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Pro-life stance unexpectedly gets time in Demo spotlight

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 15 2000 11:54 a.m. MDT

LOS ANGELES — Abortion rights are repeatedly cheered at Democratic conventions. But a Roman Catholic cardinal and a Utah legislator were unconventional Monday — denouncing abortion to national audiences.

It started when Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles opened the convention with a prayer that called for the protection of rights, including the rights of the unborn, which was a mild slam at the pro-choice stance of the Democratic Party.

When the C-SPAN cable TV network heard that was coming, it scrambled to try to find a Democratic delegate who also is anti-abortion to comment on such wording.

"They came here to the Utah section, figuring that if there were a place to find a delegate like that, this would be it," said state Rep. Trisha Beck, D-Sandy. She happened to be one of only two delegates there.

So C-SPAN gave her the proverbial 15 minutes of fame to denounce abortion.

"I oppose abortion. I would try to talk anyone I know out of having an abortion," she told the Deseret News after her national interview. But like the majority of Democrats, she prefers that government not be involved in that decision.

It's not just academic to her. She once personally faced the question. "When I was pregnant with my sixth child, I had three doctors tell me I would die if I did not have an abortion." Beck said she chose to carry the baby to term anyway, and everything turned out fine. "But it was tough trying to figure if it was fair to my other five children to possibly leave them without a mother."

She said she consulted her family and faith on the decision, "but the last place I would have gone is to the government."

She said she believes that many Democrats also oppose abortion except in such extreme cases as threatening the life of the mother — even though the party is often painted a strongly pro-abortion rights.

Republicans earlier this month contended that Democrats squelch any pro-life talk at their conventions.

As usual, however, Democrats had loud cheers Monday whenever a mention was made of the pro-choice record of Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman.

Beck's experience was one of numerous adventures for Utah delegates Monday and Tuesday:

RUNNING INTO DARTH VADER: It was akin to Luke Skywalker unexpectedly bumping into Darth Vader at a party.

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Orton ran into Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt at a brunch Monday for Utah and Nevada delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

Many figure Orton lost his House seat in 1996 because Babbitt and President Clinton kept him in the dark about their secretive creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Babbitt even falsely told Orton nothing was imminent, which Orton then told voters.

Days later, Clinton formed the monument and Utah voters, upset by the move, eventually took their wrath out on the only target available: Orton.

On Monday, Babbitt turned out to be the honored guest at the brunch, where he received a standing ovation. Two exceptions were the smiling-but-seated Orton and his wife.

The Deseret News asked if all was forgiven with Clinton and Babbitt over the monument affair. "No, all is not forgiven," said Orton, who still managed to smile when Babbitt shook the candidate's hand.

THE MAN UTAH REPUBLICANS LOVE TO HATE: Babbitt told the Deseret News that he knows many in Utah hate him because of the Grand Staircase-Escalante formation. "But I don't return that. I love Utah. It is a beautiful state."

Babbitt said he does not plan to continue as interior secretary if Al Gore wins but isn't yet ready to rule out that possibility. "I'd hate to have celebrations throughout the West break out too early," he joked. "But I think eight years is enough."

Babbitt told delegates that before Clinton and Gore took office, many argued that the only choices the West faced were either economic growth or protecting natural resources.

"That was a false choice," Babbitt said. "The future of the American West is having both."

DUNN WINS! ORTON WINS! Many say Orton and congressional candidate Donald Dunn have long-shot candidacies. But they showed they can beat long odds Monday when they — or family members — won long-shot drawings.

Dunn's mother, Rachelle, was the big winner at a brunch for the Utah and Nevada delegations hosted by the city of El Segundo at a training facility used by the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team.

She won an autographed shoe from Lakers star Shaquille O'Neil — a behemoth size 24 FF.

"That's just the first big victory for the Dunn family this year," said El Segundo Mayor Mike Gordon, predicting a victory for Rachelle's son in his race against Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah.

Rachelle Dunn, who is known not to be shy about asking for donations for her son's race, whispered something to Gordon. Then he announced, "She said she's going to pass around the shoe so you can hold it, and if you want to fill it with some money, that's fine."

Orton, meantime, won a T-shirt depicting a blue butterfly found in El Segundo, which he quickly gave to his wife. He said he hopes to continue the winning karma.

A BIG STINK: Utahn Sean Deiner was the first protester arrested at the Democratic convention on Sunday, just as he was the first arrested earlier in the month at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

"I'm two for two," he said.

Deiner, an animal rights activist, was arrested for dumping four tons of manure in front of the Wilshire Grand Hotel, a headquarters hotel for the Democratic National Committee.

"Meat stinks," he said.

Deiner was arrested while wearing a pig costume. "The police joked that I was being arrested for impersonating an officer."

Deiner, chief of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, attempted to also dump manure in Philadelphia, but police caught him before he could dump his manure.

He estimates he has been arrested five or six other times in the past year or so for similar activites, including blocking the exit with tons of manure at a South Carolina event where George W. Bush appeared earlier this year.

"We're trying to attract attention to the dangers of meat," Deiner said. "It causes more cancer than cigarettes."


E-mail: lee@desnews.com; bbjr@desnews.com

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