WASHINGTON -- Elizabeth Dole said yesterday she supports the idea of a constitutional amendment banning abortion but feels the idea is politically unfeasible.
Mrs. Dole wrote in a letter to a supporter that she is pro-life. She said she believes abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest, or when pregnancy might endanger the life of a mother.
The former Red Cross president and Republican Cabinet secretary has been criticized by some for not having taken a position on the hotly debated topic.
Her letter, released by aides, was written in response to a question by a supporter at an Arizona Republican Party event last week: "How can we preserve our ideals and our party, too?"
"We must recognize that good and honorable people disagree on the subject of abortion," Mrs. Dole wrote. "We should agree to respectfully disagree."
Mrs. Dole said that a pro-life constitutional amendment is not a realistic possibility in today's political climate.
"I would support the idea of a constitutional amendment, if it were possible," she wrote. "But, of course, it's not."
Mrs. Dole also stressed that she does not want the campaign to focus on the issue of abortion, particularly on candidates' stances on a constitutional amendment.
"There is such an inordinate focus on an amendment that urgent issues such as domestic violence, child care, sexual harassment, women's health and the financial security of women are nearly ignored," she wrote.
After a speech Friday in Beverly Hills, Calif., Mrs. Dole told reporters that the debate over a constitutional amendment on abortion was divisive and irrelevant.
"The amendment is not going to pass," she said. "There's been no vote in the House of Representatives in modern times and there hasn't been a vote in the Senate in 15 years, so rather than engage in dead-end debate, let's move forward to get some positive things done for this country."
"Elizabeth Dole plans to run an inclusive campaign,'' said communications director Ari Fleischer. ``She will not allow the party to rip itself apart."
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