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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Party Platforms in U.S. Snag on Abortion Plank

WASHINGTON -- Abortion, the politically unforgiving issue that has given Republicans heartburn for years, is now churning the stomachs of Democrats as well.


Members of both parties are maneuvering over the abortion issue in preparation for the August national conventions.


Republicans had hoped to settle the issue quickly to avoid a repeat of the 1992 convention, in which disagreements on abortion split the delegates, but there are few signs they will get their wish.


Meanwhile, Democratic leaders are facing a resurgent anti-abortion movement in their party. That movement was spurred in part by President Bill Clinton's veto of a bill banning a rare late-term abortion procedure.


Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole thought he had put a lid on the debate in his party a few weeks ago. He suggested the Republican platform include language aimed at welcoming abortion-rights supporters while maintaining a plank that calls for a constitutional amendment to ban the procedure.


The National Right to Life Committee, a supporter of the Republican Party, appeared to accept Dole's effort to include such welcoming language. But controversy still simmers about where in the platform the "declaration of tolerance'' wording should be placed -- next to the abortion plank or in the preamble.


Dole and Republican Party platform chairman Henry Hyde, a senator from Illinois and staunch abortion foe, met last Friday but could agree only that there should be language in the platform "recognizing diversity.''


But that type of language riled Texas Republicans meeting over the weekend to the point where they threatened to keep Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, an abortion rights supporter, from attending the national convention, showing the issue is far from settled.


And even if many Republicans agree to disagree quietly about abortion, Pat Buchanan, who gets much of his support from anti-abortion delegates, is unlikely to let the subject die. Buchanan was the most polarizing factor at the Republican convention four years ago and could be equally controversial this year.


Anti-abortion Democrats are pressing their party to include language in the Democratic platform that would embrace them.


The so-called conscience clause proposed by the anti-abortion Democrats calls on the Democratic Party to maintain its abortion rights platform plank, but to follow it with a paragraph reading: "We recognize, however, that there are those among our ranks who are opposed to abortion. The Democratic Party therefore recognizes that each individual member has a right to abide by their conscience on this difficult issue and are welcome participants at every level of our party's activities.''


Don Fowler, chairman of the Democratic Party, seemed disinclined to modify the platform.


"The position of the Democratic Party on a woman's right to choose is very clear. We believe a woman does have a right to choose in accordance with Roe v. Wade [the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion]. That's our party's position, and I see no real opportunity that that is going to change,'' Fowler said.


For all of the political quarreling over abortion, polls show the public overwhelmingly supports the law as it stands today -- legal abortion with some restrictions on availability.