YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Kemp Focuses on Abortion in Pitch to Conservatives

Politics: In New York, he meets with Catholic cardinal, appeals for Senate vote to restore ban on 'partial-birth' procedures.


NEW YORK — With a Senate vote expected today on overriding President Clinton's veto of a bill to ban certain late-term abortions, Republican vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp courted conservative voters with a 40-minute meeting with Cardinal John J. O'Connor and a conference call with social conservative leaders and radio talk-show hosts around the country.

"Some of us believe it is approaching infanticide," Kemp said, referring to the late-term procedures, which opponents call "partial-birth abortions."

"I think this override is absolutely essential."

During the conference call, Kemp read a two-paragraph statement from his running mate, Bob Dole, that described today's vote as "a defining decision."

The vote "will define who we recognize as part of the human family. America is humane enough and inclusive enough to welcome these children, just moments away from their first breath, into life," Dole's statement said.

The meeting with the New York cardinal and Kemp's stress on the abortion issue underscore the increasing priority that the Republican campaign places on improving its performance with Catholic voters.

Catholics are ordinarily a key swing vote, especially in such battleground Midwestern states as Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. But in surveys all year, Catholics have been squarely in Clinton's corner: Recent polls, both nationally and in the key Midwestern states, have shown Clinton holding leads of 20 percentage points or more among Catholics.

Meantime, Dole aides and representatives of the president continued to squabble over details of the campaign debates scheduled to begin Oct. 6.

The two sides were arguing over such things as the hour the debates would start, whether the candidates would stand at lecterns or sit and whether they would be on a platform or at the same level as the debate audience. Until the issues are resolved, Dole's aides have refused to sign off on the debate plan negotiated by the two campaigns this last weekend.

White House aides charged that Dole was trying to slip out of the agreement--a charge Dole rejected.

"They're the ones who missed the debate," Dole said at a rally at a farm show in Amana, Iowa. "I was there, I didn't see them in St. Louis."

Washington University in St. Louis had hoped to host a debate this week. Dole visited the city Wednesday to claim that he was ready and Clinton was not.

In making his point, however, he was briefly heckled by Ross Perot supporters, who blamed Dole for insisting that the Reform Party candidate be excluded from the debates.

Two groups of students interrupted Dole's rally, brandishing toy chickens and shouting, "Don't be chicken. Debate Perot."

"Oh, we're not scared of Perot. Never, no," Dole replied.

Perot was scheduled to speak in St. Louis later in the day.

Brownstein reported from New York and Shogren from St. Louis.

Los Angeles Times Articles