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Chiles Declares Pro-Choice Stance

October 11, 1990 GMT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Democrat Lawton Chiles, in a move that could make abortion a major issue in Florida’s gubernatorial campaign, has come down squarely on the pro-choice side.

His opponent, Republican Gov. Bob Martinez, is fiercely anti-abortion.

Chiles, a former U.S. senator, staked out his position on the anniversary of Martinez’s failed attempt to push through restrictions on abortion.

As a senator, Chiles voted against additional spending on abortions and voted for a constitutional amendment taking away the guaranteed right to an abortion.

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But he said Wednesday his position has changed and that he wanted to clear up any confusion over his views.

″I am not pro-abortion. I’ve always been opposed to abortion,″ Chiles said. ″But when it comes down to who makes that decision, I think we want the woman to be able to make it.″

Chiles has pledged to veto any legislation restricting a woman’s right to choose. But he admitted he had trouble with the label ″pro-choice″ until recently because it was ″equated with ... that we don’t care about life.″

He said that if elected, he would try to reduce the number of abortions by increasing spending on family planning, sex education and school health services and to improve pre-natal care.

Chiles made his comments during a pro-choice forum at the Capitol, where a year ago thousands demonstrated while lawmakers shot down Martinez’s proposals to limit abortions. The session was the first in the nation after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Webster ruling gave states greater authority on the abortion question.

Abortion so far hasn’t been a major campaign issue.

″If abortion is an issue, I would say the governor made that an issue when he called a special session last year,″ Chiles said. ″I don’t think any one issue will decide the campaign.″

Martinez has repeatedly said he felt compelled to call the session after the Webster ruling because of his deep personal opposition to abortion.

J.M. ″Mac″ Stipanovich, Martinez’s campaign manager, said, ″It’s an interesting contrast between the governor’s principles on this issue and Lawton Chiles’ prostitution of it.″

The National Abortion Rights Action League took out full-page ads Wednesday in several newspapers with the headline ″We remember, Governor Martinez,″ urging people to vote against Martinez on Nov. 6.