A lot of people, myself included, were taken aback by McCain’s mockery of concern for the "health of the mother" as an "extreme pro-abortion position" in the debate the other night. But if McCain’s actual record on reproductive rights were more widely discussed in this election, his comment might not have come as such a big surprise.
Time and again, I’ve read opinion pieces — often written by progressive-leaning guys — expressing incredulity and disappointment at the right-wing nut McCain has demonstrated himself to be during this campaign. As John B. Judis wrote on The New Republic website, "He was, I thought, basically a moderate Republican (I never took his or Chuck Hagel’s positions on social issues seriously)."
It is long past time that we did. Over the years, McCain has muddied the waters a bit with conflicting statements that make him seem like less of an anti-choice firebrand than many Republicans. His voting history and interviews with close acquaintances, however, tell a story of a staunch foe of family planning and reproductive justice. I urge you to read this well-researched article by Sarah Blustain, also in The New Republic, about McCain’s anti-choice zealotry. I normally try to avoid quoting so copiously, but can’t resist including the following two excerpts:
In 1994, the year after abortion provider David Gunn was killed outside a Florida clinic, McCain voted with 29 members of the Senate against establishing penalties for violent or threatening interference outside abortion clinics. Many solidly pro-life Republicans–Mitch McConnell, Kit Bond, John Danforth–voted in favor of the bill, called the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE). "We tried to get as many co-sponsors as we could, and we postured the thing as anti-vigilante violence," recalls Judy Appelbaum, a Washington lawyer who was counsel to Senator Edward Kennedy at the time and the lead Hill staffer on the bill… "There were a number of very anti-choice senators who voted for FACE," she says, "and [McCain] wasn’t one of them." Instead, McCain joined senators like Orrin Hatch and Jesse Helms in opposition.
And from a close colleague of McCain’s:
Like many voters today, Woods said he "wondered about the depth of [McCain’s] commitment to that position initially because I had the impression that it wasn’t something that he’d given a lot of thought to. " But, over the years, he continued, "I was completely convinced that this was a very sincere position that he had thought through and arrived at." Woods recalled a number of conversations with McCain, including one "up in the mountains late at night," in which the lawyer suggested that reasonable minds could differ. "When we really explored it, it really came down [for] him to a sanctity-of-life question. … He did get very emotional one time we talked about it. He truly believed."
There’s a lot more good stuff in the article, so again, pop a cold one, sit down, and read the whole thing.
I’ve found it ironic and not a little strange that anti-choice activists have only rallied behind McCain since his selection of Sarah Palin for VP. I have little doubt that he would appoint another Roberts or Alito to the Supreme Court (or possibly several), which would be the death knell not only for Roe, but for all sorts of civil liberties we often take for granted.
[BONUS HUMOR LINK: Palin as President]