And so on Tuesday, congressional negotiators, locked in a battle over various allotments in a $14.9 billion spending bill, agreed to drop language banning family planning groups that receive federal funds from spending their own money to provide abortions or abortion education overseas. Perhaps more surprising, they also agreed to increase funding to American family-planning centers. The proposal must be approved by the House and Senate before it's sent to the White House.
So what's the catch? Well, none of the money can be used until February 15, when the next president will be firmly ensconced in the Oval Office.
For both sides of the issue, such a timeline raises the stakes for November 7: Congressional pro-life groups are banking on Bush, whose past comments on the subject indicate that he would probably reinstate the restrictions via executive order, while pro-choice advocates assume Gore would leave well enough alone and send the money on its way.
Of course, Tuesday's decision carries some risk for pro-life Republicans. However, they no doubt figured that holding up the budget on principle wasn't worth the political capital it would almost certainly cost them. It would, for instance, provide the perfect opening for Gore to once again bring up the likelihood that Bush who has maintained a studiously vague stance on the abortion issue would stock the Supreme Court with pro-life Justices.
And given that a majority of Americans support some form of abortion rights, Gore could pick up a few pre-election points by directing voters' attention to the terms of the GOP agreement, and suggesting an ominous outcome: If pro-life Republicans are so confident that Bush will blockade federal funding to family planning clinics at home and abroad, who knows what other plans the governor might have when it comes to abortion rights?