The National Right to Life Political Action Committee Friday called Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, "the only pro-abortion member of the Utah congressional delegation" and endorsed his opponent, Republican Richard Snelgrove.
Owens called the allegation a "totally ridiculous, unfounded lie" brought up three days before the election "because abortion is the one issue where lies about my record might get some people worked up."Owens said he is against abortion except in the case of rape, incest or when there is serious threat to the health of the mother. He also said, "there isn't a speck of daylight between my record on this issue and that of other members of the delegation."
But the National Right to Life group is still upset that Owens voted on Sept. 9 against a House measure to insist that federal funding of abortion be prohibited except to save the life of the mother. That measure would not have allowed funding in the case of rape or incest - which Senate versions of the legislation had included.
Art Kingdom, Owens' press secretary, said according to newspaper stories at the time, Owens voted the same way on the issue as Utah's two Republican senators, Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch. But Reps. Howard Nielson and Jim Hansen, both R-Utah, voted opposite.
The Right to Life group said Snelgrove, like Owens, also prefers that rape and incest exceptions be included in legislation, but said he would still vote to pass pro-life legislation even when those exceptions are not included.
The Right to Life group is also upset with statements Owens made in an Oct. 23 televised debate. When Owens was asked, "Will you vote for a constitutional amendment that would restrict a woman's right to abortion?" Owens answered, "No."
The Right to Life group's legislative director, Douglas Johnson, said such actions show "Owens is the only pro-abortion member of the Utah congressional delegation. Mr. Snelgrove would vote like Sens. Hatch and Garn, and Congressmen Hansen and Nielson, who all have 100 percent career pro-life voting records."
Right to Life also said it is upset that Owens is a supporter of the proposed federal Equal Rights Amendment. Snelgrove has pledged not to support the ERA.
The Right to Life group distributed a 1987 letter that Owens wrote saying he supports the ERA. It read: "I believe that both male and female citizens should enjoy equally all civil, political and religious rights."
But Owens added in the letter, "If I come to believe that an equal rights amendment would result in the federal funding of abortion, I would not support it unless an amendment was added to protect against that possibility."