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Giuliani Advances

The mayor makes inroads with social conservatives.

3:27 PM, Oct 20, 2007 • By FRED BARNES
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RUDY GIULIANI'S POSITION on abortion is evolving in a pro-life direction. Addressing an audience of social and religious conservatives, Giuliani made two new points: as president, he would veto any bill increasing the number of abortions, and he would support any "reasonable suggestion" to reduce the number of abortions. This may not sound like much. But for Giuliani's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, it was important.

The key quote consisted of two sentences: "First, I will veto any reduction in the impact of the Hyde Amendment or other existing limits on abortions or the public funding of abortions. I will support any reasonable suggestion that promises to reduce the number of abortions."

Giuliani didn't emphasize these points in his speech Saturday to the Values Voter Summit organized by the Family Research Council (FRC). But each point drew mild applause from the crowd of several thousand packed into the ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel.

Giuliani's speech, in which he stressed his religious faith, cultural conservatism, and tough posture on national security, was received politely. He got a standing ovation from some (but not all) of the crowd when he was introduced and when he finished. And his speech was repeatedly interrupted by loud, though never thunderous, applause.

Giuliani's pro-choice position on abortion has stirred strong opposition to his presidential bid among social conservatives, including the FRC's Tony Perkins and Richard Land, the influential Southern Baptist leader. At the same time, Giuliani has fared well in presidential preference polls of regular church attenders.

While they may differ on the legality of abortion, Giuliani said, his goal is the same as that of social conservatives: "a country without abortion, achieved by changing the hearts and minds of people." Also, "We can all agree to move in the direction of setting specific goals to decrease as much as we can the number of abortions in America and to increase the number of adoptions in America." Then he invoked the two points to explain how he'd meet the goals.

Giuliani's promise to veto any measure that would allow more abortions was fairly straightforward, his second point less so. He did not pledge to sign legislation that would reduce abortions or even let such legislation become law without his signature as president. By saying he'd back "suggestions" to limit abortions, he left the matter vague.

In the past, Giuliani has said he "would keep the balance exactly where it is" on abortion. Signing legislation to reduce the number of abortions might jeopardize that aim.

Giuliani earlier had endorsed several limitations on abortion. These include a ban on partial birth abortion and parental consent. In his speech, he said he'd make the $10,000 adoption tax credit permanent. And he said his administration "would work with Congress through the office of faith-based initiatives to find new ways to support organizations that promote alternatives to abortions. . . . Promoting a culture of personal responsibility can help promote a culture that respects life and moves us toward a new common ground, even where people of conscience disagree."

Gary Bauer, a prominent social conservative, said Giuliani's appearance at the gathering was a "step forward" for Giuliani but not nearly enough to gain the broad backing of social conservatives. Bauer wants Giuliani to be specific about whom he'd nominate for the Supreme Court rather than say, as he did Saturday, that he'd pick justices like current court members Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito, and John Roberts. Richard Land believes Giuliani would help attract social conservatives if he promised to name a pro-life attorney general and solicitor general.

Giuliani appeared slightly nervous at times in delivering his speech, presumably because he was addressing an audience filled with critics. But there were no signs of outright hostility as he spoke, and his speech drew many favorable comments. So his appearance was unquestionably a net plus for his presidential bid.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.