Dole forced to drop tolerance clause on abortion

ANTI ABORTION activists in the Republican Party have forced their presidential candidate, Mr Bob Dole, to back off his "tolerance…

ANTI ABORTION activists in the Republican Party have forced their presidential candidate, Mr Bob Dole, to back off his "tolerance" stance on abortion.

Mr Dole, who is personally opposed to abortion, has been trying for months to have the "tolerance" clause inserted in the antiabortion plank of the party platform to be approved, at the Republican convention in San Diego next week.

This was part of his strategy to attract back those traditional Republican voters who learn that the party is too influenced by conservative and religious organisations.

His efforts have been vigorously opposed by the antiabortion lobby led by the powerful Christian Coalition and Mr Pat Buchanan, who was defeated by Mr Dole in the primaries.


Now the policy sub-committee drafting the anti-abortion clause has rejected Mr Dole's compromise wording, which would have expressed "tolerance" of differing views on abortion and other moral issues. Last June he said, this position was "not negotiable."

There will now be only a vague, clause which will "recognise that members of our party have deeply held and sometimes differing views."

Dole supporters tried to put the best face on the setback, saying that he "got what he wanted which was to get this issue behind him, to have tolerance language stay in the platform."

The director of the Christian Coalition, Mr Ralph Reed, expressed satisfaction, saying. "We've probably got more religious conservatives on the floor of this convention than any convention of either party in modern American political history."

The head of the Family Research Council, Mr Gary Bauer, said that in the eight weeks since Mr Dole announced his proposal for more tolerant language "his poll numbers have dropped."

By abandoning his "tolerance" clause, Mr Dole hopes to ensure "that abortion will not surface on the floor of the convention next week as a divisive issue. The pro choice section of the party will be urged, not to, seek a debate on abortion which might damage the united image which the convention is supposed to show the country next week.

The votes of six of the 50 state delegations would be necessary to have the anti abortion clause debated.

While the manoeuvring on abortion has been getting a lot of media attention, the clause itself is not binding on the party leadership, or on Mr Dole if he should be elected president.

It calls for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion in all circumstances. But although this has been the official position of the party since 1980, no real attempt has been made by Republican presidents or Congress to pass the amendment.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party platform committee has approved a draft wording which supports abortion rights as a "fundamental constitutional liberty", but acknowledges "the individual conscience" of Americans on this difficult issue.