Al Gore on Abortion

2000 Democratic Nominee for President; Former Vice President


US should not seek international right to abortion

The Vatican had been outraged since day one of the Clinton presidency by the president’s actions on abortion. Now, a showdown was scheduled: Sept. 1994, at the World Conference on Population Development in Cairo. The Vatican was convinced that the US delegation was using slippery, ambiguous language to try to establish an internationally defined and enforceable “human right” to abortion on demand.

On Aug. 25, V.P. Gore stated definitively that the US “has not sought, does not seek, and will not seek to establish an international right to abortion. Typically, such an emphatic statement would have resolved the matter. However, this Vatican did not trust this administration. In an extraordinary counter-response, the pope’s spokesman accused Gore of bad faith, stating, “The draft population document, which has the US as its principal sponsor, contradicts, in reality, Mr. Gore’s statement.” The Vatican rarely mentioned a politician by name; singling out “Mr. Gore” was highly uncharacteristic.

Source: God and Hillary Clinton, by Paul Kengor, p.135-136 , Jul 18, 2007

Bush’s “strict constuctionism” is like slavery’s 3/5ths rule

With a Bible on the podium [in Philadelphia], Gore, who briefly attended divinity school, quoted Scripture from memory.. Gore capped his day with a get-out-the-vote rally at a black church in Pittsburgh, playing to his audience by criticizing Bush’s pledge to appoint “strict constructionists” to the Supreme Court. Such a policy, he said, recalled the “strictly constructed meaning that was applied when the Constitution was written-how some people [slaves] were considered 3/5ths of a human being.”
Source: Anne E. Kornblut and Glen Johnson, Boston Globe on 2000 race , Nov 5, 2000

Ban partial-birth abortions, except for maternal health

GORE: 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 and 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: Presidential debate, Boston MA , Oct 3, 2000

No litmus test; but appointees would uphold Roe v. Wade

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: Presidential debate, Boston MA , Oct 3, 2000

Opposes partial birth abortion, but opposes banning it

Gore’s approach to abortion is just as pragmatic as Bush’s. As a Congressman for a conservative Tennessee district, he cast more votes against abortion than in favor. But as he became a national figure he changed his position, and now claims that he will do everything in his power to prevent Roe v. Wade from being overturned. Gore:
  • opposes parental-notification laws
  • Opposes partial birth abortion, but also opposes Republican attempts to ban it
  • supports Medicaid funding of abortion.
    Source: The Economist, “Issues 2000” special , Sep 30, 2000

    Would support RU-486, if proven safe

    Gore said that RU-486, the abortion pill, should be made available once the FDA determines it is safe. “But I think that it’s not for the government to make that choice. I think actually the pro-life and pro-choice forces in this country have more in common than either side is willing to acknowledge. Both sides would like to see a reduction in the number of abortions, and the way to do that is to reduce the number of situations where women feel like they have to make that choice.”
    Source: Kevin Sack, NY Times on 2000 election , Sep 27, 2000

    Next president’s Supreme Court nominees will decide abortion

    Al Gore said a “razor-thin” Supreme Court abortion decision Wednesday should sound an alarm to abortion-rights supporters not to elect George W. Bush as the president who will make the next high court appointments. Gore recalled that Bush has identified Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas; both abortion-rights opponents; as models for any judicial appointments he would make if elected. His own favorites, Gore said, were the late Thurgood Marshall and William Brennan, two who supported the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision affirming a woman’s right to abortion. “The next president will nominate at least three and perhaps four justices to the Supreme Court. And so, November’s presidential election will also decide the future of the Supreme Court and that, in turn, will decide whether or not we keep a woman’s right to choose or see it taken away.”
    Source: Sandra Sobieraj, in Washington Post on 2000 election , Jun 28, 2000

    Two questions: Is abortion acceptable? Who should decide?

    In 1992 on the David Frost Show, Gore said he still regarded abortion as the taking of “innocent human life” but conceded that he no longer used such phrases in letters because they are “so loaded with political charge.” He added, “I think many of us have mixed feelings, because there are two questions involved. The first question is how you feel about an abortion in a given set of circumstances. And the second question is, who makes the decision? And regardless of how you and I might feel about the rightness or wrongness of a given decision in a particular set of circumstances, I believe the government ought not to have the right to order a woman to accept its judgment about how to weigh the different aspects of the decision, and order the woman to make the decision that government says she has to make, instead of leaving the decision to her. I’ve always believed that.
    Source: Inventing Al Gore, p.122 , Mar 3, 2000

    Right to choice, regardless of economic circumstance

    Q: What is your opinion on the controversial issue of abortion?
    A: I will defend a woman’s right to choose, regardless of her economic circumstances. I will not allow Roe v. Wade to be overturned. Early in my career, I opposed public funding for abortions. I never supported the criminalization of abortion. In those days, many of us saw the phrase pro-choice as referring to supporting Roe v. Wade.
    Source: Democrat debate in Los Angeles , Mar 1, 2000

    Personal struggle on abortion reflected in evolving view

    Victor Ashe, Gore’s opponent for Congress in 1984, said, “Gore described himself in those days as a raging moderate.” His stance on abortion reflected that careful Southern Democrat philosophy. “His position was right down the middle: he was pro-choice, but he didn’t think taxpayer money ought to be used for abortion,” said Ashe. Gore says that while he voted against federal funding for abortions in the early 1980s, he abandoned that position as he came to realize that it carried “an inequitable result.“ And he has ”always, always, always“ supported Roe v. Wade.

    In discussing his past, Gore draws a distinction between the legality of abortion and government funding for it. What is clear from a review of his public statements and the votes he cast is that Gore’s position on abortion has changed. Gore says his journey was a personal struggle, but it also reflected the broader political forces of the era, which saw many moderates move to a more wholehearted embrace of the abortion-rights agenda.

    Source: NY Times News Service, on 2000 election , Feb 26, 2000

    Abortion question is for women, not government or president

    Q: Do you personally oppose abortion, while believing in a woman’s right to have the procedure? A: I’m not a woman. And I believe it’s wrong to have the government arrogate to itself the power to order women to make a decision that politicians decide is correct, regardless of the circumstances faced by that individual woman. That’s the question that has to be answered. And once you answer that question, then your other question is one that can only be answered by the woman herself.
    Source: Boston Globe on 2000 race, p. A30 , Jan 30, 2000

    Wrote in 1984 that “abortion is arguably taking a life”

    “It is my deep personal conviction that abortion is wrong,” Gore wrote to a constituent in 1984 when he was representing Tennessee in the House. “Let me assure you that I share your belief that innocent human life must be protected, and I have an open mind about how to further this goal.”
    When asked whether he still believed what he wrote in a separate 1987 letter to a constituent, that abortion is “the taking of a human life,” Gore responded, “I didn’t write that. I used the word ‘arguably’” before the words “the taking of a human life,” he said. “ I would not use that phrasing today,” he added.
    Gore is half right. In another letter from 1984, Gore indeed said abortion was “arguably the taking of a human life.” But Gore continued, “It is my deep personal belief that abortion is wrong. I hope some day we will see the. outrageously large number of abortions drop sharply.”
    Source: Boston Globe on 2000 race, p. A30 , Jan 30, 2000

    Voted against Medicare-funded abortions; but now supports it

    BRADLEY [to Gore]: Is consistency on fundamental issues of principle relevant? I think they are. In Congress you had an 84% right-to-life voting record. This is an issue that requires somebody to know where they stand.
    I respect people who have a different view than I do. I respect your position that you had. People can evolve. But you campaign shouldn’t go around saying that you’ve always been for a woman’s right to choose because the record shows you have not.

    GORE: We basically agree, we have exactly the same position. So if you want to manufacturer a distinction, O.K. I favor woman’s right to choose regardless of the woman’s income. I have always supported a woman’s right to choose. And I support it today.

    BRADLEY: Al, that’s not true. You voted the other way.

    GORE: The exceptions to the general rule that Medicaid should provide funding for abortions constituted virtually the only votes in the House of Representatives during [my years there]. And I wrestled with [those issues].

    Source: (X-ref from Bradley) Democrat Debate in Manchester NH , Jan 26, 2000

    Always, always defend a woman’s right to choose

    I will always, always defend a woman’s right to choose. Every time Congress has tried to play politics with that fundamental personal right -- imposing gag rules, and attaching anti-choice language to any bill they can think of -- we have stood up to them and stopped them. If they try it again, we’ll stop them again. And if they try it after the year 2000, with your help, I’ll stop them. That hard-won right will be safe with me as your President.
    Source: Women for Gore speech, Washington DC , Jun 1, 1999

    Abortions should be safe, legal, and rare

    There is no more fundamental challenge than protecting a woman’s reproductive health. That means guaranteeing a woman’s right to choose -- and making abortion safe, legal, and rare. Some of us still remember the days when ending a pregnancy often meant risking one’s life. That is why we cannot bow to those who would chip away at these freedoms through legislation, intimidation, legal challenges, and illegal protests.
    Source: Speech to National Women’s Law Center , Nov 19, 1998

    Supports Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances law

    We passed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances law, to protect women’s access to clinics -- and to protect them from violence. But the recent, hateful clinic bombings and the brutal, shameless slaying of Dr. Slepian make us realize that we must do more. [I support] the National Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers -- to work with the nation’s U.S. Attorneys to make clinics safe and secure. To us, freedom of choice also means freedom from fear in making that choice.
    Source: Speech to National Women’s Law Center , Nov 19, 1998

    More family planning; less parental consent

    Reproductive freedom is also about the right and responsibility to prevent unwanted pregnancies. That is why we insisted on an increase in funding for family planning services -- while fighting back restrictions that would have required parental consent. And as the nation’s largest employer, we are setting an example by requiring the 300 federal health plans to cover contraceptives. Women must have the right to choose. But let us do all we can so they don’t have to make that difficult choice.
    Source: Speech to National Women’s Law Center , Nov 19, 1998

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    Other past presidents on Abortion: Al Gore on other issues:
    Former Presidents:
    Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
    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)

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    V.P.Dick Cheney
    V.P.Al Gore
    V.P.Dan Quayle
    Sen.Bob Dole

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    Page last updated: Feb 21, 2022