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Abortion Plank May Change, Dole Says

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In comments that could roil the debate over abortion within the Republican Party, Sen. Bob Dole said Friday that the wording of the GOP’s “pro-life” platform may be changed in order to broaden the party’s appeal.

In an interview here that was broadcast by satellite to a meeting of CBS affiliates in Los Angeles, Dole reiterated his own antiabortion rights stance and said: “There will be a pro-life plank in the platform.”

But the presumptive Republican presidential nominee also said he wanted to “bring people together” and added: “The wording [of the plank] may be changed. We are not certain.”

The plank now supports a constitutional amendment to ban abortions under all circumstances. That goes further than Dole’s view; he would outlaw abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is endangered.

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The Kansas senator, wrapping up a hectic week of campaigning, noted on Friday that abortion “is an issue that divides Republicans.” He then said, “And we want to try to talk about issues that bring us together as a party and attract Republicans--not only Republicans but Democrats and independents. [The abortion issue] is one that will be addressed, and it will probably be before the convention.”

Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, a longtime foe of abortion rights and a potential Dole running mate, said on Thursday that he believes the plank in the Republican platform should be amended to make it clear that those who support abortion rights are welcome in the GOP.

Such comments run counter to an opinion expressed Wednesday by Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed. After having earlier suggested that he might accept changes in the platform’s abortion language, Reed now says he would oppose such a move.

Reed, a close ally of Dole’s, also had predicted that Dole would reject any effort to weaken the GOP’s unyielding stance against abortion at its August nominating convention.

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The specter of a contentious convention debate in San Diego on the plank looms in part because several prominent GOP abortion rights advocates--including Govs. Pete Wilson of California, George Pataki of New York and Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey--have said they are determined to end the platform support for the so-called human life amendment.

In another potential break with some Republicans, this time over the issue of a broad tax cut, Dole hinted on Friday that his emerging proposal may not be as sweeping as some would like.

Campaigning here and in Columbus, Dole said that balancing the budget “must be our first obligation.”

He said he is receiving “lots of good ideas,” but added he has made no final decisions on a tax-cut agenda. Still, Dole suggested that he is not ready to abandon his decades-old reputation as a deficit hawk.

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“If I have learned anything in my time in the Senate and traveling around the country, people are concerned about government spending,” Dole said. “They want us to balance the budget and I think that must be our first obligation. There are many others, but that would be No. 1.”


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