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Copyright 1999 Times Publishing Company  
St. Petersburg Times

October 28, 1999, Thursday, 0 South Pinellas Edition


LENGTH: 384 words

HEADLINE: Abortion takes back seat for now

    Ever since the Republican takeover in 1995, the U.S. House of Representatives has been trying to chip away at abortion rights. House lawmakers led the effort to ban abortion funding for women in federal prisons. They passed legislation that prohibited abortions on U.S. military bases and stripped abortion coverage from the health plan for federal employees. Now, in a change of strategy, Republican leaders are trying to keep the issue in the background, at least for now.

House leaders say this is a change of strategy, not a change of mind. It is a calculated maneuver designed to give Republicans a political advantage in the ongoing budget fight with President Clinton. In an effort to deprive the president of reasons to veto their appropriations bills, Republican leaders have been cracking down on the so-called anti-abortion riders that party conservatives historically have attached to must-pass spending bills.

The change has infuriated some of the GOP's strongest allies, including conservative groups that have lobbied for new limits on abortion funding. But the House GOP is so desperate to ram through its spending measures that most of its major appropriations bills have passed without new abortion restrictions. The House passed a foreign-aid bill that was free of anti-abortion riders that have hampered international family planning efforts. Lawmakers agreed for the second year in a row to fund contraceptive coverage for federal employees, and they agreed to drop a provision from the agricultural spending bill that would have prevented the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from approving the French abortion bill RU-486. Conservatives also agreed to resist adding any anti-abortion amendments to the bill funding the Labor, Health and Human Services departments.

Congressional Republicans have not done a complete about-face on the abortion issue. Earlier this year, the House passed a bill that would prohibit adults from taking a teenager across state lines to obtain an abortion. Meanwhile, the Senate, which historically has been more moderate on abortion issues, recently approved legislation that would ban so-called "partial birth" abortions.

When the battle of the budget is over, we have no doubt that House Republicans will be back to their old tricks.


LOAD-DATE: October 28, 1999

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