In 1992, Al Gore scored points with pro-abortion voters in a debate with former Vice President Dan Quayle when he challenged Mr. Quayle to "[repeat] after me: 'I support the right of a woman to choose.' Can you say that?"
Maybe this year, the Republican nominee will have to ask Mr. Gore whether he possesses the ability to use the word abortion.
In two major speeches last month, including one to a group of female supporters, Mr. Gore expressed his commitment to a "woman's right to choose," but stopped short of saying what she could choose.
He wasn't always so reticent. In a speech last December to the Democratic Leadership Council's annual conference, Mr. Gore urged that "compassion means understanding that whatever your personal view of abortion, women must have the right to make that personal choice for themselves, in the privacy of their own consciences." Earlier, in remarks to a November dinner for the National Women's Law Center, he threw in the common Clintonian line about the importance of "making abortion safe, legal, and rare."
But in a June 1 speech at a Women for Gore event, Mr. Gore went straight from discussing entitlement programs into talking about abortion with the following: "And know this, I will always, always defend a woman's right to choose." He said he wouldn't allow Congress to "play politics with this fundamental personal right," and, he insisted, "That hard-won right will be safe with me as your president."
Which hard-won right? A woman's right to choose what? He didn't say.
Then, in a June 16 speech making his candidacy official, Mr. Gore said, "Responsible men and women must make their own personal decisions based on their own consciences, not governmental interference. Some try to duck the issue of choice. Not me. American women must be able to make that decision for themselves. I will stand up for a woman's right to choose." What decision? Abortion wasn't mentioned.
This is part of a pattern. In the speeches featured on the Gore 2000 website-the speeches the campaign most wants people to read-none dated after January of this year includes the word abortion.
Why the sudden reluctance to say abortion, even when speaking on the subject? Why just vague references to women and choosing? Is he concerned that saying the actual word abortion will undermine his recent attempts to cast his campaign in a religious glow?
The Gore 2000 campaign didn't return WORLD's phone calls, but according to David O'Steen, president of National Right to Life, abortion advocates know that when people really think about what abortion is, most reject it. "When they abstract it, and use terms like 'freedom of choice,' it helps them obfuscate the issue," he told WORLD.
What do pro-abortion groups think of Mr. Gore's flinching from speaking the name of what they consider a right as fundamental as free speech? The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) wouldn't comment either, but its website offers no criticism of the vice president on the matter.
So, at least for the time being, Mr. Gore is able to have the abortion issue and duck it, too.