the choice 2000
hometools for choiceare you sure?bushgore

issue: social policy
· should restrictions be put on abortion rights, and if so what should they be?

· how should online privacy be guarded?

· should churches and other faith based organizations be allowed to provide social services?

what they say
what they'll do
more resources

Abortion has not dominated the debate this year as it has in some past campaigns, though the approval of the abortion pill RU 486 in September 2000 has brought the issue back into the limelight. Few Americans have strictly pro-choice or pro-life views, and most of the debate this year has centered on what restrictions if any are appropriate on the original 1973 Roe V Wade rights. The next president will nominate as many as four new supreme court justices, and the present court has a thin 5 to 4 pro-abortion majority, so this election could well decide the fate of Roe v. Wade for the next several years. About a quarter of all US pregnancies end in abortion, though the number of U.S. counties with abortion providers has been decreasing in recent years: currently, only 14 percent have them. Restrictions being debated this year include mandating waiting periods before abortions, banning 'partial birth' abortions and requiring parental notification for minors who want abortions. Some of these provisions are already in operation in 30 states. Also on the agenda is a ban on abortion coverage under taxpayer-funded programs like Medicaid.

Federal rules could also be rewritten in another area: allowing churches and other faith based institutions to perform more social services, with the use of tax dollars. Though critics call it a violation of the separation church and state, both candidates support the idea, though they differ in degree of emphasis on it.

This is the first election where the Internet is bringing up a crop of new social issues. The explosion of online transactions have led to concerns about encryption and the confidentiality of personal information on the Net. Currently, websites can track information about users through "cookies", and there are no rules about what they can do with the information except voluntary codes. Information gleaned from different sources is used to create individual profiles of users: how much they earn, what they buy, their interests etc., and is sold to whoever is willing to pay for it. How to ensure online privacy, as well as other internet-related issues like taxing e-commerce and making government more responsive and accountable through the use of the Internet are new issues this year.


"I will defend a woman's right to choose, regardless of her economic circumstances. I will not allow Roe v. Wade to be overturned," is Gore's stand on abortion. Though he has been a reliable voice for the pro-choice viewpoint, he did vote against the use of Medicaid for abortions in 1984. Gore says he has since changed his views and thinks the government should not dictate what individual women should do when faced with abortion. On the other hand, Bush has spelled out his agenda on the issue as "Every child, born and unborn, protected in law and welcomed into life. That's what the next president ought to do." Texas has parental notification laws requiring that parents and guardians be notified by phone or certified mail at least 48 hours before an abortion is performed on a minor.

Gore has also come out in favor of strong protections for personal information released online: he has been very pro-active on technology issues in the past, and has worked with several internet providers to develop filters to keep objectionable content out of the purview of children. Both Bush and Gore have said they will make the government more responsive using the Internet. Bush has done that in Texas.


Should restrictions be put on abortion rights, and if so what should they be?

Gore does not favor any restrictions on abortion, which he believes is a woman's prerogative. He is a supporter of the original Roe v. Wade decision in its entirety. (More on Gore's views and record on abortion rights.)

Bush opposes abortion, except in cases of rape or incest, or if the mother's life is in danger. He also supports several specific restrictions including parental notification for minors seeking abortion, mandatory waiting periods, a ban on 'partial birth' abortions, and prohibition of taxpayer money in any form being used to fund abortions. This would include Medicaid, abortions for women in the military and funding of non-profits which work on family planning overseas and provide abortion counseling and services. Bush also belives states should have the right to "enact reasonable laws and restrictions to end the inhumane practice of ending a life that otherwise could live." Bush supports reducing abortions through promotion of adoptions and abstinence education. (More on Bush's views on abortion rights.)

How should online privacy be guarded?

Al Gore has called for an Electronic Bill of Rights to regulate the use of personal information released online, including financial, medical and genetic information. It would allow consumers to know what is being done with their personal information and to block its sale or transfer to others. "No matter how our technology grows and changes, your fundamental right to privacy is something that must never change," he has said. Gore is a supporter of self-regulation by the Internet, but believes more has to be done in this area. He also says he intends to reform government by making more information available online to citizens and will make sure the Internet is available in every classroom . (More on Gore's Internet and Technology Agenda.)

Bush has not come up with any specific proposals on online privacy. However, he has said he will make 'e-government' a priority when he assumes office and use the Internet to "to clear away the layers between the citizen and the decision-maker."

Should churches and other faith based organizations be allowed to provide social services?

Gore has indicated support for the idea that churches and other faith based organizations be allowed to perform more social services, though it is unclear whether he would allow them to use federal assistance.

Bush believes strongly that churches and other faith-based institutions should be allowed to provide basic social services to the needy, if need be by using federal assistance. Bush proposes establishing an 'Office of Faith-Based Action' in the Executive Office of the President to oversee such work and would encourage the formation of similar offices at the state level. He also believes that religious training should be accepted as an alternative form of qualification for those working in non-medical social services.

Source for abortion facts.
Reports from the Alan Guttmacher Institute
The New York Times Abortion Issue Updates (requires free registration)
"The Personal is Political: Online Privacy" (Slate)

home ·  tools for choice ·  are you sure? ·  bush ·  gore
other candidates ·  video ·  photo gallery ·  teacher's guide
credits ·  synopsis ·  tapes & transcripts ·  press
FRONTLINE ·  wgbh ·  pbs online

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

back to top