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Lieberman Denies Comments on Roe V. Wade

December 27, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman says he has no interest in revisiting the historic Roe v. Wade abortion decision, and denies he ever suggested that to a New Hampshire newspaper.

``I did not say nor do I believe that Roe should be looked at again, revisited or reconsidered,″ he said late Friday in response to an article in The Union Leader of Manchester.

The Union Leader reported earlier in the day that Lieberman believes the Roe ruling should be updated to reflect medical advances.

Edward Domaingue, managing editor of the newspaper, said, ``We stand by what we reported.″

Lieberman spokesman Jano Cabrera said, ``There is one reason and one reason only why there is no direct quote from Sen. Lieberman calling for the Roe v. Wade decision to be looked at again: Because he never said that.″

According to Lieberman, ``I said in that interview what I have said for years _ namely that medical science has advanced the time of legal viability to approximately 24 weeks. In response, the courts have determined that the viability standard has replaced the original trimester formulation of Roe.″

A fetus is considered ``viable″ when it can survive outside of the womb.

Lieberman said Friday the court’s shift to a viability standard has actually ``lengthened the time of a woman’s clearly protected right to choose in Roe from the first trimester (three months) to 24 weeks.″

The Union Leader reported Friday that Lieberman supports a woman’s right to choose, but also recognizes that the period of time in which a woman has a right to get an abortion is gradually shrinking.

Because of advances in medical science, a fetus can survive if born or delivered earlier in a pregnancy, Lieberman said in the newspaper story.

Lieberman said late Friday he was trying to explain in the newspaper interview how the courts have gradually shifted the way they measure the stages of a pregnancy _ from the three ``trimesters″ of a pregnancy to a determination of when a fetus is viable or non-viable.

Most abortions occur in the first three months of pregnancy, he said in the newspaper story, but viability ``is now in some cases 24 and 25 weeks and in a few cases, a little bit less.″

Abortion rights activist Kate Michelman, president of NARAL-Pro-Choice America, on Friday praised Lieberman as ``a senator who has protected and defended a woman’s right to choose.″

Abortion opponents have argued that advances in science and medicine should take away or restrict that right, she said, adding, ``That would be a wrong and inappropriate use of science.″

Under the 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling, before a fetus could live outside the womb, the abortion decision was left to the woman and her physician.

Under current law, states can restrict abortions as long as the restriction does not impose ``an undue burden″ on the woman. The court determines what’s an undue burden.

Once a fetus is considered viable, states may prohibit abortion, but have to make exceptions to protect the health of the mother.

In a 1992 case, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the basic findings of Roe protecting abortion choice, but lessened the standards of protection guaranteed to women by Roe.

Although abortion has not been a point of debate among Lieberman and his rivals for the Democratic nomination, the senator said in the newspaper interview he thinks a lot about the issue.

If elected president, he said, ``I’ll follow a policy that makes abortion safe, rare and legal.″

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