Monday, August 11, 2008

A Matter of Choice

John McCain isn’t pro-choice. He may have made noises like he was, hedging on overturning Roe v. Wade and being against the constitutional amendment banning abortion… or at least he’s been that in the past; no telling where he stands on it this week… but rest assured that if he is elected, he will be a True Believer, and it won’t be the flavor of the week.

The right has been twisted in knots for years over whether McCain respects “life” enough to earn its support. And, among Democrats and pro-choicers, the confusion is even greater. Poll after poll shows them unclear on McCain’s positions. Planned Parenthood’s president Cecile Richards says that, even after McCain secured the Republican nomination this year, long-time Planned Parenthood supporters she met with didn’t know the candidate’s position on Roe v. Wade. McCain’s maverick reputation and his calculated political meanderings on choice add up to one thing: The public thinks McCain just might be a moderate on abortion.

The fact that he’s not could matter a great deal in the election. According to one poll, about half of all women voters backing McCain said they were pro-choice, including 36 percent who say they strongly support Roe. More importantly, these women voters think that McCain might agree with them on abortion. The same research found that “more than seven in ten pro-choice McCain supporters … have yet to learn that McCain’s position on abortion is directly at odds with their own.” And the issue is not that they don’t care. One June poll found that, when Democratic women voters in twelve battleground states learned McCain’s position on abortion, Obama gained twelve points among them.

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.”

So, if you were a Hillary Clinton supporter and think that you’d rather vote for John McCain rather than Barack Obama, consider the matter of choice before you make your choice.