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Laura Bush's abortion comments 'personal views,' Fleischer says

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Laura Bush is interviewed in Washington on Friday  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Laura Bush, the wife of President-elect George W. Bush, said Friday she believes the country could do more to minimize the number of abortions, but also indicated she doesn't believe the 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortions should be overturned.

"No, I don't think it should be overturned," Mrs. Bush told NBC's "Today Show" when asked about the high court's decision, Roe vs. Wade.

Mrs. Bush did not respond in the interview when asked if a woman had a right to an abortion. Instead, she said the country should do "what we can to limit the number of abortions, to try to reduce the number of abortions in a lot of ways, and that is, by talking about responsibility with girls and boys, by teaching abstinence, having abstinence classes everywhere in schools and in churches and in Sunday school," she replied.

"I agree with my husband that we should try to reduce the number of abortions in our country by doing all those things," she said.

The Bush team refused to comment on the first lady-to-be's statements.

Ari Fleischer, Bush's designated press secretary, said he would not discuss the "personal views" of the president-elect's family.

During the presidential campaign, Bush did not push for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, even though he supports one except in cases of rape or incest, or to protect the life of the mother. Bush said he didn't believe there was enough public support for such a move.

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Mrs. Bush said the country should do "what we can to limit the number of abortions" but that Roe v. Wade shouldn't be overturned  

In January 2000, Bush said he thought that Roe vs. Wade "was a reach" and that it "overstepped constitutional bounds."

Noelia Rodriguez, Mrs. Bush's press secretary, said that Mrs. Bush's position on abortion is that there should be education on issues, such as abstinence and responsible behavior, to reduce the number of abortions, and only when pressed, did she answer the question on the landmark Roe vs. Wade ruling.

When asked if Mrs. Bush supports a woman's right to choose, Rodriguez said, "She already addressed the question."

"Everything Mrs. Bush wants said on this topic has been said," Rodriguez added.

Later Friday in an interview on CNN, Mrs. Bush said she intends to use her position as first lady to put a focus on education.

"I will take a high profile, at least a high interest, in education issues. I think education is the most important issue in our country," said Mrs. Bush, who earned her masters degree in library science and taught school from 1968-77.

Education is "the great equalizer," she said. "It's the one way that every single person has a chance to succeed."

Speaking with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Mrs. Bush said she never imagined when she married Bush that he would rise to the highest position in the land.

Not only that, but she said she "would have never guessed then that his dad would have become vice president or president."

"People use to say, Do you think George will get back into politics?' and I'd joke, 'Maybe when we're 50.' And as it turned out, we were pretty close to 50 when he ran for governor."

CNN White House Correspondent Kelly Wallace contributed to this report


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Friday, January 19, 2001

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