With Dr. Henry Foster sitting at his side in a cramped low-income apartment, Vice President Al Gore said Monday the surgeon general nominee is a victim of anti-abortion activists trying to scuttle his confirmation.

"We are not going to let the extremists defeat this man," Gore said.Raising the stakes in the fight over Foster's appointment, Gore traveled to his home state of Tennessee to promote Foster's work with teenage pregnancy in Nashville's housing projects.

"There are people in this country who want to criminalize a woman's right to choose and they are now trying to make Dr. Foster a victim . . . in order to make an ideological political point and win on behalf of the extremists," he said.

Gore made the comments in a crowded 10-foot-by-12-foot apartment at a housing project converted for use by Foster's "I Have a Dream" program, which preaches abstinence and tries to build students' self-esteem and with a goal of reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies.

"This program has been wonderful to me, said Jason Gordon, a business major at Fisk University in Nashville.

"I was struggling. I really didn't have a future," Gordon said, crediting the tutoring he received with getting him out of high school and into college.

Striking back at critics who have seized on Foster's abortion record, Gore said, "Anybody who wants to see fewer abortions in this country ought to applaud the nomination of Dr. Henry Foster."

"He has devoted his life . . . to making abortion less necessary," he said.

But even as he spoke, White House press secretary Mike McCurry cautioned that, "As it now stands, we recognize we have our work cut out for us."

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Foster and Gore were joined by about 15 youths who participate in the program and local leaders in a question-and-answer session. Foster spoke proudly of his brainchild, saying, "The bedrock of the program . . . is preparation for the future."

The White House, battling opposition to Foster's abortion record, wants to shift the focus to the 10,000 babies he delivered and his efforts to reduce teenage pregnancy.

The unusual show of support is the latest in an aggressive set of moves to save the troubled nomination. While most nominees are held from public view until their confirmation hearings, Foster has defended himself in a George Washington University speech, a Washington Post article and a national television interview.

In Washington, McCurry said Monday that Foster would begin making courtesy calls to senators midweek.

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