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Shifts in California GOP candidate Poizner's position on abortion scrutinized

The Republican espoused more liberal views on abortion in an Assembly election in 2004. But in the governor's race, he has positioned himself as a conservative.

March 06, 2010|By Michael Rothfeld

Reporting from Sacramento — Republican candidate for governor Steve Poizner, who is running as a conservative, took liberal positions on a range of issues related to abortion when he ran for state Assembly in 2004, according to a document obtained by The Times.

A questionnaire that Poizner completed for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, in San Jose, earned him a 100% rating on abortion rights from the group when he ran, unsuccessfully, against Democrat Ira Ruskin in the 21st Assembly District.

On the form, Poizner, who is now California's insurance commissioner, said he supported sex education that includes discussion of contraception. He supported government funding of abortion services and efforts to expand the availability of emergency contraception, also known as the "morning after pill."

Poizner also said he supported confidential services for minors and would oppose measures that required parental notification before an abortion. And he said he would fight new efforts to restrict certain types of abortion procedures.

On Friday, as Poizner declared that he was more conservative on abortion than Meg Whitman, his Republican opponent for the gubernatorial nomination, his campaign had to explain why he had changed some of his own positions. Both Whitman and Poizner support abortion rights.

An e-mail he sent out Friday said, "Steve Poizner is the only Republican candidate for governor who is against taxpayer-funded abortions."

In another release, Poizner said he backed a proposed ballot initiative that would require parents to be notified before a minor's abortion. Poizner quoted a supporter of the measure praising him for taking "a clear stand on issues that matter to social conservatives."

Whitman also supports parental notification.

Deborah Ortiz, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, said, "The 100% ranking shows that he supported all of our issues in 2004.

"When he changed his position is certainly a question for Mr. Poizner."

Poizner did not seek the group's support when he ran for insurance commissioner in 2006.

Another document obtained by The Times and other news outlets shows that Poizner indicated he supported government funding of abortion when he filled out a questionnaire in 2004 for the Wish List, a group that supports pro-choice Republicans.

Poizner spokesman Jarrod Agen said Poizner thinks abortion should be legal but wants to "drive the number of abortions down to zero." Agen said Poizner had "matured his position" on government funding "as he has studied it more, talked to more people, and realized that one way to drive abortions down to zero is to eliminate state funding" and require parental notification.

Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for Whitman, said Poizner's positions are "100% contrary to views he once held very publicly" and suggested he might change his position on abortion altogether -- to antiabortion -- for an endorsement meeting Saturday with the California Republican Assembly, a conservative group.

"I don't think anything is out of the question," Bounds said.

michael.rothfeld @latimes.com

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