No Wafer for Rudy

Giuliani campaigns as a Catholic, but he's on the outs with God

Remarkably, a decade later, as Giuliani prepared to run against Hillary Clinton, he again courted Long and Harding with the same impossible dream. If everything is fungible to Giuliani, he assumes that it should also be so to the rest of the world. He expected Long, whose nine children are the best evidence of his rigidly Catholic proclivities, to endorse him, even though NARAL believed that Giuliani might actually be better than Clinton on one element of the abortion issue: the question of parental consent requirements. Long asked only that Rudy drop his support of what the pro-life community calls "partial-birth abortion," but Giuliani — who was one of the only elected Republicans anywhere to back the late-term procedure—would not blink. Now he's blinking, winking, stuttering, and somersaulting.

Reiter, who was his campaign manager, deputy mayor, and prime abortion adviser over the years, was with Giuliani when he made up his mind about the "partial-birth" abortion issue. She says it took him less than 15 minutes. He was scheduled to appear at a NARAL meeting of the organization's top leaders and donors at the Harvard Club during the 1997 re-election campaign, and Reiter, who was running the campaign, was scheduled to brief him in a side-room with beverages well before the session began. He got there late, so she had to rush the briefing. "You're going to be asked about 'partial-birth' abortions," she remembers telling him. The longtime chair of the Liberal Party and a committed pro-choice voice, Reiter added that it was "a widely accepted medical procedure used only when the life or health of the woman is in jeopardy."

Reiter remembers Giuliani quickly agreeing, saying, "I'm fine with that."


Research assistance by: Benjamin Bright, Ben Greenberg, Alexandra Kahan, Jan Ransom, Ethan Strauss, Hannah Vahl, Tom Wiedeman

"Then you'll be fine with NARAL," Reiter said. He was so fine, in fact, that NARAL's Kelli Conlin recalls: "He was incredible with us. It was like he was talking to a group of his 30 closest friends. He was fully committed. He was talking about the life and health of the woman. He was a standard-bearer. It was exciting moments like that that sustained us in 2000, when we had to stand up to enormous pressure to endorse Hillary. He came across as such a principled person that we were saying in 2000, 'Oh, my—is he more pro-choice than she is?'"

Years later, Reiter found Giuliani's instant embrace of the controversial procedure perplexing, especially when he could have satisfied the group with a promise to study it and get back to them. "NARAL was thrilled with him," Reiter recalls, "but he was running away with the election anyway. If he had said, 'Sorry, Fran,' it wouldn't have mattered to his re-election. A lot of pro-choice Democrats were drawing the line on 'partial-birth.' He didn't have to go to that extreme." Reiter thought he did it "because he believed it," but thinks now that he's "betrayed" his previous positions, especially when he supported the recent Supreme Court decision barring the procedure except when the life of the woman is threatened. (He previously supported using the late-term procedure when the health of the mother might be affected if she gave birth.)

Giuliani made a similar last-minute pitch for the gay vote in 1997, agreeing to a domestic-partnership bill as far-reaching as San Francisco's on the eve of an election that he already had in the bag. Ethan Geto, a lobbyist for the Empire State Pride Agenda, recalls almost as quick and fulsome an embrace when this leading gay group flirted with the notion of endorsing Messinger just a couple of weeks before the election. The archdiocese denounced Giuliani's plan, calling it "contrary to moral natural law," but the mayor pushed it through the City Council soon after the election. Now Giuliani is also reversing himself on gay issues, rejecting any attempt to welcome gay men into the military until the war on terror endsa peculiar way for a man who was living with gay friends on September 11 to salute their worth as citizens. Though Reiter prefers to believe that Giuliani's former positions on reproductive rights and gay rights were expressions of the real Rudy, she acknowledges that he was fixated in 1997 on setting an all-time victory-margin record for a Republican in mayoral elections—a goal that Mike Bloomberg achieved, but Rudy Giuliani did not.

Conlin, who was named to Giuliani's transition committee and served for eight years on the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Appointments, says that "the church never, ever came up" in any of their discussions about abortion policies. Reiter has precisely the same memory, though she was with him in the 1989 campaign and helped him frame his multi-faceted position. "He didn't know what his view on choice was," she recalls, so she, Donna Hanover and a third adviser, Jennifer Raab, had many "thoughtful conversations" with him. Reiter says she wound up helping him draft a statement on abortion for the state Republican platform committee in 1990, which adopted the first pro-choice plank in the country, a pace-setter that was quickly mimicked by GOP platforms in a few other states. Conlin remembers going to City Hall to join Giuliani at a press conference celebrating the anniversary of Roe v. Wadeone of at least three times, press releases show, that he commemorated the decision.

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