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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 6, 2002

Abortion out of GOP platform

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Capitol Bureau Chief

After a half-hour of low-key debate, state Republicans deleted all reference to the abortion issue from their party platform yesterday, acknowledging the pro-life and pro-choice wings of the party aren't about to agree on the issue.

The old platform language favored a woman's right to choose abortion as established by the courts, but state party Chairman Micah Kane said the change in the platform does not represent a shift by the party to a more conservative stance.

With no language about abortion in the platform, candidates will be free to take whatever position they like, he said.

"By pulling it out, I believe its still respecting a woman's right to choose," he said.

About 500 delegates wrapped up the state GOP convention yesterday in the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel after applauding their candidates and incumbents and approving a series of relatively minor changes in the party platform to prepare for gubernatorial and legislative races this year.

The state party platform as drafted in 2000 said the state GOP advocated "the right, as determined by the courts, of every woman to make her own decision regarding abortion, but we oppose partial-birth abortion."

Some delegates wanted to revisit the issue this year, arguing they weren't comfortable with the old language. The state party platform language conflicts with the national party platform, and some worried the abortion plank might offend Catholics, Mormons and others with deeply held views on the issue.

Others worried that deleting the statement from the platform would alienate pro-choice voters. Several delegates said the platform served the party well in the 2000 election, when the Republicans gained a net seven seats in the state House and one seat in the Senate.

Deleting all reference to the abortion issue was endorsed by GOP standard bearer and leading gubernatorial candidate Linda Lingle, who is pro-choice. The outcome of the amendment to the platform was never in doubt yesterday, with both pro-life and pro-choice delegates speaking in favor of dropping all references to abortion.

Janice Pechauer, who opposes abortion, moved to delete the abortion statement from the platform, arguing it is a national issue where the Legislature and governor can have little impact.

"Both sides are giving up something here by deleting that sentence," she said. "Let's all set this issue aside. Let's win in November."

Kitty Lagareta, a pro-choice Republican activist, said no one was completely comfortable with the old platform statement, and deleting it was acknowledging the diverse makeup of the party.

"Finally we're bigger than this issue," she said, noting that it had caused serious rifts among Republicans in the past.

The party made a number of other platform changes aimed at actions by the state Legislature this year, including a statement urging "prohibition of profit-driven law enforcement." That was clearly a dig at the traffic photo enforcement program, approved by the Democrat-controlled Legislature and repealed this year after an outpouring of protest from motorists.

Delegates inserted language into the party platform that stresses the party opposition to government regulation, an issue Republicans hope will have teeth this year after the state Legislature approved bills to cap gas prices and regulate health insurance.

Another platform plank adopted by the delegates promotes "private long-term care options," a response to a plan by First Lady Vicky Cayetano and Democrats in the Legislature to impose a new $10-per-month tax on state residents to help pay for long-term care. The proposal failed to pass this year.

Lingle said she was pleased with the professional production of the convention and the civil platform discussion, which she said suggests "a tremendous maturing of the party."

"When you're building a new party, you're bringing in a lot of new people, there's always going to be a wariness on both sides: Who are these guys coming in, and who are these guys who have been here," she said. "I think what you saw today during platform (debate) was these two sides coming together as one and saying, we're going to go out and win elections."

Reach Kevin Dayton at 525-8070 or at kdayton@honoluluadvertiser.com.