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Reagan Can't Say How Bork Would Vote on Abortion

September 13, 1987|ROBERT A. ROSENBLATT | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — In an interview released here Saturday, President Reagan said "I don't know" when asked whether Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork would vote to overturn the decision legalizing abortion.

However, the President also said he believes the power to decide abortion issues should be "turned back to the states, where it belongs."

The 1973 ruling that struck anti-abortion laws from the books in 31 states "was another of the court decisions that altered the relationship between state and federal governments," Reagan told U.S. News & World Report on Friday. The text of that interview was released by the White House.

'Murder Is a State Issue'

"I believe very strongly that we are a federation of sovereign states," the President said. Abortion is a state issue, "just as murder is a state issue," and should be returned to the state authorities, Reagan said.

Asked if Bork would vote to change the Supreme Court's acceptance of legalized abortion, Reagan said: "I don't know, and I don't know that he would even answer such a thing until he's faced with a case."

Reagan has declared his nomination of Bork, who serves as a federal appeals court judge in Washington, and Bork's confirmation by the Senate to be one of the key issues in the remaining months of his presidency.

Bork "has every qualification for the job," Reagan said. He noted that Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, opposes Bork after having supported him for the appeals court post.

"Now I don't know what's changed him (Biden) other than maybe the fact that being a candidate does things to you," Reagan said.

'Unborn Child Is Entity'

The President emphasized his strong personal opposition to abortion, saying: "I have a personal feeling of my own, having had to face that as a governor, that particular issue, that we are indeed taking a human life. I think all medical evidence, without any controversy, agrees with that, that the unborn child is a living entity, the very fact of extremely premature births that then go on and live and grow up successfully is evidence of that."

Although he is now a staunch opponent of abortion, Reagan, while serving as California governor in 1967, signed a law liberalizing abortions in California, where they had previously been legal only when the mother's life was in danger. The new law allowed abortion when the mother's physical or mental health was endangered, and in cases of statutory rape involving a girl under the age of 15.

Discussing economic issues, Reagan said he remains "stubbornly opposed to any increase in taxes because there has been no real effort to meet the spending problem of government." A budget resolution passed by the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate calls for $18 billion in tax increases to help reduce the federal budget deficit.

However, the President wants additional spending cuts. A tax increase would be considered only after "we have reduced government spending down to where we can look at it and obviously all of us agree it cannot be reduced any further. . . . " he said.

Reagan said his opponents in Congress are eager and willing to cut national security and defense outlays, but insist on adding to social programs. He repeated his call for a line-item veto, allowing him to reject individual portions of spending bills without killing the entire piece of legislation. The governors of 43 states have such authority, but Congress has been unwilling to give it to the President.

Reagan expressed irritation with "these jokers that are now taking out ads to say I'm responsible for the deficits. The President can't spend a penny without the permission of Congress."

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