Once again, the media and even Democratic candidate Barack Obama, have failed to follow-up on McCain's stated opposition to abortion by questioning his equal opposition to contraception - the primary means to reduce the rate of abortion.
Nancy Keenan of NARAL Pro-Choice America cites at least 22 John McCain votes against women's access to family-planning services, including birth control. "During his twenty-five years in office, Sen. McCain has consistently voted to block low-income women's access to birth control, to deny our teens accurate information about birth control and condoms, to stop measures that would require insurance companies to cover birth control, and to prevent funds to an organization that provides family-planning services -- not abortion -- for the world's poorest women..."
McCain's voting record is solidly antichoice. His Web site states: "John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench." One of his three most important goals, he told the American Conservative Union, is to promote "a nation of traditional values that protects the rights of the unborn."
McCain voted in 2005 against a $100-million allocation for preventive health care services targeted at reducing unintended pregnancies; in 2006 he opposed funding for comprehensive, medically accurate sex education for teens. Instead, McCain has lined up behind Bush's ineffective abstinence-only education. When asked if contraception could help stop the spread of HIV, McCain said "You've stumped me."
McCain demured that he didn't know enough to comment on the fairness of health care plans covering Viagra and not contraception -- which can cost a woman up to $600 a year. McCain voted against just such a bill to require health plans to cover birth control the same as other prescription drugs. The great conceit of the right and John McCain is the denial that contraception is fundamental to women's health and lives. Note his cavalier disregard of pregnancy as an issue of women's health during the debate.
McCain supports the global "Gag Rule." It 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. Again, he is in denial about contraceptive access that can reduce the occurrence of abortion.
McCain's promise to "nominate strict constructionist judges" is ultraconservative code for adhering solely to the original Constitution, a test that is selectively applied by the right. The Ninth Amendment in fact preserves all rights existing at the time the Constitution was written. Abortion was not criminalized until 1869, and was accepted in the 1700s, when cook books commonly contained recipes for abortifacients.
Presumably McCain supports the Bush administration targeting of contraception under the pretense of opposing abortion? So-called "conscience clauses" are invoked by pharmacists and health care providers who refuse to fill contraceptive prescriptions or provide health care based on individual religious beliefs.
The Bush administration's Department of Health and Human Services is proposing a rule redefining the start of pregnancy from the point of conception, disregarding the medical definition of pregnancy as beginning with "the implantation of a fertilized egg." The rule would categorize as abortion any contraception (e.g., the pill, IUD, emergency contraception, contraceptive patch) that interferes with the implantation of a fertilized egg, thus outlawing most contraception.
The HHS proposal states, "[T]he conscience of the individual or institution should be paramount in determining what constitutes abortion..." Anyone would have the right to hold women's health care hostage to their beliefs.
The right's adamant opposition to contraception is testament to their larger extreme agenda. The 1965 Supreme Court decision Griswold v. Connecticut that upheld the right to access birth control as a privacy right has long been targeted by Pat Robertson et al: "I want to see it abolished," he said.
The anti-choice, anti-birth control American Life League in June launched a "Protest the Pill Day '08: The Pill Kills Babies." Anti-abortion activist Nellie Gray revealed the intent of the movement in the '80s with her insistence that "Contraception is murder because it prevents the sperm from meeting the egg." This is the fringe steering the Republican agenda, with total capitulation by Republican leaders like John McCain.
Women's autonomy is seriously challenged by the right. Yet, Democrats, including Barack Obama in the last debate, have evaded the obvious follow-up questions, instead listing as alternatives to abortion only adoption and sex education. What about birth control as a means to reduce the need for abortion, not to mention supporting women's right to control their reproductive lives and family size?