NARAL President Kelli Conlin said she and the former Tennessee Congressman "went at it" during a meeting Tuesday morning at the organization's headquarters in Manhattan.
During the meeting, Ford asked Conlin not to characterize his positions as "anti choice." Ford claims to support a woman's right to abortion as guaranteed in Roe v. Wade, but NARAL objects to his Congressional vote for an unconditional ban on late term abortion and his support for parental notification.
Emerging from the meeting, Ford told reporters he thought the meeting was positive and insisted he is not a candidate yet.
Ever since Ford announced his interest in challenging Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in a Democratic primary this year, he's been struggling to explain his abortion position, including televised statements characterizing himself as "pro life." Ford insists he was referring to other issues including education when he referred to himself as "pro life," an attempt to "reclaim that issue" from the anti-choice activists.
Conlin called Ford's explanation "a stretch." For a moment, Conlin seemed to sympathize with Ford's dilemma, saying "It had to be tough running in Tennessee. But New York is not Tennessee."
Also, winning a Democratic primary in New York without NARAL's stamp of approval could be difficult for Ford. But Conlin said Ford "had no delusions of an endorsement" and did not ask for NARAL's support. NARAL already endorsed Sen. Gillibrand for reelection, and Conlin said Tuesday the organization "will aggressively let voters know about the differences between the candidates."
Conlin said unlike Ford, Kirsten Gillibrand has been "100 percent pro choice" and never wavered on the issue even when she was running in a tough, conservative upstate district.
In another swipe at Ford's evolving positions, Conlin said "I long for the days of Alfonse D'Amato," when the split among New York candidates was clear.Ford is clinging to high ratings he received from NARAL in the past. For instance in 2000, NARAL gave Ford a 75% rating. A NARAL spokeswoman said that was because the candidates were graded on other issues in addition to abortion rights.