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Monday, 16 October, 2000, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Campaign issues: Abortion
What they say
BUSH GORE
Ban partial birth abortions Ban partial-birth abortions except when motherís health at severe risk
Provide legal protection for foetuses Supports woman's right to choose
Pro-life with exceptions in cases of rape, incest or to protect mother's life
Supports Medicare funded abortions

Abortion, more than almost any other issue, excites strong passions in American political debate, with a sharp divide between liberal and conservative opinion.

Abortion facts
In 1999 abortion had dropped to its lowest level in a decade
Roughly 25% of pregnancies end in abortion
An estimated 43% of American women will have had an abortion before they reach 45
Nonetheless the balance of opinion on the issue has remained relatively unchanged in the past 25 years and relatively few take the extreme 'pro-choice' or 'pro-life' position - both of which are politically loaded terms.

President Clinton, who has probably been a stronger supporter of abortion than any other president, has argued that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare".

This is also the position of around 50% of American voters who argue that if abortion takes place, it should be as early in pregnancy as possible.

Recently, opponents of abortion, such as the National Right to Life Committee and the Christian Coalition, have been focusing on a new strategy with which they have had some success - targetting so-called "late-term" or "partial-birth" abortions rather than arguing for a blanket ban.


To me, abortion is the greatest evil on the American continent since slavery

Pat Buchanan
Reform Party candidate
Around 30 states have passed laws banning late-term procedures, but implementation has been blocked in most of them while legal challenges are under way.

The anti-abortion campaign has also been hit by associations with violent extremists who have attacked abortion clinics and doctors who undertake abortions.

Violent passions

In October 1998, an abortion provider in Buffalo New York was killed by a sniper. In the same year around a fifth of all abortion clinics reported some degree of severe violence directed against their staff or premises.


I will always, always defend a woman's right to choose

Al Gore
Democratic Party candidate
The passions aroused by abortion also filter into many areas of political life.

The anti-abortion, pro-life movement is almost exclusively on the right of the Republican party and has strong grass roots support, partly through groups like the Christian Coalition.

This poses many problems for Republican candidates, as being anti-abortion has become a litmus test for a candidate's ideological credentials and many conservatives refuse to support anyone who does not take their position.

This in turn has allowed Democrats to paint Republicans as extremist, but they in turn have to tread carefully to avoid being portrayed as unconcerned.

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Links to more Issues stories are at the foot of the page.


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