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Hot-Button Issue 

So where does Suzanne Terrell stand on abortion? That question has come to the fore in the nation's only remaining U.S. Senate contest, which should come as no surprise. Abortion remains the nation's principal hot-button issue.

Some folks who have known Terrell a long time are wondering if the Suzie Terrell who appeared on NBC's Meet the Press on Nov. 17 is the same Suzie Terrell who was a moderate Republican member of the New Orleans City Council from 1994-2000.

According to former Council member (and fellow Republican) Peggy Wilson, Terrell made a "pro-choice" comment during a Council meeting back in '94 when she said that the GOP had to be a big tent that included folks with differing positions on abortion. Terrell's campaign has denied that she made that statement, and Wilson says she cannot produce a transcript of the meeting because she cannot recall the exact date the comment was made. "But I do remember hearing it," Wilson says.

During that same era, Terrell's name also appeared on an invitation for a Planned Parenthood fundraiser as an honorary chairperson of the event -- along with most other City Council members. Planned Parenthood is decidedly pro-choice. Terrell says Planned Parenthood did not get permission to use her name on the invitation. A spokesman for the group denies that claim. Wilson's name was not on the invitation, and she says it's because the group called and asked, and she refused.

Since qualifying for the Senate against incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu, Terrell has staked out a conservative "pro-life" stance on abortion. During the primary, she stated that she is "pro-life with exceptions," but later, while debating Landrieu on Meet the Press, she stated that she would support a constitutional amendment banning all abortions -- "no exceptions."

Did Terrell change her position to pick up Perkins' support?

No, she says.

In a statement issued after the NBC debate, Terrell said she would support a constitutional prohibition on abortion with exceptions for rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother. But, if the only issue before the Senate were a proposal to ban all abortions, no exceptions, she would vote for it.

Which would she prefer?

During the primary, when she was seeking the endorsement of Gambit Weekly, Terrell stated that she favors "exceptions" legislation -- and that a "no exceptions" abortion ban would never pass.

All of the paper's endorsement interviews are taped. Following is a transcript of that portion of Terrell's Oct. 22 interview:

Gambit: Where do you stand on abortion?

Terrell: I'm pro-life.

Gambit: Does that mean no exceptions?

Terrell: You know, I think that there is no way, if legislation is passed, you are ever going to pass a piece of legislation that bans all kinds of abortions. I think the best legislation you're going to get is an "exception" piece of legislation.

Gambit: Where do you stand? What kind of legislation would you support if you could write the bill?

Terrell: I would support exception legislation.

Gambit: What kind of exceptions?

Terrell: Rape, incest, life of the mother.

Terrell told me last week that her position on abortion has been consistent. She opposes it and would vote for any measure that restricts it. "We need to change the culture in our nation to one that respects life," she says. "My position has been consistent on that."

Don't expect the abortion issue to go away. It's one of the few that really separates the two candidates. Landrieu is pro-choice generally, but both women oppose late-term or "partial birth" abortions.

Terrell wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized many abortions, whereas Landrieu supports the decision. Terrell also told Gambit Weekly during her endorsement interview that she would oppose any Supreme Court nominee who favors Roe v. Wade.

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