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Feminists Unveil Strategy To Elect Pro-Choice Candidates

August 5, 1989

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ The National Women’s Political Caucus will concentrate next year on electing abortion-rights candidates in key states across the nation, the group’s leader said Saturday.

The campaign, called ″Empower America,″ will target races in Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina, Maryland and Delaware, caucus chairwoman Irene Natividad said at the organization’s annual convention.

″We are the pro-choice foot soldiers in the electoral trenches of this country,″ Natividad told 1,200 delegates and guests. ″They say we have not yet proven that women vote as a bloc. Well, let me tell you, that is going to change.″

Actress Cybill Shepherd and former Republican National Committee Chairwoman Mary Louise Smith also addressed the organization of female politicians.

Outside, about 30 anti-abortion activists picketed for about two hours.

″We believe the majority of women around the country are not pro-choice,″ said protester Georgeann McGarry of New Brighton. ″They are pro-life, and we are here to represent them.″

The campaign is a response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing states to restrict abortions.

Natividad said target states have legislatures that could swing in favor of abortion rights depending on the outcome of a small number of races.

″This is a pragmatic political plan that we know as pragmatic politicians will be effective,″ Natividad said. ″The times are tough for the women in this country, but we are tougher. We are not going to get mad. We are going to get even.″

″The pro-choice issue is the winning issue because women aren’t willing to go backward,″ said U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. ″We aren’t willing to go back to those back-alley abortions and to those coat hangers.″

Political consultant Harrison Hickman told the convention that abortion- right s candidates must appeal to what he said was the majority of Americans who support a women’s choice to have an abortion although they might disagree with it.

Natividad said local abortion-rights groups will recruit and train legislative candidates. She had no estimate for the campaign’s cost.

Miss Shepherd, spokeswoman for a political action committee called Voters for Choice, said reproductive decisions should rest with the individual.

″It will be a test of our commitment and political will (as to) whether the same rights will be available to an unemployed women in a New Orleans housing project, the 16-year-old daughter of a coal miner in the hills of Kentucky or a Native American woman living in the far reaches of Utah,″ she said. ″Their plight must be our fight.″

Former RNC Chairwoman Smith told the group the caucus must convey the message that supporting reproductive rights is ″a good thing to do.″

″Mainstream Republican voices have not been heard from loudly on this issue,″ she said. ″Maybe we should turn up the volume.″

At a news conference, former Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro said she expected the abortion issue to affect every political race in the country.

″The choice has to be left to women and it has to be a safe procedure,″ she said. ″I think that what this issue will do is mobilize people who care about human rights and civil rights.″

The four-day convention is scheduled to end Sunday. The caucus has about 77,000 members of all political affiliations, Natividad said.

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