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Poizner reversed strong support for abortion rights

March 5, 2010 |  8:00 pm

Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner, who is running as a social conservative, took the most liberal positions on a range of issues relating to abortion rights when he ran for state Assembly in 2004, according to a document obtained by The Times.

The form Poizner filled out for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, in San Jose, earned him a 100% rating on abortion rights from the group for his losing race against Democrat Ira Ruskin in the 21st Assembly District. It shows that Poizner said he supported sex education in schools, including discussion of contraception. He also supported government funding of abortion services. And he supported efforts to expand the use of emergency contraception after unprotected sex, also known as the "morning after pill."

Poizner said he supported confidential services for minors, and would oppose measures that require parental notification before an abortion takes place. And he said he would fight new efforts to restrict certain types of abortion procedures.

On Friday, as Poizner declared that he was more conservative on abortion than Meg Whitman, his Republican opponent for governor, his campaign had to explain why he had changed some of his own positions. Both Whitman and Poizner support a woman's right to have an abortion.

But Poizner is positioning himself to the right of her on abortion-related issues beyond the basic ability to have one. He sent out an e-mail announcing the leaders of his "Values Voters Coalition," and saying, "Steve Poizner is the only Republican candidate for governor who is against taxpayer-funded abortions."

In another release Friday, Poizner said he backed an initiative now circulating that would require parental notification before a minor could have an abortion, also contradicting his previous stance. Poizner quoted a supporter of the measure praising him for taking "a clear stand on issues that matter to social conservatives." (Whitman also supports parental notification.)

Deborah Ortiz, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, said those stances weren't what Poizner articulated six years ago. "The 100% ranking shows that he supported all of our issues in 2004,"  Ortiz said. "When he changed his position is certainly a question for Mr. Poizner." He did not seek the group's support when he ran successfully for state insurance commissioner in 2006.

Another document obtained by The Times and other news outlets shows that Poizner indicated he supported government funding of abortion when he filled out a questionnaire in 2004 for the Wish List, a group that supports pro-choice Republicans.

Poizner spokesman Jarrod Agen said Poizner thinks abortion should be legal but wants to "drive the number of abortions down to zero." Agen said the candidate had "matured his position" on government funding of abortion "as he has studied it more, talked to more people, and realized that one way to drive abortions down to zero is to eliminate state funding of abortions." He said Poizner has supported parental notification measures "in recent years," also to reduce the number of abortions to zero.

Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for Whitman, said Poizner's positions are "100% percent contrary to views he once held very publicly," and suggested that he might change his position on abortion altogether -- to pro-life – for an endorsement meeting Saturday with the California Republican Assembly, a conservative group.

"I don't think anything is out of the question, and I think we'll have to wait and see," Bounds said. Whitman's camp has circulated a video depicting Poizner as a flip-flopper.

But Agen said Poizner "has always been pro-choice and maintains that position."

--Michael Rothfeld in Sacramento

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