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A First Lady Breaks Her Silence : Departing from her image, Barbara Bush speaks out on abortion on GOP convention eve

August 15, 1992

Like many Americans, First Lady Barbara Bush believes abortion is a matter of "personal choice." Her views contradict the anti-abortion position advocated for the last 12 years by her husband. It's fair to say that the timing of Mrs. Bush's public stand on this touchy political issue is no accident.

Despite the President's high profile on this controversial issue, Mrs. Bush has chosen for years to keep her views to herself. This week, in a departure from her image as a traditional, politically silent First Lady, she spoke out. She chose to do so during a week when a faction of the GOP vainly sought to exclude a strong anti-abortion statement from the party platform, and just days before the Republican convention is to open. She made her position clear in published interviews.

Will Mrs. Bush's views resonate with Republicans during their convention next week?

She believes that abortion is a "personal thing." Such personal things, according to the First Lady, "should be left out of, in my opinion, out of platforms and conventions." We have long agreed with that position.

Republicans have already embraced an uncompromising anti-abortion stance in their party platform, including support for a constitutional amendment that would ban abortion.

Although President Bush prior to 1980 agreed that the decision about abortion should not be made by the government, he now publicly agrees with the government abortion ban in the GOP platform as he seeks reelection.

Will his wife's opinions sway him? Will her sentiments help to boost him in the polls? The President lags nearly 20 points behind Bill Clinton, the Democratic nominee for President, who is, among other things, for abortion rights.

Polls on the subject of abortion indicate that Mrs. Bush is more in tune with more Americans than her husband. She is also in tune with the many moderate Republican women who believe in freedom of choice on the abortion issue.

For years, Barbara Bush has held her tongue. She has been the epitome of the political wife who doesn't publicly disagree with her husband. Often surrounded by her children and grandchildren, she personifies the family values that GOP party officials say are central to their political philosophy.

Now, as Americans contemplate her husband's bid for reelection, the First Lady is speaking out.

Abortion is a highly controversial and very private matter. Government does not belong in a woman's decision on whether to have an abortion. So we're glad Barbara Bush has spoken out.

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