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Dole Focuses On Abortion During Saturday Stops In Iowa

February 3, 1996

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) _ Bob Dole, under fresh pressure in the Republican presidential race, sounded a sharply anti-abortion theme Saturday and focused on ``practical values″ important to social conservatives.

Appearing in a city known as a hotbed of anti-abortion activity, Sen. Dole said his first day as president would be ``American family day″ and that he would rescind executive orders that allow legal abortions.

``In a Dole administration, abortion on demand will no longer be the policy of the federal government,″ he said.

In addition, Dole said he would push for a ban on medical research involving embryos and seek parental consent before a young woman could obtain an abortion.

``All our talk about a less violent, more caring society will come to nothing unless we protect the sanctity of human life,″ he said.

Dole rarely focuses on abortion on the campaign trail but was talking about the issue Saturday at stops across the state where precinct caucuses in just more than a week open the presidential election season.

Aides said Dole was focusing on abortion and other social issues to offer a sharp contrast with rivals, especially publisher Steve Forbes, who has sharply risen in the polls to directly challenge Dole.

``This election is going to be about the character of our nation,″ said Dole. ``I believe in common, practical values.″

Campaigning in New Hampshire, Forbes defended himself as ``absolutely pro-life,″ outlawing late-term and sex-selection abortions while gradually urging the public against the procedure. ``My approach will move the issue forward so that the day will come that abortions disappear in America.″

Dole has declined to sign a pledge backing a constitutional amendment to ban abortion _ something that troubles hard-core abortion foes _ and he hasn’t said whether he would name an anti-abortion running mate. He declined to change either of those positions Saturday.

``My record is good, I don’t need a pledge,″ Dole said.

Dole was careful not to mention any of his rivals by name and refused to be drawn into a discussion about them when questioned briefly by reporters.

``We’re going to stay on our message,″ Dole said. ``I just had someone compliment me for coming here and not taking on any of the other candidates. I stopped that about a week ago.″

Later, at a stop in Indianola, Dole expanded on that theme.

``I think people are getting fed up to their eyeballs with all these negative ads and the money that’s being spent by some,″ Dole said. ``I’ve got to go out and sell Bob Dole and Bob Dole’s ideas and I can’t do that if I’m spending half my time picking a fight with somebody else.″

But some of his comments were obviously aimed at Forbes, who inherited a publishing family fortune and is paying for his own campaign.

``Maybe a president who has seen a couple of generations and knows a little bit about sacrifice and a little about hard scrabble could provide the moral leadership,″ Dole said.

Dole, from nearby Kansas, is considered the favorite in Iowa’s Feb. 12 caucuses largely because of his long campaign history in the state. He won the state’s precinct caucuses in 1988 during his unsuccessful run for the GOP nomination, but some polls have suggested Forbes is gaining ground.

That has led Dole to the new focus on abortion and other issues important to church-based social conservatives. In precinct caucuses expected to be attended by about 130,000 people, those conservatives and their solid grassroots organization could be crucial.

During his appearance at a forum in Dubuque, Dole was accompanied by Illinois Rep. Henry Hyde, one of the leading congressional abortion foes.

``Bob Dole has been in the trenches for many years casting a pro-life vote,″ Hyde said.

While Dole drew a large and enthusiastic crowd of abortion foes, some worried his failure to pledge a constitutional amendment would hurt.

``I’ve supported Dole every time he’s run for president,″ said Betty Krieg of Dubuque. ``But it will bother a lot of pro-lifers.″