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Two Anti-Abortion Candidates: The Choice That Pro-Choice Activists Hate

November 2, 1991

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Pro-choice groups face the same dilemma in Pennsylvania’s high-profile U.S. Senate race next week as their counterparts here: who to support when both candidates oppose abortion.

The dilemma is particularly touchy for women’s rights groups seeking candidates to support as the subject of abortion becomes an increasingly greater political issue. Some groups argue that women should boycott elections where there is no pro-choice candidate, while others advocate supporting a ″lesser-of-two-evils″ candidate.

″You won’t find any of the women’s rights groups out beating the bushes for the lesser of two evils,″ said Patricia Ireland, executive vice president of the National Organization for Women. ″It’s a classic example of why we’re looking at a strategy for a new party.″

But Loretta Ucelli of the National Abortion Rights Action League disagreed.

″Sometimes, it does come down to the candidate that has the least bad record,″ she said.

The races that have posed the dilemma are Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate campaign involving Republican Dick Thornburgh and Democrat Harris Wofford and the race for Erie County executive that pits Buffalo Mayor James Griffin against incumbent Dennis Gorski for the Buffalo area’s top job.

Both elections are Tuesday.

Thornburgh took anti-abortion stands in court cases as U.S. attorney general in the Reagan and Bush administrations; Wofford, a former state labor secretary, supports Pennsylvania’s restrictive abortion law.

The Philadelphia NOW chapter is urging callers to its office to choose Wofford because Thornburgh is more conservative, said member Susan Gould. But Ireland of the national office said neither candidate deserves to win.

In the Erie County race, Griffin, a Republican, is a strident abortion opponent who keeps graphic pro-life material on display in his office.

He has invited Operation Rescue to stage a major protest in the area like the one the group held in Wichita, Kan., last summer, which led to 2,600 arrests.

Gorski, a Democrat, opposes abortions except in cases of rape, incest and to save a woman’s life.

However, he has appointed several women to top jobs in his administration and is perceived as more liberal on a host of other social issues.

But abortion rights leaders in Buffalo say he still doesn’t deserve their support.

″I understand the difference clearly between the two of them, but personally I can’t vote for either of them,″ said Alison Jones of the Pro- Choice Network.

″The NOW position is that a vote for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil,″ said Sharon Fawley of NOW’s Buffalo chapter.

Abortion has not been a major issue in the race, which polls show Gorski is leading. The campaign has focused on Gorski’s tax increases and alleged scandal and mismanagement in Griffin’s city administration.

But abortion rights leaders were infuriated in early October, when Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry said he was considering mounting a major protest in the area and that Griffin had said to come.

″I want to see them in this city,″ Griffin said then. ″If they can close down one abortion mill, they’ve done their job.″

Griffin and his campaign manager, John Scanlon, did not return recent phone calls seeking comment. But Gorski’s campaign coordinator, Larry Adamczyk, said a county executive’s stance on abortion isn’t relevant.

″He’s not going to have an opportunity to make a decision on Roe vs. Wade,″ Adamczyk said of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. ″He can’t turn off the state funding for abortions.″

But abortion rights leaders say the job is a potential launching pad for higher office.

″You never know when a politician is going to go on to bigger and better things,″ said Helen Dalley of the Pro-Choice Network. ″If (Gorski) ended up as, say, a governor, he could do us a lot of harm.″

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