Why McCain should worry women
By Robyn E. Blumner, Times Columnist
Published March 9, 2008
Sen. John McCain wants people to know that he is a true conservative. The right flank of his party, particularly blowhards like Rush Limbaugh, want to paint McCain as a closet pinko because he only has an 82 percent rating with the American Conservative Union. But McCain insists that his conservative credentials speak for themselves.
Believe him. They do.
What scares me most about McCain, beyond our 100-year presence in Iraq, his itchy trigger finger relative to other foes, and his enthusiasm for tax cuts for the rich, is his fiercely conservative record on women's reproductive freedom. Here, there is no moderate McCain or reach-across-the-aisle McCain. On issues related to abortion and even birth control and sex education, McCain is as ideological as any Operation Rescue activist crawling around in front of an abortion clinic.
You want to know what's coming with a McCain presidency? How about the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. I'm not kidding. The latest case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court on abortion made it clear that the two newest justices, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, will vote for substantial incursions into abortion rights, if not their outright elimination. It turns out that Roe isn't a "super-duper" precedent after all. It's now hanging by the thread of 87-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens' continued vitality.
The next president will be the decider on whether women's emancipation from the slavery of the womb will continue in this country. We are on the cusp of losing the right to control our bodies and determine our family size. McCain promises as much.
Due to McCain's reputation as a maverick, many voters seem to attach more moderate abortion views to him. In Florida's primary, for example, 45 percent of those Republicans who said abortion should be legal voted for McCain. Whereas the prochoice Rudy Giuliani won over only 19 percent of the prochoice Republican vote.
But McCain's voting record is solidly antichoice. He said directly in South Carolina that Roe "should be overturned" and strongly reiterates that position on his campaign Web site. He told the American Conservative Union that one of the three most important goals that he wants to achieve as president is to promote "a nation of traditional values that protects the rights of the unborn."
In accordance with these views, McCain promises to "nominate strict constructionist judges," which is code for "will overturn Roe if given half a chance."
McCain also supports the global gag rule - probably the most backward foreign policy initiative since the importation of slaves. This is the policy that bars foreign family planning organizations from receiving U.S. funds if the group in any way advises clients on abortion as an option or advocates for legal abortion - even when using their own funds. We know that population control and family planning is the only way for Third World nations to advance, yet the United States and its antiabortion zealots have put a foot on the neck of the most effective groups.
An intelligent person might think that someone as rabidly antiabortion as McCain would be backing approaches to prevent unwanted pregnancies, thereby, ipso facto, fewer abortions. Well, think again.
McCain is an antagonist of sensible family planning and effective sex education. In 2005, he voted "no" on a $100-million allocation for preventive health care services targeted at reducing unintended pregnancies, particularly teen pregnancies. In 2006, he voted against funding for comprehensive, medically accurate sex education for teens.
McCain is much more comfortable with President Bush's wasteful and utterly ineffective abstinence-only approach.
The New York Times Web site reported the following exchange with a reporter in Iowa in March 2007:
Q: "What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush's policy, which is just abstinence?"
McCain: (Long pause) "Ahhh. I think I support the president's policy."
Q: "So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?"
McCain: (Long pause) "You've stumped me."
Do you really have to say such idiotic things to win the Republican nomination? It is an incontrovertible fact that the use of a condom will help interfere with HIV transmission. But I guess McCain sees it as a fact too liberal to acknowledge. Jeesh.
Now that the senator from Arizona has locked up the Republican nomination, he may be spending less time asserting his conservative bona fides and more time focusing on his occasional bipartisanship. This appeal will help to blur his record. Yet any voter who worries about government dictating to women what they can do with their bodies needs to understand the danger that McCain poses. Roe can't survive another president like Bush, and McCain is promising to be just like him.