WASHINGTON -- March 1999 -- Republican presidential candidate and Arizona Sen. John McCain is calling on his party to alter its platform on abortion.
In a telephone interview Friday, McCain called for the party to revert to its 1980 platform on abortion, which opposes abortion but recognizes differing views on the issue among Republicans.
"I'm for going back to the platform as it was in 1980. I believe we are an inclusive party and we can be so without changing our principles," McCain said. McCain is the first GOP presidential candidate to say the party platform should be changed.
Since announcing his bid for the presidency, McCain has appeared to reteat somewhat from his pro-life position. He had already alienated some pro-life supporters with his hardline stance in favor of some campaign finance reform provisions that would prohibit pro-life groups from being able to speak as freely about candidate's stands on issues and voting records.
In 1996, after a battle with its pro-abortion minority, Republicans adopted a platform that unborn children had "a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed."
The platform went on to call for an amendment to the Constitution that would outlaw all abortions, though it said the party did not favor punishing women who had abortions - only those who carried them out.
The 1980 platform calls for a constitutional amendment to protect fetuses but it also recognizes "differing views on this question among Americans in general and in our own party."
Ann Stone, president of Republicans for Choice, a pro-abortion group, applauded McCain's comments.
Meanwhile the Republicans for Life PAC, a political action committee dedicated to electing pro-life Republicans over pro-abortion GOP candidates, said the real issue of inclusiveness was something the Democrat Party should tackle. "Pro-life Democrats continue to be overtly and covertly ostracized from their party. The same kind of mistreatment Bob Casey suffered in 1992 still occurs," a spokesman said.
Abortion is already emerging as a potent issue in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.
Texas Governor Georgue Bush weighed in on McCain's statement. "My attitude is our party is big enough for good people to be able to disagree on the issue. But surely we can agree that there are too many abortions in America," Bush said.
Former American Red Cross President Elizabeth Dole, has said nothing specific about the issue. Her spokesman Ari Fleischer said she would address it at a time of her choosing.
Alan Keyes, a conservative talk radio host who ran for the Republican nomination in 1996 and is considering doing so again in 2000, said McCain was trying to edge the Republican Party away from its pro-life stance. He vowed to fight any change in the platform.
New York Gov. George Pataki, who supports abortion and has been seen as a possible vice presidential nominee, recently called for the party to remove the pro-life plank from its 2000 presidential platform.
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