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The Abortion War (posted August 25, 2000)
The U.S. Senate and U.S. Congress (second district) Democratic primaries in Rhode Island are making history by being one of the few elections around the country where abortion features prominently in political advertising. Two candidates (Licht for Senate and Coyne-McCoy for Congress) are emphasizing their pro-choice views, while a third (Langevin) is running ads explaining his pro-life view and attacking Coyne-McCoy for supporting partial birth abortions. To my knowledge, the latter campaign is the first major race around the country where a leading candidate has broadcast an ad on this subject of partial birth abortions.

The subject of abortion is tinged with great risk from the standpoint of every candidate because it is controversial and public opinion varies enormously depending on the particular circumstances in which abortion is set. For example, in national surveys, when citizens are asked generally whether they consider themselves pro-life or pro-choice, 54 percent describe themselves as pro-choice and 38 percent say they are pro-life (Fox News survey in July, 2000).

However, when you move to abortions in different circumstances, 61 percent favor making the abortion procedure known as partial birth abortions illegal (Gallup, 1999) and a majority favor parental notification requirements for teenagers (78% based on CBS poll, 1998) and a waiting period (74%). In abortion situations arising from rape (78%), incest (78%), or the life of the mother is threatened (84%), big majorities support a woman having freedom of choice to terminate pregnancies.Click for Gallup Abortion Polls

The complicating factor in Rhode Island is that in a Democratic primary, presumably likely voters are more pro-choice than the electorate as a whole. If the Sept. 12 primary becomes a referendum on abortion, it will be an interesting test of which side is best able to mobilize its supporters for the election.

Copyright 2000Karen Martin Media Services