Francis J. Pordum, the Right to Life Party candidate for Assembly in 1984, is now the pro-choice candidate for Congress in New York's 30th District.
In fact, Pordum -- a moderate Democrat whom local abortion-rights advocates regarded as a foe until this year -- even said he opposes the controversial ban on "partial-birth" abortions that Congress approved and President Clinton vetoed earlier this year.
Pordum's change of heart means that voters driven solely by the abortion issue have a clear choice in this race next month. The incumbent, Republican Rep. Jack F. Quinn of Hamburg, has consistently opposed legalized abortion and continues to do so.
There's also a stark contrast on the abortion issue in the 27th Congressional District race, which pits Rep. Bill Paxon, R-Amherst, against Democratic labor leader Thomas M. Fricano. Paxon opposes abortion, while Fricano favors abortion rights.
In contrast, both Rep. John J. LaFalce, D-Town of Tonawanda, and his Republican opponent, David Callard, oppose abortion. And Rep. Amory Houghton Jr., R-Corning, and Democratic opponent Bruce MacBain are pro-choice.
Fricano supports abortion rights, though in practically every discussion of the subject, he acknowledges the difficulty of his position.
"I'm a Roman Catholic, and I believe in my faith and its teachings," he says of the church's anti-abortion stand. "If the world were a perfect place, abortion would not be necessary. But I view it as a decision a woman has to make between herself, her conscience, her God and her doctor."
Fricano also said he agrees with President Clinton's decision to veto a ban on partial-birth abortions, performed in late term pregnancy.
Paxon, a consistent pro-life candidate, scores Fricano on that one. He
calls the partial birth abortion procedure an extreme measure.
"Eighty-two percent (according to one poll) of Americans oppose partial-birth abortions," Paxon said. "That's a most extreme measure. Most pro-choice members of Congress, including my wife (Rep. Susan Molinari, R-Staten Island) oppose partial-birth abortions."
Pordum could not be reached to comment Thursday on why he changed his stance on abortion, but in a statement, the recently divorced candidate said: "As a single parent with a now-grown daughter, I believe a woman should be allowed to make her own decisions regarding her future without the government being involved."
For Pordum, that is a big turnaround. In 1984, Pordum, an assemblyman first elected in 1982, received the endorsement of the Right to Life Party, which opposes abortion in all circumstances. And as late as 1989, Pordum told The Buffalo News that he and many colleagues opposed abortion.
"Although we are Democrats in our feelings for social issues, I think we're more conservative on moral issues," Pordum said then.
Now, Pordum says that he supports notification of parents whose teen-age daughters are seeking abortions but that otherwise he strongly favors abortion access.
In an interview last week, he said he is against banning late-term abortions because, "I think that that's a medical type of decision. If the life of the woman is in danger, that should be the doctor's decision."
For years, Pordum voted against state funding of abortions for poor women, but now he favors federal funding for those abortions. He also said he favors federal legislation codifying Roe vs. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion.
Pordum's switch surprised activists on both sides of the issue.
"He has made a turnaround, for whatever reason," said Helen Dalley, treasurer of the Pro-Choice Network of Western New York, who was one of several activists who recently met with Pordum. "Maybe he's been enlightened . . . Politicians are finally beginning to know that women don't like this idea that they can't be trusted."
Joseph J. McLaughlin, chairman of the Erie County Right to Life Party, said Pordum's change is "typical of many politicians who will be for or against abortion and then when their futures are at stake, they'll switch."
Pordum and Quinn have one thing in common on the abortion issue. Neither wants to call attention to his views.
Asked whether he wanted to be endorsed by the Pro-Choice Network's political action committee, Pordum said no.
Quinn, who ran on the Right to Life line while serving as Hamburg town supervisor, doesn't do so now, saying: "We're comfortable with the ballot lines that we have."