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Bush places pro-life stance in light in acceptance speech

WASHINGTON (BP)–Republican Party presidential nominee George W. Bush brought abortion into the limelight in his Aug. 3 acceptance speech at a convention where the divisive issue had languished.

About three-fourths of the way through his speech in Philadelphia, the Texas governor said, according to a transcript published in The Washington Post:

“I will lead our nation toward a culture that values life — the life of the elderly and the sick, the life of the young and the life of the unborn.

“Good people can disagree on this issue, but surely we can agree on ways to value life by promoting adoption and parental notification, and when Congress sends me a bill against partial-birth abortion, I will sign it into law.”

His advocacy for the unborn and his opposition to the gruesome procedure known as partial-birth abortion produced some of the loudest applause during his speech. While his positions on abortion and its ugliest manifestation were not surprising, this time they were made in the most important speech of his life to date and on a national platform unlike any he had experienced.

“We were very pleased,” said Carol Tobias, director of the National Right to Life Political Action Committee. “I thought he did a fantastic job of addressing the issue.

“Gov. Bush did a great job on his speech of including respect for life. Including the unborn child, I thought, fit very well with his theme of caring for people.”

Bush’s declaration also set him apart from the current president and the Supreme Court.

Twice in the last five years, President Clinton has vetoed congressionally approved bans on partial-birth abortion. He may get another chance to veto such legislation before he leaves office in January. Both houses have passed a ban in the last year, but the two differ. A compromise has not been finalized and sent to the White House.

On the two previous vetoes, the House of Representatives has achieved both times the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto. In both instances, however, the Senate fell short of a two-thirds vote.

While Bush has said he opposes abortion with exceptions for life, rape and incest, the Democratic candidate, Vice President Al Gore, fully supports abortion rights. Gore has joined Clinton in opposing the congressional ban on partial-birth abortion.

Even if Bush is elected president and signs a partial-birth ban into law, the Supreme Court may stand in his way.

In June, the high court struck down in a 5-4 vote a state ban on partial-birth abortion. That Nebraska law was patterned after an earlier congressional version. The various opinions written by the justices in the majority made it clear only a ban with an exception for the “health” of the mother would survive its scrutiny. As another justice and pro-life advocates pointed out, such a ban would be meaningless because the expansive definition of “health” applied by the high court has resulted in abortion being legal for any reason and at any time in pregnancy.

It has been forecast the next president may be able to appoint as many as four justices to replace those who could retire in the next few years. That possibility has made the potential composition of the court a significant issue in the presidential race — especially related to the abortion issue.

Bush’s pro-life pronouncement came at the close of a Republican convention program largely minus controversial topics. Abortion’s only previous prominence prior to the acceptance speech came during the proceedings of the platform committee, which defeated attempts to eliminate and weaken the document’s pro-life language.

The procedure that Bush said he would prohibit is typically performed in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy. As popularized by some abortion doctors in the early 1990s, it involves the delivery of an intact baby feet first until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor pierces the base of the baby’s skull with surgical scissors, then inserts a catheter into the opening and suctions out the brain. The collapse of the skull enables easier removal of the dead child.

Parental notification laws require a parent to be notified before an under-age daughter can have an abortion. The most recent congressional attempt to pass a parental-notification bill for federally funded entities came on a House vote in 1993, according to NRLC. The Senate last considered parental notification in the 1980s, and Gore, then a senator, opposed the proposal, according to NRLC.

Nine states have laws in effect genuinely requiring either one- or two-parent notification, while 15 states have laws in effect requiring one- or two-parent consent, according to information provided by NRLC.

In 1996, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution supporting a ban on partial-birth abortion and expressing disapproval of Clinton’s initial veto.