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HOUSTON--Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld '66 addressed the Republican National Convention Tuesday night, evoking a mixture of cheers of cheers and boos when he restated his opposition to the platform's antiabortion plank.
The governor, who spearheaded an unsuccessful effort Monday to reopen debate on the platform's abortion plank, brought up the issue one more time for everyone to hear. "I happen to think that individual freedom should extended to a women's right to choose," Weld said. "I want the government out of your pocketbook and your bedroom."
In an interview with The Crimson later that night, Weld indicated that neither he nor the pro-choice activists within the party intend to let the pro-choice movement lose any steam. Given this year's rumblings, Weld thinks the party will undergo much change on the abortion issue.
"In 1996 the Republican Party will be neutral or pro-choice," Weld said.
And although the powers that be in the Republican party may not have agreed with Weld, they gave their blessing to the speech.
"I think Governor Weld made a principled statement," Republican National Committee Chair Rich Bond told The Crimson.
Bond said he didn't mind that Weld opposed the Republican platform on abortion. "What I expect him to agree with us on is George Bush, and that's what's most important to me."
Massachusetts State Senator Cecile Hicks, an alternate from the fifth Middlesex district, said Weld dealt with his feeling on abortion tactfully and couldn't have done a batter job with his speech.
"If the platform is going to change in four years, someone must lead the charge," Hicks said, "and I think Weld did it...in a respectable way."
The majority of the Massachusetts delegation, donning Boston Celtics hats with "Governor Weld" embroidered on the back, supports Weld on the abortion issue. In a vote earlier this week, 22 of the 38 delegates favored a pro-choice stand, according to State Senator Richard Tisei, a delegate from Wake field.
"The Massachusetts delegation is a bit ahead of the country with a libertarian brand of Republicanism, with support for gay rights and the right to have an abortion," said Tisei.
Tisei also said that many Republicans from across the country feel differently than do the party' leaders, and were looking for Weld to "set the standard" at the convention Tuesday night. "The platform is a lot more conservative than the actual membership," he said.
Margaret Hare, a lifelong South Carolina resident whose mother is a delegate for that state, said the tide is slowly turning to prochoice among Republicans across the country. And she believes that Weld's speech will only accelerated the process.
"I am very happy that Gov. Weld said just what I wanted to hear on the abortion issue, she said. "I didn't hear too many boos from the crowd, which indicates the party is shifting on the issue."
Dr. Mildred Jefferson, a delegate from the eight congressional district, which includes Cambridge, is one of the delegates who vehemently opposed Weld for his views on abortion and homosexual rights.
"I am very unhappy that Gov. Weld has chosen position on abortion and homosexuality that don't stand the test of history on social issues," said Jefferson, past-president of the National Right to Life Committee. "I wanted the first Republican governor in 20 years to achieve a distinguished record, but that can't happen with any policy that expends human lives."
Glenn Kelly, a Buchanan delegate from Falmouth, said that Weld's uncompromising persistence on the abortion issue is counterproductive to the Republican's main objective of unifying under President Bush.
"There was no reason for his back-door approach to reopen the debate for the platform [on Monday], and there's no reason for him to do it again in his speech," Kelly said. "Unity within the party when everyone leaves here on Thursday would be nice--I just hope were capable of doing it."
But Hicks, the state senator, said there is no possibility that one issue will prevent the party from rallying behind its candidate come November.
"We don't have to worry about this disagreement because we unified on so many other issues besides abortion," she said.
And in his speech Weld predicated the split on the abortion issue actually may help the Republicans because it demonstrates a diversity lacking in the Democratic Party.
"Disagreement is not unhealthy. Unlike the Democrats, George Bush and the Republican Party are not afraid of a little disagreement. My appearance before you tonight proves it," Weld said.
"We shouldn't let this issue divide us...because all of us agree that re-electing George Bush is critical to the future of the country," he said.
Weld's address to the convention also blasted Arkansas Gov. Clinton for his state's lax restrictions that let prisoners out early, and criticized Democrats in general for their fiscal policies.
"My platform in 1990 was 'tough on taxes, tough on crime.' Ladies and Gentlemen, Republican are both and the Democrats are neither," he said. "The Democrats' taxiing and spending habits remind me of that old definition of a baby: a huge appetite on the end, and no sense of responsibility on the other."
He said the Republican ideals he has used in rejuvenating the Massachusetts economy have finally started "digging ourselves out from the economic damage that the Democrats inflicted on our state."
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