A PARTY DIVIDED
January 15, 1998
A division is brewing in the Republican party over a controversial late-term abortion technique. A resolution would deny Republican National Committee money to politicians who refuse to ban the procedure. After a background report, two members of the RNC debate the resolution.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
January 15, 1998
Two members of the RNC debate the resolution.
May 15, 1997
The Senate begins to vote on different proposals to ban "partial-birth" abortions.
January 22, 1997
A report on Abortion Politics Day in Washington and the 24th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
The FDA tentatively approves U.S. sales of the French abortion drug, RU486.
April 11, 1996
The aftermath of Clinton's veto of the late term abortion ban.
April 10, 1996
President Clinton's comments following his veto of the partial birth abortion bill
February 21, 1996
A panel of Republicans discuss the issues that are dividing the party.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of law, and Congress.
RNC the official Republican National Committee
KWAME HOLMAN: Tomorrow in Palm Springs, California, the Republican National Committee begins a debate that could reverberate all the way back to its headquarters here in Washington, a proposal to ban party support for any Republican who refuses to take a firm stand against a particular type of late-term abortion procedure. The resolution states the Republican Party will "not support financially or by in-kind contribution any candidate or nominee of this party who opposes measures to end so-called partial-birth abortion."
The resolution would deny RNC support for several popular Republicans.
If the resolution is adopted, Republicans such as New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, who vetoed legislation to ban the abortion procedure in her state, and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who supports abortion rights, would be denied RNC support during their next runs for office. On Sunday, former and, perhaps, future Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes came out in support of the litmus test for his party's candidates.
STEVE FORBES: Well, it must be understood that a partial-birth abortion is a form of infanticide. And so the party would be right under most circumstances to deny funding to those who do not support that ban.
Attempts have already been made to legislate a ban.
KWAME HOLMAN: There have been several recent attempts on Capitol Hill to legislate a ban on so-called partial birth abortions. The debate always was impassioned and included graphic descriptions of the procedure.
SEN. RICK SANTORUM: And, so now we have this little baby that's outside of the mother, and a doctor takes some scissors and jams it right here, right in the back--the base of the skull.
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE: Well, I ask, who is in a better position than a doctor to determine this? Certainly not the federal government, certainly not the United States Senate.
KWAME HOLMAN: Maine's Olympia Snowe was one of only four Senate Republicans who voted against the ban on partial birth abortions during the last session of Congress. The ban passed overwhelmingly in the House with enough votes to override a promised veto by President Clinton but just short of that margin in passing the Senate.
President Clinton criticizes the Republican leadership.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I implored them--I said, if you want to pass something on this procedure, let's make an exception for life and serious adverse health consequences so that we don't put these women in a position and these families in a position where they will lose all possibility of future child-bearing, or where the doctor can't say that they might die, but they could clearly be substantially injured forever. And my pleas fell on deaf ears.
Not all Republicans concur.
KWAME HOLMAN: Despite their colleagues' broad support for a ban on the abortion procedure, some Republican leaders in Congress say the issue should not be used to determine whether a Republican candidate receives the support of the party. One such leader in the House, Illinois' Henry Hyde, a prominent anti-abortion voice on Capitol Hill, sent an open letter to the Republican National Committee opposing the resolution. Hyde said, "Withholding party support from candidates who refuse to oppose the procedure would be a serious tactical error and unhelpful to our cause." He also wrote: "In politics, you win by addition, and we need every Republican vote we can muster to maintain our majority in the House and Senate. If we lose our majority, it will be the death knell of pro-life legislation for as long as the Democrats are in power. The single most important thing we can do to protect the unborn is to maintain our majority."
Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson announced last week he too opposes the resolution. Republican candidates running for office this year would be bound by the resolution if it is approved by the RNC's nine-member resolutions committee and supported by a vote of all 165 Republican National Committee members. Those votes come Friday.