John McCain: Pro-Life Zealot

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That’s the tagline of this New Republic article analyzing McCain’s stance on abortion and reproductive rights issues. The point of the article is that McCain, in furtherance of his deceptive “maverick” title, likes to obscure just how conservative he is on these issues. The article is an important one to read.

McCain’s views may matter especially to Hillary Clinton supporters, many of whom are pro-choice; according to syndicated columnist Froma Harrop, “[T]hey’ll want to know this: Would McCain stock the Supreme Court with foes of Roe v. Wade?” But, she writes, “The answer is unclear but probably ‘no.’ While McCain has positioned himself as ‘pro-life’ during this campaign, his statements over the years show considerable latitude on the issue.”

That, however, is simply not true. There is no “latitude” in McCain’s position on abortion. Interviews with dozens of people who have dealt with him on the issue–pro-choice and pro-life activists, Hill staffers, McCain confidants, pollsters, and staffers–along with a two-and-a-half-decade-long perfectly anti-abortion voting record, make that clear. And his record on related issues, like contraception, is no better. “I think it is outrageous that people give him a pass, as they gave George W. Bush a pass,” reflects Feldt. “John McCain will be that and worse.”

That voting record referred to is just awful:

During his political career, McCain has participated in 130 reproductive health-related votes on Capitol Hill; of these, he voted with the anti-abortion camp in 125. McCain has consistently backed rights for the unborn, voting to cover fetuses under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and supporting the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which allowed a “child in utero” to be recognized as a legal victim of a crime. He has voted in favor of the global gag rule, which prevents U.S. funds from going to international family-planning clinics that use their own money to perform abortions, offer information about abortion, or take a pro-choice stand.


McCain may or may not truly understand the broader definition of “pro-life,” which these days also includes opposition to traditional and emergency contraception, family-planning, euthanasia, and related federal funding both here and abroad. (Playing the bumbling fool and satisfying no one is certainly an easier escape than trying to satisfy all.) But, as on abortion, both data and anecdote show there is little latitude in his positions. He has voted to end the Title X family-planning program, which pays for everything from birth control to breast cancer screenings and which is a target for the right because the recipients of these dollars also tend to be clinics that offer contraception to unwed and underage women and that offer abortions. He has backed largely discredited abstinence-only education, voting in 1996 to take $75 million from the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant to establish such a program; ten years later, he voted against teen-pregnancyprevention programs. He has supported parental notification laws governing not only abortion but contraception for teens, and, though he didn’t want to talk to the press about it, he’s voted against requiring insurance companies to cover birth control. In international family affairs, McCain has voted not only in favor of the global gag rule, but also to defund the United Nations group that provides family-planning services (not abortions) for poor women, and to spend a third of overseas HIV/AIDS prevention funds on abstinence education.

Yup, pro-life zealot is pretty accurate.

– David S. Cohen

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0 Responses to John McCain: Pro-Life Zealot

  1. David- Thanks for posting this. Everyone needs the facts about this very important issue.

  2. Francine Lipman says:

    I believe/hope that Senator McCain’s selection of Governor Palin makes his commitment to an anti-choice platform more transparent. On a somewhat related note, I have always been a bit astonished at the incredible magnitude of resources allocated to protecting embryos versus children. And the seeming abandonment of protections (e.g., basic shelter and food) and rights (to quality primary and secondary education and health care) and reduction of commited resources once the embryo leaves the womb. . .