Gephardt's Abortion Flip-Flop Still a Turnoff to Pro-Lifers
- Gephardt's Abortion Flip-Flop Still a Turnoff to Pro-Lifers
by Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
September 5, 2003
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) -- For decades, Dick Gephardt's
name has been synonymous with Democratic Party politics. Having
served as a leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, Gephardt
is considered to be one of the party's strongest voices.
But Gephardt, who often projects a Midwestern, family-oriented
image, abandoned his pro-life stand years ago -- a change of
heart which seemed to occur in connection with his first bid for
the White House.
"Richard Gephardt told the pro-abortion group formerly known as
NARAL that his Baptist upbringing taught him abortion was wrong
but, over time, friends and colleagues were able to convince him
otherwise," said Carol Tobias, political director of National
Right to Life.
Gephardt's flip-flop on abortion is the stuff of legends in
From 1976 to 1980, during his first term in Congress, Gephardt
voted pro-life 96 percent of the time, indicating that he was
solidly pro-life. From 1983 to 1988, when he launched his first
Presidential campaign, his pro-life record dropped to 64 percent.
While he was still voting pro-life a majority of the time, it was
clear that his support for protection of the unborn was eroding.
By 1989, Gephardt had done a reversal, voting pro-life only
eleven percent of the time, a level he continues to hover around.
"Now he says that he would appoint Supreme Court justices who
would preserve Roe v. Wade," Tobias tells LifeNews.com. "Gephardt
knows that abortion kills an unborn child but switched position
for political expediency. I really don't know how he can sleep at
As Gephardt pursues another run for the White House, it is clear
where his allegiance lies.
On the CBS news program "Face the Nation," when asked whether he
would ever appoint a U.S. Supreme Court nominee who would
overturn Roe v. Wade, Gephardt said, "I don't think I would,
because I'd put on people who had proper respect for the
precedents of the court, and the court has said that choice is
the law of the land."
While Gephardt also said he would sign a ban on partial-birth
abortions, he insisted he would do so only if the ban included a
"health exception" for the mother. Pro-life groups believe that
kind of language would render the ban useless, since such
exceptions could be interpreted broadly by judges.
Gephardt has also been openly courting pro-abortion political
factions, sometimes with mixed results.
At the NARAL Pro Choice America dinner in January, the Missouri
Congressman was initially booed when he admitted to having
sponsored a move to ban abortion when he first arrived in
Congress. He later explained how, in the intervening years, he
had changed his mind on the issue -- a statement which seemed to
appease the crowd.
Gephardt dates his abortion policy switch to 1986--two years
before his initial Presidential run. Gephardt told NARAL
officials that some women who had had abortions had convinced him
that it was a choice for them to make with God.
"There is nothing moral in strong-arming a personal belief, and
there is nothing moral to a presidency that imposes personal
morality through acts of government power," Gephardt said.
Gephardt has also said that he would support a law guaranteeing
abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned. In addition, he has
backed procedural efforts in Congress to undermine pro-life
Democrats for Life of America has been sharply critical of
Gephardts abortion stand.
The national pro-life group notes that Gephardt is running under
the banner of "new ideas from common ideals," yet his current
stand on abortion reflects neither of those concepts. In fact,
Democrats for Life points out Gephardt has gone so far as to say
that abortion is "the foothold" that will allow Democrats "to
reclaim the high ground on the issues of vital importance to the
Kristen Day, the Executive Director of Democrats for Life,
indicated that Gephardts switch on abortion is not surprising,
given the current political climate.
"The abortion lobby is very strong, they have a lot of money, and
they are controlling the Democratic Party right now," Day said.
"A lot of the candidates get a lot of pressure to switch their
While Gephardt may be better-known than many of his Democratic
Presidential rivals, he seems to be having difficulty gaining
support among would-be
Recent polls have not been particularly encouraging, and he is
not winning the publicity war.
For instance, a recent Zogby poll in New Hampshire showed that
Gephardt had only six percent of the vote. And it was not
Gephardts face on the covers of recent Time and Newsweek
magazines, but Howard Dean's. While Gephardt has been quite
vocal, particularly in his criticism of the Bush Administration,
his message is apparently failing to resonate with the news media
and with voters.
Gephardt's campaign did not respond to LifeNews.com's request for
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