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The Jackson City Patriot - Abortion At Heart Of Republican Race

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Abortion At Heart Of Republican Race

Sunday, July 30, 2006 -- 768-4925

Abortion is near the core of the Republican contest between U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz and challenger Tim Walberg. Take the issue away, and there might not be a race at all.

Walberg is not certain he would be running if Schwarz shared his staunch anti-abortion views.

"I still might be in the race. There are other areas where we disagree," Walberg said. "But I am not sure."

Both are running in the Aug. 8 primary in the 7th District, which includes Jackson County and all or parts of six other counties.

Social conservatives like Walberg were stung two years ago when Schwarz won a six-way Republican primary with 28 percent of the vote.

Conventional wisdom held that splitting the anti-abortion vote between five candidates -- including Walberg, who finished third at 18 percent -- helped Schwarz win as the only candidate who supports abortion rights.

"If (second-place finisher) Brad Smith had won, I'd be enjoying retirement right now," said Walberg, a former preacher and state representative from Tipton.

Schwarz, an ear, nose and throat surgeon from Battle Creek, says abortion should be legal and a matter of choice.

He draws a distinction between supporting the right to choose abortion and supporting abortion.

"In 40 years of practicing medicine, I have never advised a woman to have an abortion," said Schwarz.

"I have said, 'Please, if you can, carry the pregnancy to term.' But in the end, in the final analysis, that decision should not be made by a bunch of middle-aged, gray-haired men like myself. It should be made by the woman herself."

Walberg called opposition to abortion a "moral absolute." He never disagreed with Right to Life of Michigan, leader of the state's anti-abortion lobby, on a legislative vote in 16 years in the state House.

Walberg says abortion should be illegal with no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother.

"The only exception I would give in very, very rare cases -- underline 'rare' -- is for the life of the mother," Walberg said. "Not the health of the mother. The health of the mother is fraught with too many vagaries and potential abuses."


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