Giuliani defends abortion rights

Published May 12, 2007

HOUSTON - Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani forcefully reaffirmed his support for abortion rights on Friday and argued that his divergence from conservatives on the issue should not disqualify him from being the eventual GOP nominee.

"This is a matter of deep and profound judgment, " he said in a speech at Houston Baptist University. "It's a matter of morals. It's a matter of your interpretation of how laws should operate, your interpretation of how respect for the rights of others should operate. But in a country like ours ... I believe you have to respect their viewpoint and give them a level of choice. I would grant women the right to make that choice."

The former New York mayor has struggled in the past week to explain his personal opposition to abortion with his long public record of favoring a woman's right to choose. He has defended his positions - and some say contradictory comments - on late-term abortion, public funding for abortions and the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

But Giuliani left few questions about his position Friday, telling about 500 students and faculty at the small conservative school that - despite his belief that abortion was "morally wrong" - he believes the decision should ultimately be left to individuals and their decisions should be respected.

Opposition to abortion has been a litmus test for conservatives within the Republican Party, who hold considerable sway in the primaries. Giuliani has drawn criticism from some in the GOP for his abortion rights support. One of his rivals, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, has switched from supporting abortion rights to opposing the procedure - a shift that also has drawn complaints.

Giuliani emphasized his conservative credentials on tax cuts, crime and the war in Iraq. He said his eight years as mayor of New York showed he could apply conservative social and economic principles even in the face of substantial opposition.