(Des Moines, IA) The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) has launched a new offensive against the front-runner in the republican presidential sweepstakes, a week before Texas Governor George W. Bush is set to make his first campaign trip to Iowa.

NARAL President Kate Michelman is in Iowa this weekend, meeting with supporters of abortion rights in hopes of organizing that block of voters. In addition, the group has put up a dozen billboards and is running a new slate of radio ads which criticize Bush, the presumptive favorite in the race for the Republican party’s presidential nomination.

“He has been attempting to downplay both the importance of a woman’s right to choose as a national issue in the upcoming elections and to downplay his own anti-choice views and positions,” Michelman said during an interview with Radio Iowa.

Bush opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s health is endangered by her pregnancy. He has, however, said “America is not ready to ban abortions.” That statement is drawing fire from both abortion opponents and NARAL.

“Candidates like George Bush, you have to think carefully, not in the abstract, but carefully about what his policy positions would result in. He believes that abortion should be made illegal, the majority of abortions,” said Michelman.

Michelman said while Bush has been Governor of Texas, he signed into law at least 13 abortion restrictions.

If Bush is elected, “we would be living in a country that, by and large, would have a policy of forced childbearing,” according to Michelman.

Michelman hopes to get abortion rights supporters to focus on their issue as the next President may decide the fate of Roe v. Wade (the decision which legalized abortion on demand) as the next President will probably appoint at least two new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Michelman admits voters who share her views are “less zealous” than opponents of abortion who’ve been vocal in Republican party politics, but Michelman points to Bill Clinton’s victories in ’92 and ’96 in which a “gender gap” could partially be attributed to the abortion issue.

Earlier this year, NARAL ran television commercials in Iowa, New Hampshire and California — the first three, major states in the presidential sweepstakes — which criticized both Bush and republican

presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole for “moderating” statements on the abortion issue.