Conservatives Step Up Attacks On Giuliani's Abortion Stance

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 9, 2007

GOP rivals pounced on former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani this week after fumbling explanations of his support for abortion rights again exposed his biggest vulnerability in the quest for the Republican presidential nomination.

Giuliani's rambling and sometimes contradictory responses on abortion during last week's Republican presidential debate in California provided an opening for the other GOP hopefuls, including Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who declared Monday that an abortion rights candidate violates one of the "fundamental principles of a conservative."

That was followed up yesterday by the revival of stories noting that Giuliani had contributed to Planned Parenthood in the 1990s, sparking outrage on conservative blogs and a lengthy, uncomfortable appearance on Laura Ingraham's radio program.

"When you have a cut on your leg and it's bleeding slightly, you don't go into shark-infested waters," noted a top strategist for a rival campaign, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in commenting about another candidate's weaknesses. "On this, in particular, he is way outside the mainstream of the Republican Party."

Said Bay Buchanan, a senior adviser to Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.), another presidential hopeful: "What's happening now is it's becoming apparent who Giuliani really is. He exposed himself to be someone who is very much pro-choice but would like to hide the matter."

On Ingraham's show, Giuliani forcefully defended his views on abortion, saying he has long been personally opposed to abortion but supports a woman's right to have one if she chooses.

Under grilling by Ingraham, Giuliani said his financial support for Planned Parenthood -- he gave about $900 in the mid-1990s -- was driven by a desire to increase adoptions in New York City. Planned Parenthood, one of the largest providers of reproductive services, including abortion, also counsels about adoption and parenting.

"My idea of a choice is that it should be a real choice and that ultimately, then, you have to respect a woman's consciousness," Giuliani told Ingraham and listeners on 340 radio stations nationwide. "I think life is enormously important, but so is personal liberty."

Ingraham pressed Giuliani, asking him whether stories about the birth of a 22-week-old baby affected him. Giuliani said they did, calling the debate about abortion "a deeply personal" issue. He stressed that Americans understand the difference between personal beliefs and public policy.

"So why people think this is such a contradiction, I don't get. I think it's entirely consistent," he said.

When Ingraham ended the segment with a standard line about his returning again, a clearly agitated Giuliani responded: "I would love to come back, but you're going to have to ask me about the war on terror and what we do about the economy, which is after all what most citizens ask me about."

"Well, conservatives are citizens, too, Mayor Giuliani!" Ingraham responded. "We're citizens, too."

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