Abortion-rights group backs Townsend

Sun Staff

BETHESDA -- Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend received an endorsement in her bid for governor from a leading abortion-rights group during a cocktail reception yesterday in Montgomery County.

Nancy C. Lineman, executive director of the Maryland affiliate of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League(NARAL), said she expects abortion rights and other women's issues to play a critical role in this year's race for governor.

Townsend "has been a consistent supporter of ours," Lineman said. "We can trust her to trust women."

About 150 politicians and activists attended the reception at the Barking Dog restaurant, including Townsend's cousin, Del. Mark K. Shriver, and Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., who are seeking the Democratic nomination in the 8th Congressional District.

Townsend's likely general election opponent, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Baltimore County, says he favors abortion rights. His ascent in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, he says, has been stymied by his views on the issue.

But Lineman and other activists accuse Ehrlich of trying to mask his record and say he has frequently voted against bills NARAL backs.

Among other votes, the group points to Ehrlich's rejection of a plan to allow the District of Columbia to use its money to pay for abortions for Medicaid-eligible women in 1998. In the same year, he voted in favor of allowing federal employees' health benefits to cover prescriptions for contraceptive drugs and devices.

Last night's event sought to raise $13,000 for the group's political action committee, to be distributed to candidates statewide.

Townsend's abortion views had garnered her financial support earlier. In the past year, she has received thousands of out-of-state dollars after receiving the backing of EMILY's List, a Washington-based advocacy group billing itself as a political network for Democratic women favoring abortion rights. The group, whose acronym stands for Early Money is Like Yeast, sent out a national mailing publicizing Townsend's candidacy.

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