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Steve Forbes on Abortion

ve8QAd   |   April 01, 1999

Dr. Willke recently met with presidential candidate Steve Forbes in his New York office to discuss Mr. Forbe’s position on abortion.

WILLKE: Thank you very much. It is a privilege to interview you. To start with, you’ve publicly stated that your position – your belief – is that human life begins at conception.

FORBES: That is correct, that human life does begin at conception and should end only at natural death.

WILLKE: Many people are not aware that conception is defined today in two different ways. My grandfather’s medical dictionary from 1890 described it as union of sperm and egg. My father’s dictionary, mine in 1944 and our daughter’s in the `70s said the same thing. But now some pro-abortion people have re-defined the word “conception” to mean implantation, which is at one week of life.

FORBES: I didn’t realize that.

WILLKE: When the head of the United Nation’s Fund for Population Activities, or others like her, say that life begins at conception, she means that life doesn’t begin until this little kid is seven days old.

FORBES: What is her rationale for that?

WILLKE: Fertilization is the union of sperm and egg. For the first week of life, this tiny human floats freely down the woman’s tube. When one week old, he or she plants within the lining of the womb. They have re-defined the word “conception” to mean implantation. They’ve also re-defined the word “pregnancy” to begin at implantation. They’ve done that because some of the pills and devices don’t prevent ovulation and fertilization, but they do prevent implantation at one week of life. The intrauterine device is an abortifacient which prevents implantation. It doesn’t prevent the fertilization, but by their new definition, it’s a contraceptive.

FORBES: That sounds sort of like Clinton’s definition of sex.

WILLKE: You’ve got it. Now, when you use the word “conception,” I assume you mean fertilization.

FORBES: That’s what I was talking about.

WILLKE: Let’s go down a list. You have said that you’re opposed to federal funding of abortion. This is true?

FORBES: That’s right.

WILLKE: Are there exceptions to that funding?

FORBES: Yes, except for the life of the mother.

WILLKE: Waiting periods. Many states have done this and there’s talk of it possibly happening at a federal level. A young woman wants an abortion and goes to the abortion facility. In many states she can have it done the same day. Others have waiting periods. She registers, signs all the papers, but then has to wait 24 hours before she comes back for the abortion. Are you in favor of such a waiting period?

FORBES: I think a waiting period is absolutely justified. If you’re undergoing surgery, and it’s not an emergency, you often have a waiting period. In business, everyone knows “buyer’s remorse,” so you have a waiting period. And I read that in Arkansas, of all places, there’s a movement to have a sonogram done before the procedure. So a waiting period is justified.

WILLKE: Some states have laws requiring informed consent. For instance, in Ohio, when she registers to get the abortion, she must be given a booklet that the state Health Department puts out. It describes and pictures the development of the baby, what abortion is, gives alternatives and talks about birth control. These are traceable, so the abortionist has to give one to the patient. Then she comes back 24 hours later to get the abortion. Do you have an opinion?

FORBES: Sounds like a very sound idea, again.

WILLKE: Parental notification and/or consent. Many states have passed these laws. Some have the notification, while a few states have parental consent. Basically, it’s notifying parents before a minor daughter gets an abortion.

FORBES: When we live in a society where we need to sign forms to have your kid have a Band-Aid at school, one would think that this kind of surgery would qualify. Absolutely, I support this.

WILLKE: In the next presidential term, this very likely may be proposed as a federal law.

FORBES: I think parental consent is one of those steps where there is a strong favorable consensus. We should use that as an opportunity to pass this into law.

WILLKE: Clinic regulations. Indiana is in the process of passing this. At present, if a doctor does surgery in an outpatient facility, he should be subject to the same rules that a surgi-center would be. You would have to have inspections for hygiene, have the doors big enough for a gurney to be wheeled through, have a defibrillator in case there’s a cardiac arrest, have an arrangement with the local ambulance service, etc. At the moment, almost universally, there are no regulations for abortion facilities of any kind.

FORBES: So, some abortion clinics are sort of the medical equivalent of a back-alley?

WILLKE: Not all, but some, yes.

FORBES: I believe that if you have abortion surgery, one would expect that the same rules would apply as with other forms of surgery. So yes, the clinics should be subject to similar regulations.

WILLKE: Arizona is another state in the midst of passing such a law. One abortionist there has caused the death of two women in the last three years.

Let’s look at the Child Custody Protection Act.

FORBES: That is about moving a minor across state lines?

WILLKE: Yes. That proposal died in the last Congress, but it will be back. Would you support that?


WILLKE: Let’s talk about killing babies during delivery – that’s what partial-birth abortion is.

FORBES: It’s a race – the doctor’s in a race to kill the baby before it takes its first breath.

WILLKE: That’s correct. A resolution was defeated by the Republicans. It proposed withholding Republican Party money from Republican candidates who support partial-birth abortion. It was very narrowly worded. Such a candidate could support any other kind of abortion, but if he or she supported partial-birth abortion, then there would be no funds given to that Republican candidate. You had an opinion on that?

FORBES: I got into a little trouble on that because when it came up to a vote, I supported it. Precisely, I opposed having what they call “litmus tests,” but if you can’t draw a line at what is infanticide (let’s not kid ourselves), what do you stand for? Perhaps it might have been drawn by saying the Party won’t give money to candidates who don’t oppose infanticide. That would put the onus of proof on the other side to prove otherwise.

WILLKE: Fetal transplants. That’s out there now – killing a developing fetus and harvesting organs. Your opinion?

FORBES: That goes under the group of fetal tissue research? I certainly oppose that.

WILLKE: Science is now into stem cells, embryonic cells that can grow into many different organs. We have a federal law forbidding federal money being spent on fetal tissue research, if it involves killing the fetus. The National Institutes of Health and the Dept. of HHS have ruled that you can do research on stem cells. At the end of the first week of life, a human looks a lot like a mulberry. If you cut that open, in the middle there are stem cells. To get stem cells, you have to kill this little one-week-old kid. But HHS has ruled that since stem cells are not a total human being, they can experiment with stem cells. This conveniently ignores the fact that in order to get them, you have to kill a human embryo.

FORBES: Sounds like sophistry [deceptive reasoning] to me.

WILLKE: You wouldn’t support such stem cell research?


WILLKE: Cloning falls into much the same category?

FORBES: Yes, even though I could find a worthy exception such as cloning Justice Scalia. But you are right. I do not support human cloning.

WILLKE: A month ago you indicated that you were in favor of a federal Human Life Amendment. You said that you had exceptions for the life of the mother, assault rape and incest.

FORBES: On the rape, yes, and it has to be reported at the time, not six months later, i.e., claiming then “Oh, somebody did something to me.”

WILLKE: You mean that assault rape has to be proven?


WILLKE: Let me ask you one other question, then. Incidentally, if you get elected President, I get a half-hour with you someday to talk you out of your rape exception. But, for the moment, assuming you’re President, Congress sends you a Hyde Amendment – sends you some other legislation without a rape exception – would you sign those?

FORBES: Hyde is the federal funding?


FORBES: Yes, I would sign Henry Hyde’s Amendment even without a rape exception.

WILLKE: In other words, you feel that there should be an exception for rape. But would you, as President, insist on a rape exception in all of the legislation that comes to you?

FORBES: If people can be educated, and it reaches my desk, it would have my signature.

WILLKE: Did I hear you say you would sign those bills?


WILLKE: Republican platform. Next year we will see another attempt to change the wording of the Republican platform.

FORBES: My feeling is, leave it alone. You don’t impress people by abandoning principle. You can acknowledge that many don’t yet agree with your goal, and you hope to persuade them step-by-step to your goal, but you don’t abandon your goal just because it may not agree with the poll or focus group.

WILLKE: So you would be supportive of the wording from the last Republican Platform?

FORBES: Yes, leave it alone.

WILLKE: Foreign aid. I’ve just come from lobbying at the United Nations. The international scene has changed dramatically since Reagan. When Mr. Reagan was president, and we had a major international forum in Mexico City, he appointed then NY Senator Jim Buckley to head that delegation. It was a pro-life, pro-family delegation. The resolutions coming out of it reflected that. Mr. Clinton has changed it 180 degrees. He has staffed the UN agencies – USAID and others – with, I can only call them, zealots for pro-abortion. The wealthy nations of the European Union, Canada and the US dominate the United Nations. If you were President, you would be in a position to appoint the director of USAID, the ambassador to the United Nations, etc. Would you appoint people with the kind of value system that Reagan had?

FORBES: I would appoint people of the like of Jim Buckley.

WILLKE: That certainly answers that. Specifically, would you give to the United Nations Fund for Population Activity? Reagan cut it off – Clinton put it back. You would…

FORBES: Cut it off. You can’t control what other countries do, but American taxpayers should not be supporting such activities.

WILLKE: Such as the UNFPA supporting the genocidal abortion program in China?

FORBES: Which, in China, leads to what you might call death orphanages where they abandon baby girls who are just left to starve to death.

WILLKE: Let’s talk about your Vice President, if you are elected. At least one of our major candidates, now, has said that he might accept a pro-abortion Vice President. Others candidates would not. Where would you stand?

FORBES: I would choose a running mate who shares my philosophy and my principles. I am making a sacrifice, and those who are supporting me are making sacrifices to win. That work should not be undone if something should happen to me. We’re trying to lay a foundation. We’re presenting it to the voters, and I don’t want to begin something, or fill in what others have done constructively, and have it undone by a successor who doesn’t share that philosophy. I call it consistency.

WILLKE: As opposed to expediency?

FORBES: Yes, I’m in it to do, not to be.

WILLKE: RU 486, the French abortion pill. The President does not have total control over this, but the FDA would be staffed by new directors, and the administration has some power of appointment. Do you have an opinion on that drug?

FORBES: From what I know, I don’t think it ought to be sold in the US market. And even some of those who are sympathetic to the pro-choice position, I gather, feel that this pill has some very real medical questions about it. So, on a whole host of grounds, no support for this pill.

WILLKE: Let’s talk about oversees aid for funds for organizations who promote abortion, specifically Planned Parenthood. The Mexico City policy, which Reagan initiated, Clinton has revoked. You would have the executive power to re-institute the Mexico City policy. It would cut off oversees funding for family planning organizations that promote abortion. You would favor that?


WILLKE: Let’s look at Title X. Just as Reagan was going out of office, he had put out a federal regulation, which had been challenged in court and never saw the light of day. Title X would do the same thing domestically. It would forbid organizations that promote abortion from getting funds. Would you favor the equivalent of the Mexico City policy domestically in Title X?

FORBES: I’m not very familiar with Title X. But, as a principle, taxpayer money should not go to support causes that taxpayers might not support him or herself. It should not be used to fund organizations like Planned Parenthood.

WILLKE: Judicial appointments. Do you have a statement?

FORBES: There I’ve said publicly I would strive to appoint Justices similar to Scalia and Thomas. Those would be my models.

WILLKE: Do we call that a litmus test?

FORBES: We call that going back to separation of powers and appreciation of the Constitution and appreciation that judges should not be elected legislators. They should not be law-making from the bench.

WILLKE: Would you appoint a constitutional constructionist, who happens to be pro-abortion, to an appellate court?

FORBES: While I’m not a legal scholar, I understand that there are many, even if they’re pro-choice, who are not impressed by the reasoning of Roe v. Wade. I believe that Roe v. Wade will go the way of Plessey vs. Ferguson, which was the 1896 segregation decision which the Supreme Court eventually overturned. Roe v. Wade, one way or the other, will be overturned someday. Whether the Court does it, or whether an amendment does it, one way or the other, it’s not going to stand.

WILLKE: Let me ask you this. What if one of your daughters was pregnant out of wedlock, how would you handle that?

FORBES: My wife and I would urge her to bring to term, unless her life was at stake.

WILLKE: Do you have any other thoughts to add here?

FORBES: Well, I think that, although some would never want you to really know it, the ground is beginning to shift. Part of it is due to the partial-birth abortion debate. It has caused people to look at the issue in a way they hadn’t done before. But also, too, I think that technology is helping. A sonogram is now often their first baby picture among young couples.

WILLKE: It’s some picture.

FORBES: You bet. It focuses the issue in a way that no amount of words or abstract pictures could do. This is your baby, a real baby and it brings it home. These pictures may be partly why a pro-abortion group’s poll found that women, more than men, are now much more supportive of restrictions. WILLKE: You know, that’s not new. When comparable groups of men and women are asked the same question, we have consistently found that women are more pro-life than men.

FORBES: I think support for restrictions is growing, but the key now is not to rely on public opinion shifts and hope the polls get better. The key now is to solidify that sentiment into legislation and use that as a base on which to take it to the next step.

WILLKE: Mr. Forbes, I thank you for your time and your generous cooperation.

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