Bill Press: Don't be fooled. Rick Lazio is not pro-choice
Itís only June, but Rick Lazio must think itís already Halloween. Heís so
giddy to be in Rudyís shoes, heís now running around New York State wearing a mask, calling
himself a moderate and pretending to be pro-choice.
Donít be fooled. Check his record. Rick Lazio is not pro-choice.
Yes, Lazio supports Roe v. Wade, in principle. That means heís more moderate
on abortion than, say, Pat Robertson -- but he's still a long way from being a strong
supporter of a womanís right to choose.
According to the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), in eight
years in Congress, Lazio has voted on abortion and reproductive rights issues 94
times. Some 43 were anti-choice votes -- granted, better than many Republicans, but still not good enough.
But itís not just the number of his anti-choice votes that counts, itís
Here are just three examples. As a self-described moderate, Lazio:
-- Voted to ban privately-funded abortions at overseas military hospitals for
U.S. servicewomen and military dependents, except in cases of rape or incest.
-- Voted to ban abortions for women in federal prisons, except in cases of life
endangerment or rape. And....
-- Voted to ban Medicaid coverage for abortion, except in cases of life
endangerment, rape or incest.
Itís that last vote, in favor of the so-called Hyde amendment, that is most
troubling and puts the lie to Lazioís phony claim to be pro-choice. By denying Medicaid
funding for abortion (with three classic exceptions), the Hyde amendment says that all
women have a right to choose to have an abortion -- as long as they can pay for it
themselves. Poor women, who cannot afford an abortion, simply donít have the same rights as
How do Lazioís supporters defend that vote? They donít. Instead, they change
the subject. Donít believe me? Check the CNN online transcripts for Crossfire on
May 26 and Inside Politics on May 30.
On Friday, May 26, I asked Rep. Tom Reynolds, Lazioís campaign chair,
whether claiming to be pro-choice while voting for the Hyde amendment was a
lie. Reynolds: ďNo, I think the congressman said it as he sees it. Heís a
pro-choice Republican. He is opposed to partial-birth abortion and has publicly said that.Ē
On Tuesday, May 30, Judy Woodruff asked New York Gov. George Pataki how he could
explain Lazioís vote to cut funding for poor women seeking abortions. After
suggesting opponents are distorting one vote, Pataki argues: ďIf you take a look at his
record on the environment, on health care issues, on what heís done for the disabled, on
his commitment to education, I think people are going to say Rick Lazioís been an
outstanding member of Congress for all the people of New York.Ē
See the pattern? When asked about the Hyde amendment, talk about
partial-birth abortion. Talk about education. Talk about the environment. Talk about health care. Talk about anything BUT the Hyde amendment. And no wonder. Because they simply cannot defend it.
Pretending to affirm a womanís right to choose, while denying that right to
poor women, is hypocritical, unconstitutional, un-American -- and definitely un-choice.
There is no way you can be both pro-choice and pro-Hyde amendment.
Granted, abortion will not be the only issue in the New York Senate race, but
it is one where there is a clear difference between Rick Lazio and Hillary Clinton. And
an important one.
Last year, 47 senators voted against a non-binding, "sense of the Congress" resolution that deemed the Roe v. Wade decision "appropriate," and said it should not be overturned. Both of New Yorkís senators voted in favor of the resolution. That shows how close the margin on abortion is in the Senate, how close American women could be to losing their constitutional right of privacy, and how important it is that New Yorkers elect as their next senator a person who is unequivocally pro-choice.
That choice is clear. When it comes to pro-choice, Rick Lazio is anything but.