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Palin heightens rhetoric on abortion

  • Story Highlights
  • Sarah Palin, Barack Obama both campaign Saturday in Pennsylvania
  • Palin hammers Obama on the abortion issue in Johnstown
  • Obama acknowledges McCain's efforts to "tone down the rhetoric"
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JOHNSTOWN, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin charged into the culture wars Saturday in Pennsylvania, painting Sen. Barack Obama as a radical on abortion rights.

The stop comes amid news that Palin violated Alaska ethics law by trying to get her former brother-in-law fired from the state police, a state investigator's report for the bipartisan Legislative Council concluded Friday.

Ethics woes aside, Palin focused her attention on abortion -- an issue that rallies the conservative base but some say alienates independent and women voters.

"In times like these with wars and financial crisis, I know that it may be easy to forget even as deep and abiding a concern as the right to life, and it seems that our opponent kind of hopes you will forget that," Palin told a crowd in Johnstown. "He hopes that you won't notice how radical, absolutely radical his idea is on this, and his record is, until it's too late."

Palin has mostly avoided raising her opposition to abortion rights on the campaign trail since she was tapped as Sen. John McCain's running mate, a fact she readily acknowledged in her remarks. Video Watch more of Palin's views on abortion »

But Palin said Obama's record on the matter is too extreme to be ignored, and she spent 10 minutes of her 30-minute speech discussing abortion.

"A vote for Barack Obama is a vote for activist courts that will continue to smother the open and democratic debate that we deserve and that we need on this issue of life," she said. "Obama is a politician who has long since left behind even the middle ground on the issue of life."

Obama opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade and disagreed with Supreme Court ruling to uphold the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act." He did not cast a vote on Prohibiting Funds for Groups that Perform Abortions amendment in 2007.

Palin opposes abortion in all cases, including rape and incest, except when a mother's life is in danger, and said she believes Roe v. Wade should be overturned and the decision given to the states.

McCain voted for the Prohibit Partial Birth Abortion bill in 2003 and "yes" for Prohibiting Funds for Groups that Perform Abortions amendment in 2007. He believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and also supports the Supreme Court ruling upholding the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act.

Palin also talked about a remark Obama made about sex education while campaigning in Johnstown in March, when he told a voter he didn't want his daughters "punished with a baby" or "punished with an STD" if they were not educated about sex and made a mistake.

"So I listened when our opponent defended his unconditional support for unlimited abortions and he said he said that a woman shouldn't have to be 'Punished with a baby,' " Palin said as the audience jeered at Obama. "Ladies and gentlemen, he said that right here in Johnstown. 'Punished with a baby.' It's about time we called him on it."

Obama is also in Pennsylvania Saturday -- campaigning in the heavily Democratic city of Philadelphia.

During his four-stop swing around the city, Obama acknowledged McCain's efforts to "tone down the rhetoric" on the campaign trail.

"I appreciated his reminder that we can disagree while still being respectful of each other. I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- Sen. McCain has served this country with honor, and he deserves our thanks for that," Obama told an early morning crowd assembled in the northern part of the city. Video Watch more of Obama's comments »

Ever since last weekend, when Palin first accused Obama of "palling around with a terrorist," referring to 1960s radical William Ayers, rowdy crowds have called Obama a liar, terrorist and worse.

At an event Friday in Lakeville, Minnesota, McCain referred to Obama as a "decent person" and praised him as a "family man" after two voters expressed fear over Obama being elected. Video Watch McCain tell voters not to be afraid of Obama »

But the Arizona senator was met by a sea of boos when asking the crowd to be more respectful toward Obama.

When the crowd began to boo, McCain told them "No, no. I want everyone to be respectful."

Obama later dispensed with polite talk and pivoted to his main campaign trail argument that McCain is out of touch on the economy.


"Sen. McCain's campaign manager actually said that Sen. McCain wasn't talking about the market because there's just not much a candidate for president can say -- and they aren't sure what he'd say each day even if he did talk about it," Obama said.

"But here's the thing Philadelphia. They can run misleading ads, and pursue the politics of anything goes, they can try to change the subject. They can do that what they want to do because the American people understand what's going on -- but it's not going to work. Not this time."

CNN's Peter Hamby, Ed Hornick and Sasha Johnson contributed to this report.

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