Fri, Jan 28, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Democrats now rethinking approach to abortion rights

VOTE GETTER Two top candidates for the leadership of the Democratic National Committee have called on the party to embrace those who oppose abortion

THE GUARDIAN , WASHINGTON

The US Democratic party, shaken by its loss on "moral values" in last November's elections, has embarked on a rethink of its approach to the core issue of abortion rights.

Two of the leading candidates for the leadership of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) have called on the party to embrace opponents of abortion -- an idea that would once have been unthinkable in an organization where the right to choose is sacrosanct.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, with an eye to her potential candidacy in 2008, also joined the debate this week, telling a largely pro-choice crowd she sought "common ground" on the US' most divisive issue.

"We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic, choice to many, many women," Clinton told a rally marking the 32nd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

Ann Lewis, an aide to Clinton who was until recently the director of the DNC women's vote center, insisted the senator remained staunchly pro-choice.

"There is no reason to think that talking about moral values is synonymous with overturning the Supreme Court decision," she said.

But it is impossible to ignore the impetus for the Democrats' soul-searching: exit polls from last November's election found that 22 percent of voters had been swayed by "moral values."

The discovery comes at a time when supporters of abortion rights are already feeling under siege, with the religious right chalking up a number of victories in the first four years of the Bush administration.

The very idea of a rethink has outraged powerful women's organizations within the Democratic establishment. They argue that Senator John Kerry's failure to make his case on national security or the economy played a far larger role in the Democrats' defeat. But several prominent Democrats have called on the party to recast its approach.

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