WASHINGTON — PRESIDENT Clinton's selection of Henry Foster Jr. as United States surgeon general may be in jeopardy. Senate Republicans are raising concerns because the doctor has performed some abortions and supported Planned Parenthood.
``I want to support the president and we're certainly going to look at it, but there are some very troubling things concerning his nomination,'' says Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah.
``I do think it is in serious trouble,'' says Sen. Trent Lott (R) of Mississippi.
``Will it be in some difficulty? Yes,'' says Senate majority leader Bob Dole (R) of Kansas.
Dr. Foster, a Tennessee gynecologist-obstetrician who battled teen pregnancy in Nashville housing projects, was announced as Mr. Clinton's choice last Thursday. The next day, the White House revealed that he had performed fewer than a dozen abortions, mostly to save the mother's life or in cases of rape or incest. An unspecified number apparently were elective abortions.
Despite White House efforts to focus on the 10,000 babies Foster delivered and his work to promote abstinence among teenagers, conservatives and anti-abortion groups mounted a campaign against him. Some Republicans, including Senator Dole, criticize the White House for not telling them sooner that Foster performed some abortions.
``I'm ... troubled by the fact that we were not given that information before the nomination was sent up,'' Dole says.
Dole, who hopes to shore up support from GOP conservatives for the 1996 presidential race, says he had not decided whether to oppose the selection, which must be confirmed by the Senate.
White House officials say Clinton knew about the abortions before the selection and ``thinks Dr. Foster's enormously impressive history will stand him well in the confirmation process.''
Rep. Nita Lowey (D) of New York issued a statement in support of Foster, denouncing suggestions that having performed abortions should disqualify him. ``Anti-abortion politicians want to criminalize abortions and marginalize the doctors who perform them,'' she said. ``We will fight them every step of the way.''
Dole says he wants to review Foster's record carefully before passing judgment. ``My view is we shouldn't shoot down somebody before he's even had a hearing,'' he says.