MANCHESTER, N.H., Aug. 16, 1999 -- Buoyed by her third-place showing in Saturday's Iowa straw poll, Elizabeth Dole predicted today that by the time the real ballots are cast next year Americans will choose her resume and background as the better than her Republican rivals.
Asked in an interview whether she supports spending taxpayer money to pay for abortions, which is prevented by the federal Hyde amendment, Dole initially said she opposed using Medicaid dollars on abortions but seemed to struggle putting together a response.
"I'm not for, ah, you know, federal funding for abortions," she said, seated in a conference room of a local business. "I'm for continuing the current situation, which prohibits federal funding for abortions."
Told that current law allows using Medicaid money for abortion in instances of rape, incest or when the woman's life is in danger, a Dole aide interrupted to dispute that. (The current Hyde language does allow for rape and incest exceptions, contrary to what pro-life Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) would like, because the entire amendment faced defeat years back without the addition of those exceptions).
Then Dole said: "I have been in favor of continuing what we are doing now. I just want to be sure exactly what the current situation is. Let's don't pursue that further now because I need to check that."
The question of using tax dollars for abortions for poor women resurfaced as an issue last week when an aide to Vice President Gore misstated his position, saying that Gore supported Medicaid-funded abortions only in those three specific instances. Although that was a position Gore took while a member of the House of Representatives, Gore has since taken a strongly pro-abortion position since the early 80s when he became a Seator.
Gore's Democratic rival, Bill Bradley, seized the opening, saying it was inconsistent to support abortion rights only for women who can afford abortions. Eventually, Gore aides clarified his stance; now both he and Bradley want Medicaid to cover abortions for everyone.
Dole has long supported legal abortions for women who are the victims of rape or incest. But when asked whether she viewed the question of spending Medicaid funds for poor women's abortions as a fairness issue, Dole replied: "I think I am against federal funding for abortions." Later, spokesman Mike Paranzino confirmed that Dole supports the current law.
Arizona Sen. John McCain is the only other Republican candidate who supports current law. Texas Gov. George W. Bush and former vice president Dan Quayle support Medicaid money for abortions only if the life of the woman is threatened. The rest oppose federal funding in all abortion cases.
Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, criticized Dole: "It is disturbing that she doesn't know enough about the issue to know the current law. . . . We expect more from a candidate, especially one who is appealing to women in this campaign."
Dole said during the interview that abortion is a topic the media raises to "stir Republicans up so they're fighting each other. . . . I just don't think we want to go down that path."
Source: Washington Post, Tuesday, August 17, 1999; Page A04