Howard Dean: The Most Pro-Abortion Presidential Candidate?

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 13, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Howard Dean: The Most Pro-Abortion Presidential Candidate?

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 13, 2003

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of profiles on the Democratic presidential candidates.

Washington, DC ( — The Democratic candidates for president are playing a game of one-upmanship in their attempt to gain support form abortion advocacy groups. But former Vermont Governor Howard Dean has a claim to fame none of the others can match: he’s worked at Planned Parenthood.

The physician-turned-politician did a stint at Planned Parenthood while working to become an internist, Mary Hahn Beerworth, director of Vermont Right to Life, tells However, the rotation wasn’t required by his medical student program.

"While he has said that he fully understands the procedures involved in an abortion, he also says he has never performed one – which leads to the question, why not," Beerworth asked.

What is known, however, is that he also served on the board of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England for five years before becoming governor.

As governor, Dean towed the party line on parental notification and opposed letting parents know about their minor daughters having an abortion so they could help them make a better choice.

However, in an embarrassing moment for Dean earlier this year, he was caught exaggerating one story in an attempt to talk down the need for notification. During his speech to the annual NARAL dinner this January, Dean related a story about his days as a doctor:

“As many of you know I’m a doctor. I’m an internist, and I take care of all ages…one time a young lady came into my office who was 12 years old and she thought she might be pregnant. And we did the tests and did the exam and she was pregnant. She didn’t know what to do. And after I had talked to her for a while I came to the conclusion that the likely father of her child was her own father. You explain that to the American people who think that parental notification is a good idea.”

Dean’s problem? The story is false.

In an appearance on MSNBC’s "Meet the Press" on June 22nd, host Tim Russert confronted Dean with the falsehood.

Russert: There’s this article in USA Today: “Dean told a powerful story but left out a key fact. What Dean didn’t say was that he knew the father was not responsible, someone else was convicted.” That’s a pretty big omission.
Dean: I don’t think it’s — omission. A pretty big omission, you mean?
Russert: Yeah. That’s a pretty — to say that…
Dean: I don’t think it is at all.
Russert: To suggest her father may have been…
Dean: I thought it was. At the time, I thought it was.
Russert: But when you told that story, you knew otherwise.
Dean: That’s right.
Russert: Why didn’t you say that?
Dean: Because it didn’t make any difference.

Joanne Ciulla, a leadership and ethics professor at the University of Richmond, says Dean gave "the appearance of lying because he didn’t reveal all the information."

Pro-life groups say Dean’s focus in the situation should have been less on getting an abortion for the girl without her parents knowledge and more on reporting the potential incest to police so it could be investigated.

In fact, Dean not only apparently failed to report the incident to authorities, he admitted in a February 2001 interview, he didn’t know the law required such a report.

Dean received his medical license in 1979 and, in 1982, a Vermont state law went into effect requiring mandatory reporting of child abuse.

In the interview on the "Mark Johnson Show" on WDEV in Burlington, Vermont, Dean was asked why he didn’t report the incident to authorities.

"I don’t know. I mean I don’t know if I do or not…those laws were passed long after I left medical practice as far as I know…..I am not even sure if doctors are covered for those kinds of instances," Dean said. "Well, maybe I did, maybe I broke the law, I don’t have any idea."

Yet, in a, Dean told Tim Russert in the same June 2003 interview, "Of course we reported the whole situation."

Meanwhile, Dean was such a strong advocate for abortion as Vermont’s governor that he proposed making abortions cheap and readily available.

"As Governor, Dean’s universal health care proposal included $5.00 abortions for everybody," Beerworth said.

During his tenure, the state of Vermont allowed partial-birth abortions to be performed and even allowed non-doctors to do abortions.

Vermont law was so permissive on abortion that it propelled the state to the top of the list for abortion rates. According to CDC statistics, Vermont had one of the highest abortion rates in the nation. In 1992, during the second year of Dean’s term, it had 359 abortions for every 1000 live births.

The evidence seemingly makes it clear that Howard Dean is perhaps the most pro-abortion candidate running for president in 2004.

"Howard Dean is pro-abortion, has always been a pro-abortion activist and he takes the extreme position that there is not an unborn child, at any stage of pregnancy, that merits legal protection," Beerworth concluded.

Related links:

USA Today on Howard Dean’s Story —
Transcript of Interview With Tim Russert –
Mark Johnson Show Interview –