HOUSTON – In a shift of tactics, Republican presidential contender Rudolph Giuliani acknowledged his liberal views Friday, calling a woman’s right to choose an abortion one of his “core beliefs.”
After a week of criticism for making contradictory comments about abortion, Giuliani also said he backs gay domestic partnerships that aren’t marriage and the right of states to restrict guns.
Giuliani, a New York Catholic who once considered the priesthood, chose to make his stand before a conservative, Protestant audience at Houston Baptist University in an appearance arranged on Wednesday.
His embrace of abortion, which dramatically sets him apart from his Republican rivals, represents a political gamble that his campaign felt he had to take since his liberal views as New York City mayor in the 1990s give him little room to maneuver.
“I believe abortion is wrong,” he said. But out of respect for other people’s fervent support of abortion, he said, “I would grant to women the right to make that choice.”
Giuliani said his views have evolved, but those two “core beliefs” always have and always will guide him.
“It means I am open to considering ways to limit abortion,” he said. “It means I’m open to seeking ways to reduce the number of abortions.”
Specifically, he said he supports the 2003 federal law banning late-term abortions, which was recently upheld by the Supreme Court, and the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funding for abortions.
Yet Giuliani also sought to downplay his differences with conservatives, calling social issues secondary to what he described as the two “overriding” issues in the presidential race.
“We have to be on the offense against terrorism,” he said. “And we have to be on the offense to preserve our private economy.”
Giuliani pleaded for Republicans to adopt a “big tent” approach, permitting differing views on less important issues.
And he appealed to the audience to judge him for his overall record, especially as a leader and as a fiscal conservative, and not on a single issue.
Giuliani also asserted that his views on gay rights and gun control are not that different from conservatives.
He said he supported civil unions but believed that marriage is reserved for the union of a man and a woman.
While he conceded he strictly applied gun laws in New York as mayor, he stressed that he had applied all laws strictly. And he praised a recent appellate court decision interpreting the Second Amendment to guarantee an individual’s right to own a gun.