calls for a litmus test on judges. We clearly oppose that platform.”

Although the Platform Committee that helped draft the document softened language on a number of social issues — including education and immigration — to better reflect the “compassionate conservative” philosophy of Bush, the GOP presidential candidate, the language on abortion was unchanged from the platform adopted at the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego. The platform, adopted this morning by convention delegates, calls for a ban on all abortions under any circumstances and advocates the ratification of a constitutional amendment to outlaw the procedure.

“The unborn child has a fundamental individual Right to life which cannot be infringed,” the language reads.

‘We’re All Disappointed’

“We’re all disappointed at what went on here,” said Randall J. Moody, co-chair of Planned Parenthood Republicans for Choice. “We made many attempts to convince ‘pro-choice’ delegates and those who weren’t that there should be no abortion language in the party platform, that it’s not a political issue.”

Those attempts, according to Ann Stone, chairman of Republicans for Choice, were gaining momentum until the Bush campaign intervened.

“There were a lot of people that were willing to come forward that were not with us on the issue, but felt that what we were asking for was very fair,” Stone said today. “It became like a freight train … and then it hit a brick wall called the Bush campaign.”

Stone insisted that, during his primary battle with Arizona Sen. John McCain Bush, in an effort to solidify his support from the right wing, promised “pro-life” factions within the party that the abortion language in the platform would remain intact.

“The paragraph on our issue has not changed,” added Susan Cullman, co-chair of the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition. “Gov. Bush [said he] did not want to change the language on abortion in our platform. And guess what? It did not change.”

‘This Platform is Actually Worse’

Many, in fact, argued that the platform is even more intolerant that the 1996 version because of its stated opposition to “family planning” programs, which teach young people how to effectively use birth control.

“This platform is actually worse than in 1996 because of its attack on ways to prevent abortion,” insisted Moody. “We have a party that’s both against abortion and against [the] means to prevent abortion.”

The new platform calls for the replacement of such programs with increased funding for abstinence education. “The stuff they did on family planning was a disgrace,” said Stone. “It was a throwback to the 18th century and not at all Republican.”

“We certainly are disappointed,” added Dina Merrill of the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition. “The message being sent is very harsh.”

Bush opposes abortion, but believes that it should remain legal in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. He did not, however, advocate changing the platform to reflect that view.

Some “pro-choice” members of the platform committee lobbied unsuccessfully for the adoption of language that recognized the division within the party on the sensitive issue, but their efforts were unsuccessful.