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Both Sides in Abortion Debate Angry at Wilson’s Stance

August 9, 1995

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Presidential hopeful Pete Wilson is straddling a fence on government funding for abortions, drawing the anger of both sides in the emotional debate.

The California governor is one of the few Republican candidates who supports legalized abortions. He said in a nationally televised interview that he opposes federal funding for abortions _ even though he supports having the state of California pay for them.

``He has always been very pro-choice, but recently we have seen him backing away, in terms of attending our fund-raising events,″ said Verena Young, director of development for Planned Parenthood. ``Certainly the rhetoric we have seen would (make it) appear that he is trying to be all things to all people and play both ends against the middle.″

Abortion foes in California have long urged Wilson to veto government-paid abortions. During the recent fight over a new state budget, conservative lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to get Wilson to remove state money for abortions for poor women. The state spent about $43 million on abortions last year for 125,000 women.

Jan Carroll, associate western director of National Right to Life, said that after weeks of being rebuffed by Wilson, there are ``at least 20 pro-life state assemblymen that would like to hang him by his toes today.″

``If he thinks taxpayers should not be the ones paying for abortions, why is he imposing that position on 32 million Californians? I think you could say Wilson is all over the map on this issue,″ Carroll said.

During a campaign stop Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa, Wilson said his record on abortion is one ``of remarkable consistency.″

``I’ve been pro-choice all of my adult life. I would take with considerable salt people who engage in name calling, who I think are probably envious of my jump in the polls,″ he said.

Sunday on NBC’s ``Meet the Press,″ Wilson said he favors ``the right of reproductive choice.″

``But I don’t think that the taxpayers should necessarily be the ones who are asked to pay for it,″ Wilson said, adding he ``would prefer to see funding for abortions for poor women come from some private source.″

The governor also said he supported legislation currently in Congress that would deny federal workers insurance coverage for abortions, except in cases involving rape, incest or risk to the mother’s health.

California law authorizes state-funded abortions under the Medi-Cal program, the state’s equivalent of Medicare. The state Supreme Court ruled in 1981 that legislative restrictions on Medi-Cal abortions violate the state Constitution.

Medi-Cal is funded jointly by state and federal dollars, although elective abortions for California’s poor are paid for entirely with state money.

When he was in the U.S. Senate preparing to run for governor in 1989, Wilson’s office issued a statement saying he ``supports the California law that makes Medi-Cal funds available to pay for abortions for women who are poor.″

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