This one didn’t get reported much; I happened upon it while reading the full transcript of the Republican debate.  In contrast to Giuliani’s hugely controversial support for public funding for abortions — visible in these two YouTube videos both from 1989 and from just a month ago on Aprl 4th — he abruptly reversed course in the G.O.P. debate last week.

In this first video, from 1989, Giuliani supports “public funding for abortions for poor women” so that no one is denied resources to make the abortion decision.  Although he seems to speak in a global sense, he does not specify location and, as a New York politician, he could well have been referring only to New York law.

The second statement is much more explicit.  “If it’s a constitutional right, even if you do it on a state by state basis, you have to make sure people are protected.”  He seems to be saying that maybe states might have to pay for it instead of the federal government, but that a national constitutional right must be protected everywhere.

In last week’s debate, however, Giuliani completely flipped and shifted more towards his “states’ rights” position of electing strict constructionists and letting the chips fall as they may.  He evokes the Hyde Amendment, the 1976 law forbidding federal funding for abortions.  From The New York Times:

‘Mr. MATTHEWS: Why do you support the use of public funds for abortion?

MR. GIULIANI: I don’t. I support the Hyde amendment. I hate abortion. I wish people didn’t have abortions.

MR. MATTHEWS: So you’re not for funding at all?

MR. GIULIANI: I believe that the Hyde amendment should remain the law. States should make their decision. Some states decide to do it, most states decide not to do it. And I think that’s the appropriate way to have this decided.

MR. MATTHEWS: Should New York — when you were mayor of New York, should they have been paying for — the state should have been paying for —

MR. GIULIANI: That’s a decision New York made a long time ago, and New York —

MR. MATTHEWS: And where were you on that?

MR. GIULIANI: I supported it in New York. But I think in other places, people can come to a different decision.’

In contrast to April 4th, when he supported protecting the constitutional right to abortion for all women, he now explicitly mandates that funding be available on a state by state basis.

The question for the race is whether shifts like this will undermine Giuliani’s reputation as a strong and independent-minded leader, especially after the new revelations that he gave money to Planned Parenthood in the 1990s.  And will his new rhetoric reframing his moderate record offset the erosion in support that could result from such besmirchment of his image?

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