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Clinton Assails GOP as Captive of Extreme Right


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — President Clinton stepped back into the intensifying abortion battle Saturday, accusing the "extreme right wing" of torpedoing surgeon general nominee Dr. Henry W. Foster Jr. and pushing legislation that would roll back abortion rights.

Appearing in Foster's hometown of Pine Bluff, Ark., to renew his attack for a fourth consecutive day, Clinton said anti-abortion groups "will stop at nothing to get their way."

He cited as examples the House passage last week of legislation to prevent military women from receiving abortions at overseas military hospitals and an upcoming House vote on a bill to cut off use of federal funds for abortion in cases of rape and incest.

"The extreme right wing in our country wants to impose its views on all the rest of Americans," Clinton said in his regular weekly radio address, broadcast live from the Pine Bluff Convention Center, where he shared the stage with Foster.

Anti-abortion groups killed the Foster nomination "with the help of the Republican leadership, who did as they were told," the President said. "And they're just getting started."

The combative remarks are another sign that Clinton, who has given the divisive issue varying degrees of emphasis, now intends to make abortion rights a central political theme. Another signal of that strategy is Clinton's expected decision to give Foster an Administration job campaigning against teen-age pregnancy--a move that would provide a continuing reminder of the nomination fight and its abortion-rights subtext.

The battle over the issue has been joined with renewed intensity in recent days. In what they call the "summer of life," abortion foes are mounting a new campaign to curb the circumstances in which abortions can take place. Advocates of abortion rights view the campaign as a serious assault on those rights and are trying to focus public attention on it.

Polls indicate that Clinton's position resonates with many of the swing voters he needs to win reelection, as well as with Democratic Party loyalists. His advocacy of abortion rights has special appeal to women.

The issue splits the Republican Party, and some GOP leaders have uncomfortably acknowledged that they would prefer that it have a less prominent role.

"It looks like the Republican leaders in Congress have given them the keys to the store," Clinton said in his radio address, referring to hard-line abortion foes. "Looks like they'll vote for any bill, oppose any nomination, allow any intrusion into people's lives, if they get orders to do so from these groups."

Clinton said the House bill approved last week would keep servicewomen from getting abortions at military base hospitals, even if they pay for it themselves, "and no matter what the circumstances." For servicewomen in remote locations without good hospitals or adequate blood supplies, "this legislation would say: 'If you can spend thousands of dollars to fly back to the United States for a safe and legal procedure, you're all right; otherwise you may have to risk your life in a hospital far from home.' "

The law would mean that "a woman who's willing to risk her life for her country should also have to risk her life for a legal medical procedure," he said.

Clinton said the proposed funding cutoff for abortions performed for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest raises an especially difficult question. "Even those with strong anti-abortion feelings know this is a tough issue," he said. "And most people think it ought to be left to individual citizens."

At the same time, he repeated his view that abortion should be "rare, but it should be safe and legal."

Clinton renewed his assault on Republicans for keeping Foster's nomination from reaching a Senate vote, saying that "a minority of the Senate blocked a vote on him in a calculated move to showcase their desire to take away a woman's right to choose."

Foster's nomination was derailed by reports that he had performed abortions as part of his practice in obstetrics and gynecology, and by his own conflicting accounts of the number of pregnancies he terminated. Foster now acknowledges having performed 39 abortions over a 38-year career, during which he delivered approximately 10,000 babies.

In identical votes on Wednesday and Thursday, Foster's supporters could muster only 57 of the 60 votes needed to halt a filibuster on the nomination; that means that a minority of 43 senators blocked the appointment.

"He wasn't confirmed because they [senators] were blocked by a minority group of willful senators who abused the procedure to keep his nomination from coming to a vote for their own political ends," Clinton said.

The Republican response to Clinton's radio address was delivered by the congressman from Pine Bluff, Rep. Jay Dickey, who taped his speech a day early and attended a reception at the convention center with the President.

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