The Abortion Survey

With the Rehnquist Court apparently ready to overturn the privacy guarantees established in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, pro-choice advocates see the legislative process as a potential fire wall against the torching of reproductive freedom.

To help pro-choice voters identify candidates of kindred spirit, Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona has formed a political action group to engage in electoral activities the family-planning organization cannot legally engage in.

According to Gloria Feldt, PPCNA executive director, the "nonprofit, nonpartisan" Planned Parenthood Action Fund will determine where candidates stand on abortion and will also work to oppose such initiatives as Proposition 110 (the "Preborn Child Protection Amendment"), which right-to-life advocates are trying to place on the November ballot. (Proposition 110 would effectively outlaw abortion in Arizona except to save the life of the mother.)

This week, the results of the action fund's first project will be released, including a survey of candidates in all six congressional races and 60 state House and Senate contests. All candidates were asked whether they oppose Proposition 110, whether they support legislation that would protect Roe v. Wade provisions and whether they oppose mandatory parental consent for minors seeking abortion. (State candidates also were asked whether they support state funding for family planning for low-income women; federal candidates also were asked whether they support federal funding for family planning for low-income women without "gag rule" restrictions that prevent healthcare workers from discussing abortion options.)

Gender, not political party, may be the best indicator of a candidate's position. Solidly in the pro-choice camp, according to the survey, are Republican legislative women candidates such as Lisa Graham (District 28 House), Becky Jordan (District 16 House), Sue Lynch (District 1 House) and Lois Daniels (District 6 House) and Bev Hermon (District 27 Senate).

Here's a run-down on key primary races, according to the survey:
• Congressional District 6: Republican Doug Wead has been endorsed by Arizona Right to Life, and Republican Phil MacDonnell is considered a pro-lifer, although he refused to answer the survey. The other Republican in the race, Mike Meyer, indicated that he was opposed to Proposition 110 and that he supported federal funding for family planning. But Meyer also indicated that he would not support legislation to protect Roe v. Wade and that he would require minors seeking abortions to secure parental consent. (On the campaign trail, Wead describes himself as "pro-life," MacDonnell puts himself in the middle, and Meyer says he's the only Republican who's "pro-choice.") The survey lists two of the Democrats in the race, Alan Stephens and Karan English, as pro-choice. The third Democrat in the race, Navajo attorney Albert Hale, didn't respond to the survey. (He presents himself as also being pro-choice.)

• Congressional District 1: Among the Republicans, incumbent Jay Rhodes is endorsed by Arizona Right to Life, Bill Mundell is pro-choice, Trace Bartlett is pro-life, and Stan Barnes is a known pro-lifer who didn't answer the survey. John Lincoln didn't respond. Of the Democrats, Sam Coppersmith is pro-choice, and David Sanson didn't answer the survey but is considered a pro-lifer.

• U.S. Senate: Both Democratic challengers, Claire Sargent and Truman Spangrud, are pro-choice. Incumbent Republican John McCain is pro-life.

Overall, more than 30 percent--49 out of 159--of the candidates surveyed refused to respond. Michael Pierce, a Phoenix attorney--and registered Republican--who serves as president of the action fund, says there is little surprising in the survey.

"I think about half the people who didn't respond are afraid of the issue and the other half just didn't have time to fill out the survey," Pierce surmises. "A lot of them are running campaigns out of their living rooms and they probably get hit with 50 questionnaires a day. They figure it's more productive for them to knock on doors than to fill out forms."
But a candidate's reluctance to answer the survey didn't necessarily prevent the group from identifying his or her position. Charlene Bozack, a Planned Parenthood staffer who worked on the survey, says candidates' public statements on the issue were factored into the survey.

"We can't endorse anyone," says Monica Lee, a member of the board of directors of Planned Parenthood and campaign manager for Congressman Ed Pastor. "But we debated putting big black 'X's through some candidates' names."