Beliefnet
DETROIT (CNS) -- Vice President Al Gore said he sees hope for "commonground" on abortion at the grass-roots level and said the effort should berespected and empowered.

In a wide-ranging 25-minute interview with Catholic News Service Oct. 14, Gore also said he isagainst a moratorium on the death penalty in federal cases until moreevidence shows it is warranted.

Gore also discussed whether he would sign a ban on partial-birth abortions.He said some people on both sides of the issue are more interested inmaintaining conflict than in accepting wording that he said would makeenacting and signing such a ban possible.

Gore, the Democratic nominee for president, also discussed his opposition tovoucher programs that bring tax money to parochial schools, as well as hissupport for expanding partnerships between the federal government andfaith-based organizations and for improving how the United States treatsimmigrants.

The interview came as Gore was en route to the Detroit airport to return toWashington after a campaign stop. While in Detroit, he rallied severalthousand union supporters at Wayne State University.

Gore said he sees a burgeoning grass-roots movement seeking common ground onabortion.

"The truth is, the vast majority of those who are pro-life and those whoare pro-choice actually agree that certain common-sense steps should betaken to reduce the number of abortions by reducing the number of timeswomen feel like they're in a situation of such anguish that they have tocontemplate that choice," he said.

By talking with participants in that movement, he said, he knows "there areways to sharply reduce the number of times a woman ever expresses a desirefor an abortion by reducing the number of situations that lead to it."

Gore added that the number of abortions has declined in the last eightyears, and "that's a good thing."

Gore said his willingness to sign a law banning partial-birth abortion --provided it allows exceptions when the life or health of the mother isendangered -- is one thing that should be considered by people who agreewith him on most other issues but hesitate to vote for him because of hisrecord of support for legal abortion.

Reminded that wording about protecting the health of the mother is anobstacle because the term "health" has been broadly interpreted, Gore saidhe's confident such a law can be phrased to satisfy most people.

"Some on both sides have invested in particular language and are willing tosee the conflict continue rather than settle it," Gore said. "Several wayshave been suggested that have been turned down because it's a symbolicissue. The issue itself can be solved, no question about that."

He said the people "out front on both sides of the issue" have not yetacknowledged "a growing, if begrudging, understanding across the divide"about the nation's abortion laws and policies.

"I think there's a deep desire for healing," he said, citing mutualefforts to promote abstinence and other efforts to reduce the number ofunwanted pregnancies. He added that such approaches "find faith-basedorganizations in partnership with public organizations."

He also said the Catholic Church in "many places in the developing world"has a partnership in which the church "attends to the promotion of rightethical choices and morality, and the secular organizations do talk aboutcontraceptives."

"The agreement to disagree works in a way," he continued, "that issimilar -- at least where birth control is concerned -- similar to St.Francis' prayer: Help me to change those things I can change, accept thosethings I cannot and the wisdom to know the difference."

As for the death penalty, Gore said he is not yet convinced that the waycapital punishment is imposed at the federal level justifies a moratorium onits use.

A Justice Department report released several weeks earlier showed apparentinequities in who receives the death penalty under federal statutes. Goresaid he agrees with Attorney General Janet Reno about the need for furtherstudy of the causes for such discrepancies.

However, he said, in states where evidence shows the death penalty isapplied unevenly -- such as seemed to be the case in Illinois, where Gov.George Ryan stopped executions earlier this year -- a moratorium ought to beimposed.

"And if further investigation of the application of the death penalty atthe federal level reveals a situation similar to that, then I would supporta moratorium," he said.

Gore said a recent shift in public opinion supporting moratoriums reflectsonly public discomfort with how capital punishment is applied, not a changein basic public support for keeping capital punishment available.

He also said he supports legislation sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.,to require making DNA testing available in every possible capital case. Andhe said he encourages "renewed attention to evidence of inequality in theadministration of justice, wherever it appears."

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