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EX-FIRST LADIES' CANDOR ON ABORTION DOWNPLAYED

Neither side of the abortion debate was impressed by the new candor of Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush, who now say they support a woman's right to choose abortion.

Each woman kept quiet on the issue while her husband was in the White House upholding the pro-life cause."When it counted, they never spoke up," Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said Wednesday.

Abortion foes say it's the policymakers who matter, and former first ladies' opinions don't carry much weight.

"I don't think anybody particularly cares what they say," said Phyllis Schlafly, who has led efforts to keep a strong pro-life plank in the Republican Party platform.

Barbara Bush was the first to broach the subject publicly. In her memoir published earlier this month, she wrote that while she had personal objections to abortion, she believed abortion should be legal for women who seek it.

That disclosure prompted an interviewer to ask Nancy Reagan on Tuesday night whether she also withheld a pro-choice view.

"I don't believe in abortion," Reagan answered. "On the other hand, I believe in a woman's choice.

"That puts me somewhere in the middle, but I don't know what to call that," she said.

Colleen Parro, executive director of Schlafly's Republican National Coalition for Life, said Nancy Reagan's statement was clearly pro-choice but reflected an "unclear, ambivalent, inconsistent position" suggesting she had not studied the issue.