On the other hand, Republicans argued that because the determination of "grievous injury" and fetal viability would be left to the physician, the ban would have been toothless. "If we pass the Daschle amendment and require this concept of physician certification, that the pregnancy would risk grievous injury, I believe that clearly would render this bill meaningless," said Senator Mike Dewine, a Ohio Republican. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania declared, "Put yourself in the position of the abortionist. Are you going to say the baby was viable and I killed it?"

In an article about the 1997 battle, former Daschle aide Amy Sullivan recalled that "the Alternative was never so popular as in defeat. Leading conservatives immediately scolded Republicans for missing their last best chance to cooperate with Democrats on abortion legislation, recognizing that the Alternative would have been a big step toward reducing abortion rates. 'You can't be so used to drubbing your enemy that you don't recognize it when they make some sense,' William Bennett told The Washington Times. 'If I didn't know who sponsored this, I would have thought it was a pro-life Republican.'"

The timing of the Kerry campaign's acknowledgement may relate to the phase of the campaign.

In a panel on religion and politics during the Democratic convention, Sean Casey, a professor at Wesley Theological Seminary, speculated that early in the campaign season, Democratic candidates highlight only their most-pro-choice positions because "there's so much early pro-choice money in the Democratic Party."

Now that the campaigns have progressed past the fundraising period and into the vote-gathering period, the calculus may have shifted for the Kerry campaign.