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Gore’s Abortion Commitment Doubted

January 5, 2000

NEW MARKET, N.H. (AP) _ Abortion-rights activists speaking at a Bill Bradley rally Wednesday said Vice President Al Gore’s commitment to such rights cannot be trusted. ``I have always been pro-choice and I always will,″ Bradley said by way of contrast.

At the noontime rally before the two Democratic presidential candidates met in debate, activists said that as a Tennessee congressman 20 years ago Gore voted with the National Right to Life Committee 84 percent of the time _ including votes against Medicaid coverage of abortion and for amending the 1984 Civil Rights Act to protect ``unborn children from the moment of conception.″

The vice president’s more recent views and votes are in line with abortion-rights supporters, a core Democratic constituency, and his campaign spokesman said Wednesday that Gore’s support was unwavering.

``Al Gore has always been pro-choice throughout his career,″ spokesman Chris Lehane said.

``And more than that, he stayed and fought against the Republican Congress to protect women in America _ whether it was on choice, equal pay, child care and other family issues, while Senator Bradley declared the system broken and went home.″

Lehane dismissed Gore’s 1984 vote as a procedural one on a bigger set of civil rights issues.

Bradley, who retired from the Senate in 1996, always voted with abortion-rights activists during his 18-year tenure, said Concord attorney and Planned Parenthood member Lucy Karl.

Of Gore, Karl said: ``We do not need fair-weathered friends.″

Mary Rauh, former president of Planned Parenthood of New England, said it was ``appalling″ that Gore says he has always supported abortion rights.

``It’s OK to change your mind, but if you don’t trust us enough as a leader to tell us the truth and tell us why, I’m not interested in electing you,″ Rauh said.

She and Karl were two of four women introducing Bradley to the 200 or so men and women gathered in New Market Town Hall, where campaign aides distributed the names of nearly 600 New Hampshire women backing Bradley.

In his brief remarks, Bradley did not speak directly of Gore, but he did say, ``This is an issue that you cannot straddle.″

He recalled the words of an Iowa woman who said that before the Supreme Court made abortion legal the ``anesthesia″ given by back-room abortion providers ``was a gun at the head of the woman, urging her not to scream.″

``We must never return to those days. I have been a strong pro-choice advocate throughout my public life. I always have and I always will,″ Bradley said.

He made a tactical decision to try and undermine Gore’s advantage with women voters by painting him as unreliable on abortion rights. It was a strategy that caught by surprise some in Bradley’s audience who know Gore by his more recent, solid abortion-rights position.

``I’ll have to research that myself,″ said Bradley supporter Shirley Murty, a retired medical technician visiting from Washington state.

``That was the first time I’d heard it. I was really surprised. I mean, I know Al Gore is a trustworthy man but on abortion, I guess I don’t know,″ said retired Exeter teacher Cindy Baer, a new volunteer for the Bradley campaign.

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