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Opinion: Fred Thompson agreed to lobby for less abortion restrictions

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This could be real trouble for almost-announced Republican candidate Fred Thompson.

The former Tennessee senator, who will soon seek the Republican nomination for president as a pro-life candidate, apparently once accepted a lobbying assignment from a family-planning group to persuade the first Bush White House to ease a controversial abortion restriction.

A Thompson spokesman flatly denies he did the lobbying work. But according to a story by Times correspondent Michael Finnegan, records for the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Assn. show the group hired Thompson in 1991. His job was to urge the Bush administration to withdraw or relax a rule barring abortion counseling at clinics receiving federal money.

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Thompson’s lobbying then would clash directly with the anti-abortion movement he now seeks to rally as a conservative candidate.

The abortion ‘gag rule,’ upheld by the Supreme Court but reversed in 1993 by President Clinton on his third day in office, was a major flash point at the time.

Judith DeSarno, president of the family planning group in 1991, says Thompson lobbied for her group for several months. Former Rep. Michael Barnes of Maryland, a lobbying colleague, says he recommended Thompson for the job and finds it ‘absolutely bizarre’ for Thompson to deny it now.

DeSarno recalls Thompson reporting he had multiple conversations about the abortion rule with John Sununu, then White House chief of staff. Sununu told Finnegan, ‘I don’t think that ever happened. In fact, I know that never happened.’

--Andrew Malcolm


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