The major media on Thursday extensively covered Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush’s dip in the polls and campaign missteps.
The latest Reuters/Zogby poll has Gore ahead by six points and indicates that the Gender Gap has become a chasm, with Gore enjoying a 32 percentage point advantage with women voters.
Many reasons for this phenomenon were cited by journalists, but one was widely ignored: Bush’s anti-abortion rights stance, exemplified by his selection of adamantly anti-choice running mate Dick Cheney.
Yet, pro-choice political observers believe that women’s concern about reproductive rights will determine the election’s victor. They say it is Bush’s anti-choice stand that is responsible for the shift in the all-important and probably decisive women’s vote.
Ann Stone, national chair of Republicans for Choice, described the Democratic convention as a “love fest” for choice and noted that speakers received the loudest ovations when they mentioned reproductive choice.
She added that pro-choice Republicans live in the largest swing states, such as New York, California, Florida, Illinois and Michigan and, if they stay home, the Republicans lose those states’ electoral votes. She added that the anti-choice Republicans generally live in the smaller states that would go Republican regardless of the anti-choice voters.
A well-known pollster who specializes in analyzing the women’s vote said at a forum Wednesday that Bush’s stance on reproductive rights is responsible for his drop in the polls. The pollster added that polls indicating that choice was not a determining issue for most voters were dated–to a time when voters knew Clinton would protect reproductive rights.
Several other observers believe that many Republican moderates were under the impression that Bush was not strongly anti-choice, but turned right only to win the primaries. However, when Bush selected Cheney, a long-time foe of choice, as a running mate, he lost the benefit of that doubt.
In fact, Bush’s selection of Cheney appears to reflect Bush’s actual personal sentiments and political position, not one adopted for show during the primary season.
In his term as governor of Texas, presidential candidate Bush signed 13 anti-choice bills into law. They include funding for abstinence-until-marriage education and denial of reproductive health services for low-income teenagers except for pre-natal and reproductive health problems.
The laws criminalize transporting a minor outside a 120-mile radius of her home for an abortion without parental consent, and also deny tax-exempt status to certain nonprofit organizations that perform abortions or assist and refer women to abortion providers.
Here is Bush’s record:
TX HB 1–Appropriations Legislation. Prohibits use of state family planning funds to dispense prescription contraceptives to minors without parental consent. Funds abstinence-until-marriage education. Prohibits use of state family planning funds to pay the direct or indirect costs of abortion procedures. (This could be used to prohibit family planning funding for organizations that offer abortion services.)
TX HB 2085–Expands abortion clinic regulations to include physician’s offices that perform abortions “necessary to preserve the woman’s life or prevent impairment of her physical health.”
TX SB 445–Denies reproductive services, except pre-natal care and care related to diseases, illnesses or abnormalities related to the reproductive system, to low-income women under the age of 19 who are enrolled in the Texas Child Health Plan.
TX HB 2202–Prohibits school-based health centers that receive specified grants from providing reproductive services, counseling or referrals.
TX SB 30–Requires notification of at least one parent for a minor to get an abortion. Requires minors to wait 48 hours before receiving an abortion. Mandates creation and distribution of state-prepared materials that provide information relating to alternatives to and health risks of abortion.
TX HB 541–Denies tax exemptions to certain not-for-profit organizations that perform or refer for abortions, or assist specified organizations that perform or refer for abortions.
TX HB 1428–Expands the crime of unlawful restraint to include transporting a 14- to 16-year-old outside the state and outside a 120-mile radius of her residence without her parents’ consent. This can be used to prevent young women from seeking abortions. Only seven percent of Texas counties have abortion service providers.
TX HB 1–Appropriations Legislation. Prohibits the use of state family planning funds to dispense prescription contraceptives to minors without parental consent. Funds abstinence-until-marriage education. Prohibits use of state family planning funds to pay the direct or indirect costs of abortion procedures.
TX SB 1534– Prohibits publicly funded attorneys from assisting poor women in seeking an abortion.
TX SB 407–Mandates clinic regulations that single out abortion facilities from other outpatient surgical centers for mandatory government oversight and control. It grants the Texas Department of Health the authority to revoke an abortion facility’s license before a hearing and to impose administrative penalties of up to $1,000 per day.
TX HB 2856–Mandates clinic regulations that single out abortion facilities from other outpatient medical centers by requiring them to use a government-assigned number in all their advertisements and to establish a toll-free number which must provide specified information.
TX SB 385–Allows HMOs to refuse to recommend, offer advice concerning, pay for, provide, assist in, perform, arrange or participate in providing or performing any health care service, such as abortion, that violates their religious convictions.
TX SB 1–Requires that any sexuality, STD or HIV/AIDS education must emphasize abstinence from sexual activity until marriage. But it does not require instruction on contraception to prevent pregnancy, STDs or HIV/AIDS.
The Texas Legislature meets only once every two years for 180 days.
Melinda Rice is a Texas-based journalist.