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Religious Right Leader Says Dole Will Stand by Abortion Plank


WASHINGTON — Ralph Reed, executive director of the 1.7-million-member Christian Coalition, predicted Wednesday that presumed Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole would reject any effort to weaken the GOP's water-tight position against abortion at its August nominating convention.

Reed, a close ally of Dole's, told reporters he had been assured by an unnamed intermediary that "the plank is not going to change."

Responding to Reed's comments, Christina Martin, Dole's deputy press secretary, said: "Sen. Dole has always expected the platform to maintain a pro-life plank. Matters concerning the wording will be addressed by the platform committee; the senator's expectations are well known."

The party's platform currently calls for a constitutional amendment to ban abortions under all circumstances.

The prospect of a fractious convention debate on the plank looms because several GOP supporters of abortion rights--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.

An added twist is that even some social conservatives, such as former Education Secretary William J. Bennett, are revisiting the issue, suggesting that the nation's abortion rate must be addressed by moral and cultural arguments before the public will support outlawing abortion.

Reed dipped a toe into the debate recently when, in a published excerpt of his new book, "Active Faith," he argued that those opposing abortion rights should pour their "greatest efforts into education, persuasion and prayer--not politics alone."

On Wednesday, Reed said his aim was to "facilitate discussions." But he said that with the governors having entered the fray, such a discussion is impossible.

"They forced the pro-family forces to say, 'That's it, no change,' " he said. "Because if we even open up the discussion, it looks like we're opening up the possibility for them to make the changes they want."

Reed added that he now supports adding language condemning President Clinton's recent veto of a bill to outlaw late-term abortions.

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