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George W. Bush on Abortion

President of the United States, Former Republican Governor (TX)


1990s: Sought to find common ground on divisive issues

As governor, Bush focused on big issues with broad appeal that affected all Texans. When it came to controversial issues like abortion, for example, he sought to find common ground by identifying practical ways to reduce the number of abortions, such as supporting parental notification and promoting adoption. He did not expend effort on divisive narrow issues, tailor his words to please a particular group of people, or strive to pit groups of people against one another for political gain.

His popularity in Texas spanned the spectrum of Democrats, independents, and Republicans. He had a solid record of bipartisan accomplishment that he would highlight during his presidential campaign. Our campaign slogans captured what was unique about Bush. He was "a unifier, not a divider"; a "different kind of Republican" from the hard-edged, confrontational Gingrich and his group. He offered a "compassionate conservative" agenda and a commitment to change the bitter tone in Washington.

Source: What Happened, by Scott McClellan, p. 19-20 , May 28, 2008

First day as president: reinstate Mexico City Policy

The first full working day in office, in 2001, Bush issued a presidential memorandum addressed to the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), instructing that the so-called Mexico City Policy be reinstated. This policy, originally put in place by Ronald Reagan, stated that any nongovernmental organization (NGO) receiving USAID funding could not perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning, with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. It was an early signal to the president's social conservative base that his administration was strongly committee to supporting their causes.
Source: What Happened, by Scott McClellan, p. 89 , May 28, 2008

Build a culture of life

Because a society is measured by how it treats the weak and vulnerable, we must strive to build a culture of life. Medical research can help us reach that goal by developing treatments and cures that save lives and help people overcome disabilities.

To build a culture of life, we must also ensure that scientific advances always serve human dignity, not take advantage of some lives for the benefit of others. We should all be able to agree on some clear standards. I will work with Congress to ensure that human embryos are not created for experimentation or grown for body parts, and that human life is never bought or sold as a commodity. America will continue to lead the world in medical research that is ambitious, aggressive and always ethical.

Source: 2005 State of the Union Speech , Feb 2, 2005

Partial birth abortion is a brutal practice to be banned

It’s important to promote a culture of life. A hospitable society is a society where every being counts and every person matters. The ideal world is one in which every child is protected in law and welcomed to life. I understand there’s great differences on this issue of abortion, but I believe reasonable people can come together and put good law in place that will help reduce the number of abortions. Take, for example, the ban on partial birth abortion. It’s a brutal practice. People from both political parties came together in the halls of Congress and voted overwhelmingly to ban that practice. It made a lot of sense. What I’m saying is, is that as we promote life and promote a culture of life, surely there are ways we can work together to reduce the number of abortions: continue to promote adoption laws-it’s a great alternative to abortion-continue to fund and promote maternity group homes; I will continue to promote abstinence programs.
Source: Third Bush-Kerry debate, in Tempe AZ , Oct 13, 2004

Not going to spend taxpayers’ money on abortion

Q: What would you say to a voter asking for reassurance that tax dollars would not go to support abortion?

A: We’re not going to spend taxpayers’ money on abortion. This is an issue that divides America, but certainly reasonable people can agree on how to reduce abortions in America. I signed the ban on partial birth abortion. It’s a brutal practice. It’s one way to help reduce abortions. Kerry voted against the ban. There ought to be parental notification laws. He’s against them. I signed a bill called the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. If you’re a mom and you’re pregnant and you get killed, the murderer gets tried for two cases, not just one. Kerry was against that. These are reasonable ways to help promote a culture of life in America. It’s a worthy goal in America to have every child protected by law and welcomed in life. We ought to continue to have good adoption law as an alternative to abortion. We need to promote maternity group homes, which my administration has done.

Source: Second Bush-Kerry Debate, in St. Louis MO , Oct 8, 2004

Must make a place for the unborn child

I support welfare reform that strengthens family and requires work. Because a caring society will value its weakest members, we must make a place for the unborn child.
Source: 2004 Republican Convention Acceptance Speech , Sep 2, 2004

Re-instituted global gag order on family planning

In Kazakhstan, I visited a small women's-wellness center funded through US foreign aid. Because of the unavailability of contraception, abortion had become a common form of family planning under communism. The Clinton Administration's policy was to make abortion "safe, legal and rare." We worked to discourage abortion and minimize the spread of sexually transmitted diseases by providing aid for family planning and improved maternal health. This policy contradicted the global gag rule that had been imposed by President Reagan, continued by Bush and rescinded by Bill on the second day of his Presidency (later reinstated by George W. Bush). The doctors at the Almaty clinic told me that the rates of both abortion and maternal deaths were decreasing, further proof that our practical policy was more effective at making abortion rare than the Republicans' more visceral anticontraception approach.
Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p.431 , Nov 1, 2003

No funds to international groups that offer abortion

President Bush has decided to block U.S. funds to international family-planning groups that offer abortion and abortion counseling, a White House official said Monday. The action, which reverses a Clinton administration stance, will be among the first policy moves of the new Republican administration and was leaked on the same day that abortion opponents staged their annual march on Washington.

“The president does not support using taxpayer funds to provide abortions,” Bush’s press secretary said, refusing to speculate on any final decision to reverse the Clinton administration’s position. U.S. funds to international groups that support abortion had been blocked by former Presidents Reagan and Bush, in what became known as the Mexico City policy because it was announced by Reagan at a 1984 population conference there. President Clinton, an abortion-rights supporter, had restored funding two days after he became president in 1993.

Source: Associated Press , Jan 22, 2001

Accepts FDA approval of RU-486 but concerned about overuse

Q: Would you try to overturn the FDA’s approval last week of the abortion pill RU-486?

BUSH: I don’t think a president can do that. I was disappointed in the ruling because I’m worried that that pill will cause more people to have abortions. As to the drug itself, I hope the FDA took its time to make sure that American women will be safe who use this drug.

GORE: Well, the FDA took 12 years. And I do support that decision. They determined it was medically safe for the women who use that drug.

Source: Presidential debate, Boston MA , Oct 3, 2000

Ban partial-birth abortions, and reduce abortions overall

GORE (to Bush): On the issue of partial-birth or so-called late-term abortion, I would sign a law banning that procedure, provided that doctors have the ability to save a women’s life or to act if her health is severely at risk. [But] the main issue is whether or not the Roe v. Wade decision is going to be overturned. I support a woman’s right to choose; my opponent does not.

BUSH: I know we need to ban partial-birth abortions. This is a place where my opponent & I have strong disagreements. I believe banning partial-birth abortion would be a positive step toward reducing the number of abortions in America. This is an issue that’s going to require a new attitude. We’ve been battling over abortion for a long period of time. Surely this nation can come together to promote the value of life.

GORE: He trusts the government to order a woman to do what he thinks she ought to do. I trust women to make the decisions that affect their lives, their destinies and their bodies.

Source: (X-ref Gore) Presidential debate, Boston MA , Oct 3, 2000

Good people can disagree; but let’s value life

I will lead our nation toward a culture that values life -- the life of the elderly and the sick, the life of the young, and the life of the unborn. I know good people disagree on this issue, but surely we can agree on ways to value life by promoting adoption and parental notification, and when Congress sends me a bill against partial-birth abortion, I will sign it into law.
Source: Speech to Republican National Convention , Aug 3, 2000

Every child born and unborn ought to be protected

Bush opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life. He’ll try to seem non-threatening, respecting others’ views without backing off his long-held “pro-life” position. He previously had said he would not demand that his Supreme Court nominees be anti-abortion. It’s even conceivable he’ll choose a running mate who supports abortion rights, Bush said. “I’m going to talk about the culture of life,” he continued. “I’ve set the goal that every child born and unborn ought to be protected. But I recognize [that many] people don’t necessarily agree with the goal. People appreciate somebody who sets a tone, a tone that values life, but recognizes that people disagree.“ He pointed out that those gun-toting killers at Columbine High School did not value life; they ”devalued“ it.
Source: George Skelton, Los Angeles Times , Jun 5, 2000

Welcome all children; supports adoption tax credits

Source: GeorgeWBush.com: ‘Issues: Policy Points Overview’ , Apr 2, 2000

No Republican will allow partial-birth abortion

Q: What is your opinion on partial-birth abortion?
A: The next president should set this goal for America: Every child, born and unborn, protected in law and welcomed into life. That’s what the next president ought to do. The question is which one of us can lead America to appreciate life. All three of us will sign a ban on partial-birth abortion. Gore will sit there and justify partial-birth abortion. I don’t know how he can justify partial-birth abortion.
Source: GOP Debate on the Larry King Show , Feb 15, 2000

Ideal: Value every life; but many steps to get there

I believe that life is valuable, even when it is unwanted, even when it is physically imperfect. I believe our society has a responsibility to defend the vulnerable and the weak. And I believe our nation should set a goal: that unborn children should be welcomed in life and protected in law. This is the ideal: a generous society that values every life. I know there are many steps on this road. A democracy is ruled by consensus, not by edict. Laws are changed as minds are persuaded.
Source: www.georgewbush.com/News “Parental Notification Law” , Jun 7, 1999

Supports Parental Notification Law for minor girls

Source: georgewbush.com/News/ “Parental Notification Law” , Jun 7, 1999

Ban partial-birth; ban taxpayer funding

Surely we as a party can agree, that by banning partial-birth, and by having mothers and dads notified, and by not spending taxpayers’ money on abortions that we can reduce abortions in America.
Source: Exploratory Committee Announcement, on NBC’s “Hardball” , Mar 8, 1999

Encourage fewer abortions via adoption & abstinence

Bush says, “The Supreme Court has decided [the key issues]. The best public policy is to encourage fewer abortions through strong adoption laws and giving children a clear pro-abstinence message.”
Source: 1998 National Political Awareness Test , Jul 2, 1998


George W. Bush on Embryonic Research

Destruction of human embryos is a slippery slope

At its core, the stem cell question harked back to the philosophical clash between science and morality. I felt pulled in both directions. I had no interest in joining the Flat Earth Society. I empathized with the hopes for new medical cures. I had lost a sister to childhood leukemia.

At the same time, I felt that technology should respect moral boundaries. I worried that sanctioning the destruction of human embryos for research would be a step down the slippery slope from science fiction to medical reality. I envisioned researchers cloning fetuses to grow spare body parts in a laboratory. I could foresee the temptation of designer babies tar enabled parents to engineer their very own blond-haired basketball player. Not far beyond that lies the nightmare of full-scale human cloning. I knew these possibilities would sound fanciful to some people. But once science started heading down that path, it would be very hard to turn back.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.111-112 , Nov 9, 2010

I was first president to fund embryonic stem cell research

On Aug. 9, 2001, I addressed a nationwide network TV audience: "I have concluded that we should allow federal funds to be used for research on these [existing] stem cell lines, where the life-and-death decision has already been made."

By providing some federal funding, I had whetted their appetite for more. In the spring of 2002, I addressed a major complaint by allowing privately funded embryonic stem cell research to be conducted at facilities that received federal dollars.

By 2004, Kerry frequently criticized what he called a "ban" on embryonic stem cell research. I pointed out that there was no such ban. To the contrary, I was the first president in history to fund embryonic stem cell research. Plus, there were no restrictions on fundin from the private sector.

Nonetheless, Kerry's campaign used stem cell research as the foundation for a broader attack, labeling my positions "anti-science." The charge is false. I had supported science by funding alternative stem cell research.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.118-120 , Nov 9, 2010

2001: First president to give speech on bioethical issue

In 2001, Bush made up his mind: he would support federal funding for research using embryonic stem cells that had already been harvested but not for research on new lines of stem cells created after his announcement. Bush also decided he would expand research into ethically acceptable alternatives and create a Bioethics Council to monitor the progress. He became the first president to give a speech on a bioethical issue, trying his best to ensure that science did not get ahead of the humanity making it. It was not a political compromise, it was a moral solution to a difficult dilemma.

In 2007, it was possible to create stem cells functionally identical to those taken from human embryos. This was an extraordinary breakthrough, precisely the kind of alternative Bush encouraged. He helped steer scientific research in the direction of discovering exciting new frontiers while avoiding the morally troubling burden that industrial cloning and wholesale destruction of human embryos would carry.

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p.246-247 , Nov 2, 2010

First president to fund embryonic stem cell research

BUSH: Embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction of life. I’m the first president ever to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. I did so because I, too, hope that we’ll discover cures from the stem cells. But we’ve got to be very careful in balancing the ethics and the science. And so I made the decision we wouldn’t spend any more money beyond the 70 lines, 22 of which are now in action, because science is important, but so is ethics, so is balancing life.

KERRY: Bush says he’s allowed it, which means he’s going to allow the destruction of life up to a certain amount, and then he isn’t going to allow it. But let me tell you point blank, the lines of stem cells that he’s made available, every scientist in the country will tell you, not adequate, because they’re contaminated by mouse cells, and because there aren’t 60 or 70; there are only about 11 to 20 now, and there aren’t enough to be able to do the research because they’re contaminated.

Source: Second Bush-Kerry Debate, in St. Louis MO , Oct 8, 2004

Supports adult stem-cell research but limits on embryos

Bush brooded and waited six months to make up his mind about stem-cell research. I suggested a line of retreat from the political consequences of seeming too extremely pro-life. But Bush did not want to retreat. He held true to his principles.

The specifics of the compromise that Bush adopted are usually credited to Karl Rove: staunch on the content and cunning in the details. Research would be permitted on existing stem lines-that is, on cells taken from embryos that had already been killed- but it would be forbidden on new ones. And the federal government would massively fund research into adult stem cells, cells that came from the patient’s own body and that required no killing at all.

The speech announcing the policy was inspired. The speechwriters had distilled a complicated issue into extremely simple language-and presented it to the nation in terms that reassured the country’s vast political center that their president was a moderate, reasonable, and thoughtful person.

Source: The Right Man, by David Frum, p.109 , Jun 1, 2003


George W. Bush on Supreme Court + Constitution

No litmus test except interpretation of the Constitution

KERRY: I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade. The president has never said whether or not he would do that. But we know from the people he’s tried to appoint to the court he wants to. I will not.

MODERATOR: Kerry claims that you had never said whether you would like to overturn Roe v. Wade. Would you?

BUSH: What he’s asking me is, will I have a litmus test for my judges? And the answer is, no, I will not have a litmus test. I will pick judges who will interpret the Constitution, but I’ll have no litmus test.

KERRY: The president didn’t answer the question. I’ll answer it straight to America. I’m not going to appoint a judge to the Court who’s going to undo a constitutional right, whether it’s the 1st Amendment, or the 5th Amendment, or some other right that’s given under our Constitution. And I believe that the right of choice is a constitutional right. I don’t intend to see it undone. Clearly, the president wants to leave in ambivalence or intends to undo it.

Source: [Xref Kerry] Third Bush-Kerry Debate, in Tempe Arizona , Oct 13, 2004

Prefers strict constructionists, like overturning Dred Scott

Q: If there were a vacancy in the Supreme Court and you had the opportunity to fill that position today, who would you choose and why?

A: I would pick somebody who would not allow their personal opinion to get in the way of the law. I would pick somebody who would strictly interpret the Constitution of the US. I wouldn’t pick a judge who said that the Pledge of Allegiance couldn’t be said in a school because it had the words “under God” in it. That’s an example of a judge allowing personal opinion to enter into the decision-making process as opposed to strict interpretation of the Constitution. Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges years ago said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights. That’s a personal opinion; that’s not what the Constitution says. So I would pick people that would be strict constructionists. Judges interpret the Constitution. No litmus tests except for how they interpret the Constitution.

Source: Second Bush-Kerry Debate, in St. Louis MO , Oct 8, 2004

No litmus test; just strict constructionist interpretation

Q: Should a voter assume that all judicial appointments you make to the Supreme Court will be pro-life?

BUSH: Voters should assume that I have no litmus test on that issue or any other issue. The voters will know I’ll put competent judges on the bench, people who will strictly interpret the Constitution and will not use the bench to write social policy. I believe in strict constructionists.

GORE: Both of us use similar language to reach an exactly opposite outcome. I don’t favor litmus tests, but I know that there are ways to assess how a potential justice interprets the Constitution. I believe that there is a right of privacy in the Fourth Amendment. When the phrase “strict constructionist” is used, those are code words for saying that the governor would appoint people who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Q: What code phrases should we read by what you said?

GORE: It’d be very likely that [my appointeees would] uphold Roe v. Wade. But I do believe it’s wrong to use a litmus test.

Source: (X-ref Gore) Presidential debate, Boston MA , Oct 3, 2000

No tax money for abortion, but no Pro-Life Amendment either

Source: The Economist, “Issues 2000” special , Sep 30, 2000

Supreme Court is wrong: leave abortion to the states

Bush, confronted once more by an issue that threatens his courtship of moderate voters, said he was disappointed by the court’s 5-4 vote striking down a Nebraska law banning so-called “partial-birth” abortions. States should have the right to enact reasonable laws and restrictions particularly to end the inhumane practice of ending a life that otherwise could live, Bush said. He pledged to fight for a partial-birth abortion ban that would meet constitutional muster. Bush has said he supports a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion except in cases of rape or incest or to protect the life of a mother. But Bush has also said he supports the Republican Party platform, which contains an anti-abortion plank that makes no such exceptions.
Source: Sandra Sobieraj, AP article in Washington Post , Jun 28, 2000

No pro-life pledge; VP & judges will simply be qualified

FORBES [to Bush]: Let’s pretend George that you get the nomination in August. Would you make three pledges tonight? 1) Preserve the Ronald Reagan plank on life in the Republican platform? 2) State unequivocally that you’ll chose only pro-life judges? 3) Vow to pick a pro-life running mate?

BUSH: I’m going to pick a vice president who can be the president. I’ll pick judges who strictly interpret the constitution and not use the bench as a way to legislate. And I will work to keep the Republican Party pro-life.

FORBES: It’s a typical hedge. Where’s the pledge, not a hedge? Vagaries aren’t going to work. We need something specific.

BUSH: I will have a vice president who can become the president. That’s the test, Steve. I will have a vice president that agrees with my policy. I’m going to have a vice president that likes me. I can’t be any more clear -- you may not like the answer, but that’s my answer.

Source: (cross-ref from Forbes) GOP Debate in Michigan , Jan 10, 2000

Would support - but not pursue - a pro-life Amendment

Bush has said he is opposed to abortion and would support a constitutional amendment making the procedure illegal - except in cases of rape, incest and when the woman’s life is jeopardy. But he also says Americans don’t support the measure, thus there is no need to pursue it. But he would not require his Supreme Court nominees to pass an anti-abortion ‘litmus test.’
Source: Associated Press , Jun 14, 1999

  • Click here for 11 older quotations from George W. Bush on Abortion.
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Other past presidents on Abortion: George W. Bush on other issues:
Former Presidents:
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Past Vice Presidents:
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole
V.P.Walter Mondale

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Page last updated: Mar 16, 2014