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Bush calls Supreme Court's 'Roe vs. Wade' decision a reach

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 21, 2000

PELLA, Iowa -- George W. Bush said Thursday that if the child of a relative or friend were raped and asked him about abortion, he would hope to respond with sympathy and would advise that "it's up to her" whether to have the operation.

However, the Texas governor and Republican presidential front-runner also said the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion "was a reach." And he "would not be inclined to accept" government approval of abortion-inducing medicines such as the French pill RU-486.

"It's abortion," Bush told reporters during a news conference at Central College.

Meanwhile, Bush faced criticism on the issue from rival candidate Steve Forbes, who said abortions can leave women emotionally scarred and accused Bush of not doing enough to oppose the operations.

"What all this underscores is that it's not enough just to say one is pro-life," Forbes told reporters in Cedar Rapids at the Aid to Women center, an agency supported by Christian groups that counsels women against abortions. "You have to find ways to move people, even if it's just step-by-step, toward your goal."

With the Iowa caucuses on Monday, Forbes is trying to distinguish himself from Bush on the abortion issue.

He is running TV ads in Iowa featuring women who insist that fetuses are people deserving of the legal protections that Forbes advocates.

Told about Forbes' criticism, Bush said, "I've got a good, strong record" on abortion as a governor, including increasing adoptions, signing a parental notification law and working on abstinence education.

On the stump, Bush routinely says he would not impose an abortion litmus test on appointees he would make to Supreme Court. Instead, he says he would appoint only "strict constructionists" to the nation's highest court.

In addition, Bush says that while he opposes abortion, he would make exceptions in three cases: a woman who has been raped, who is a victim of incest or who would jeopardize her life by delivering a baby.

After his address at Central College, Bush defined a strict constructionist as a jurist who "doesn't use the opportunity of the Constitution to pass legislation or legislate from the bench."

Asked what such a judge would think about Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, Bush said: "Roe vs. Wade was a reach, overstepped the constitutional bounds as far as I'm concerned. I would remind you I'm not a lawyer."

When Bush was asked if Roe vs. Wade would be in jeopardy because he believes it is a "reach" legally and because he would appoint only strict constructionists to the bench, he replied: "I'm going to name strict constructionists."

In his new biography, A Charge to Keep, Bush notes that while he supports the death penalty, one of his 18-year-old twin daughters disagrees with him.

Asked if either daughter disagreed with his views on abortion, the governor said: "I'm not going to talk about my daughters and their views. My daughters are, they're part of my private life. ... I'm not going to talk about my daughters during the course of the campaign, and I appreciate you respecting their privacy."

Later, the governor was asked what he would say if a friend or relative's child were raped and asked his advice about abortion.

"I would say, first of all, I believe in three exceptions when it comes to abortion. But I would say, I would hope I would be able to evoke enough sympathy from a rape case that I could help comfort her as a friend," Bush said.

Forbes told reporters that unlike Bush, he has promised to choose a running mate and judges who oppose abortion.

At the Aid to Women center, Forbes heard from staff members who said they regularly see women traumatized by abortions they'd had years earlier.

Director Linda Drzycimski said her clients sometimes report feeling suicidal or turning to drugs and alcohol to diminish the pain when "there isn't a day that's gone by that she doesn't think about that baby that she's aborted."

Volunteer Judy Cope said Forbes' anti-abortion stance was the reason she planned to vote for him.

But staff member Barb Hosford said she planned to vote for conservative GOP commentator Alan Keyes.

He, too, is running TV ads touting his anti-abortion views.

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