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RNC rejects funding ban over partial-birth abortion

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Republican National Committee, in
a clash that divided pro-life party members, rejected a
resolution that would have refused funding for candidates
who oppose a ban on partial-birth abortion.
Acting Jan. 16 at its meeting in Indian Wells, Calif.,
the RNC did not act on the controversial resolution but
approved a substitute proposal 114-43. The substitute
expressed opposition to the abortion procedure and called on
President Clinton to support a ban.
Clinton has twice vetoed the ban on a procedure
performed on a nearly totally delivered baby. In its first
attempt, the House of Representatives managed the two-thirds
majority necessary to override a veto, but the Senate
failed. A congressional attempt to override the president’s
latest veto is expected this year.
The controversial resolution, offered by committee
member Tim Lambert of Texas, originated because some
Republican office holders, including Gov. Christine Todd
Whitman of New Jersey, refused to support a partial-birth
abortion ban.
The Lambert resolution sharply divided the GOP and
pro-lifers in the days leading to the RNC meeting.
Presidential hopefuls Steve Forbes and John Ashcroft, a U.S.
senator from Missouri, endorsed the resolution, while RNC
chairman Jim Nicholson, presidential contenders Jack Kemp
and George W. Bush, Sens. Phil Gramm of Texas and John
McCain of Arizona and even House pro-life stalwart Henry
Hyde opposed it.
The Christian Coalition, Family Research Council and
Focus on the Family announced their support for the
proposal. Focus on the Family President James Dobson wrote a
strongly worded letter to Nicholson, calling the RNC
chairman’s position “immoral, hypocritical and politically
After the RNC’s failure to approve his resolution,
Lambert said, according to The New York Times, the
substitute was “not a compromise. That’s capitulation.”
The people opposed to his resolution “are going to have
to go home and say, ‘I’m pro-life, but I voted that we
continue to give money to candidates who support
infanticide.’ That may sell inside the Beltway (of
Washington), but out in the hinterlands I don’t think it’s
going to work,” Lambert said.
The procedure banned by the bill 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. The method
is used normally on babies during the fifth or sixth month
of pregnancy. The congressional measure includes an
exception to protect the mother’s life.
Southern Baptist public policy specialist Will Dodson,
a personal friend of Lambert, commended the Texan and called
his resolution the “right thing to do.”
“It is simply wrong to fund any candidate who is
committed to keeping infanticide legal,” said Dodson,
director of public policy for the Ethics & Religious Liberty
Commission. “It is wrong to fund such candidates even if it
may result in losing a political majority in a legislative
body. I have no doubt about the sincerity of the convictions
for the sanctity of human life of such staunch pro-life
leaders as Henry Hyde. However, this is a clear case of a
situation where political factors have been allowed to
outweigh moral imperatives.”
Dodson said Christians should learn from the RNC
decision “that political pragmatism or, better put, what one
believes to be politically pragmatic should never be allowed
to overrule that which is morally imperative.
“It is indeed hypocritical for the Republican Party to
suggest to the voting public that it is pro-life. It may be
able to claim that it is not pro-choice because it does not
enforce a pro-choice ideology, but neither can it claim that
it is pro-life when it does not enforce a pro-life ideology.
Actions speak louder than words.”
The divide in the GOP was described by some members and
observers as a struggle between large-money donors who
believe the party should be a “big tent” that includes
pro-choicers and middle-class activists who say the party
should work for the protection of the unborn.
“The trouble with the ‘big tent’ argument is that to
some extent it’s a cover for the ‘rich tent,'” said William
Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and former chief of
staff for one-time Vice President Dan Quayle, according to
The Washington Times. “The opposition to the resolution is
being driven by big party donors, and it would be nice for
the party to pay more attention to its pro-life base.”