Jewish Republican activists worried by abortion proposal

At its winter meetings next week, the Republican Party will consider a proposal to cut off party funds to all candidates who do not support a ban on a late-term abortion procedure known to its opponents as "partial-birth abortion."

Fearing that all of their outreach efforts could come crashing down if the GOP adopts a new abortion litmus test, Jewish Republicans are working to defeat the proposal.

"This is a wrong precedent for the party to be setting," said Matt Brooks, executive director of the National Jewish Coalition.

"The party has always and continues to stand for a big tent for inclusiveness."

While the outcome of the vote is uncertain, national party leaders, including Jim Nicholson, chairman of the Republican National Committee, are also opposing the resolution.

Aware that the big tent philosophy could come into question if the party cuts off such moderates as Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House International Relations Committee; Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.); and New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, the National Jewish Coalition has sent a letter to all the members of the Republican National Committee urging them to oppose the measure.

All members of the Republican Jewish group are being asked to lobby their state party leaders against the proposal.

"This is bigger than abortion," said Brooks, whose group does not take a position on the issue.

"Our concern is one of a slippery slope. Are we going down the path of allowing the national committee to dictate who is worthy of support?"

Susan Cullman, a Jewish Republican who is president of the Republican Coalition for Choice, is also working against the proposal.

Not only does this resolution threaten the Republican majority more than any other issue, "it alienates sitting Republican legislators," she said in a statement.

Many members of Congress who support a ban on the late-term abortion procedure are not supporting the resolution.

A spokesman for Rep. Jon Fox (R-Pa.) said, "For the party to be successful in the long term, it must be inclusive of all points of view."

The party's resolutions committee plans to vote on the resolution Friday, Jan. 16. If it passes, all 168 members of the Republican National Committee will also vote that weekend.