INTERVIEW Sarah Weddington Q&A BY NINA BUTTS IINTERVIEWED SARAH WEDDINGTON IN HER Austin law office early on a bright October morning. Her office is in a small old house on a quiet street near downtown. Purple flowers bloom along the sidewalk to the front porch. On her desk are a couple of stacks of brand-new copies of her book, and on top of a filing cabinet is a black mesh cap that bears the words “Maine Yankee.” She told me that she had arrived in Austin late the night before, coming from a rally for Bill Clinton in Greenwich, Conn. TO: What will a Clinton administration mean for abortion rights? Weddington: First as you can tell I’m supporting Bill Clinton all out, first because I’ve known him and I’ve known Hillary for years. I worked with them when I was in the White House. One of the pictures on the wall in the hallway is the Clintons and myself at a State dinner at the White House. So just on a personal level, I think he’s a good person, and I think Hillary will be a wonderful person to be in charge of the East Wing. Second, he is pro-choice. Not only did he give a number of things he could do. The first are the Supreme Court appointments. Assuming that Blackmun will resign fairly soon, and I think he will, certainly in the next four years, even that appointment would just keep us even. But if it were given by Bush to someone who’s opposed to abortion, it would mean that we would lose the case almost the day after or when a case got there. So I think the appointments to the Supreme Court are critically important; in fact, I’m saying to people when you elect a President this year you’re electing a Supreme Court. In Greenwich, Connecticut, which is George Bush’s hometown where he went to school, cal rally ever held in Greenwich, and there were so many people who said this issue \(aborGeorge Bush. The other things Clinton could do would be to reverse the gag rule, which is just administrative, and he could change the Mexico City Policy so that once again we as a nation would help other nations to control their own population. He could put a lot of effort into changing the rules against the use of some fetal tissue in research, both for those with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and also for women trying to carry pregnancies to term who are carrying ALAN POGUE Sarah Weddington fetuses with some defect that that could help. There’s a whole variety of administrative things. So far, every time we try to make abortion services available for women in the military, not even to pay, just so they themselves could pay in military hospitals, Bush vetoes. Clinton would be the opposite. In terms of Roe being weakened, we probably are going to need to pass the Freedom of Choice Act, even if Roe is not overturned, just to strengthen the current situation. Right now Bush has said he will veto it; we don’t have the votes to override a veto. If we can get some more votes this fall, we’ll have a good chance of making that Freedom of Choice Act stronger, keeping amendments from going on it, and then of course Clinton will sign it. The book I wrote really tells the history of the abortion issue up until this summer. But the future of it will really be written on election day. And that’s why I’m spending time all over the country urging people to vote … pro-choice … all up and down the ticket. TO: What is the Mexico City Policy? Weddington: A few years ago at an inter national conference on family planning issues would not allow funds to go to any nation that used its own funds to pay for abortions for its own citizens. So in a country like India, where abortion is available, we won’t help them with their family planning efforts even for … contraception…. It’s a policy that has left us out of being a leader, a helper to other nations desperately dealijig with their own environmental problems and social problems, which are often really problems of too many people trying to live in too small a space with too few resources. TO: Tell us some of the things that you’re doing for the Clinton campaign. Weddington: Mostly fundraising \(she I went out and did a full day of activities with Bill Clinton in California. I’ve done fundraisiers for Clinton/Gore in Washington state, Maine, California again, and so as I travel . I’m trying to combine a series of events. One is something for Clinton/Gore any place they can use me. Other activities are for women who are prochoice running for office, particularly EMILY’S ommended candidates. I’ve done things for Lynn Wolvery in California, Marsha Cantwell in Washington state, Lynn Tabersack in Connecticut. I’m working for Oscar Mauzy here on the Supreme Court … for Stacy Suits, the \(DemoI’ll be out doing a benefit this Sunday for Mel Carnahan, who is running for governor of Missouri against William Webster of Webster v. Reproductive Health Services…. Last week one day was Kansas, one was Portland, Maine, and one was Connecticut. TO: You must feel like you’re a candidate yourself. Weddington: Well, in fact, I’m really glad I’ve done that because the stamina I learned as a candidate is wonderful. TO: Do you think that a state pro-choice referendum would ever stand a chance in Texas? Weddington: It makes me tired to think of it. And I think it’s partially because I look at the other states, like Arizona. I was out in Washington state helping them last year, and it takes such an incredible amount of time and effort and energy to do that. The other problem of course is that it’s much easier for those who are opposed to organize in a sense because they can organize 16 NOVEMBER 13, 1992
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