Wednesday, August 13, 2008

mccain on reproduction

He's not very progressive. From The New Republic:

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...

When pressed to speak about them, he often evinces stunning ignorance, a fact that helps reassure the moderate middle that he could not possibly be as conservative as his record suggests. In early July, for example, a reporter raised the issue of whether it was "unfair" that insurance companies cover Viagra but not birth control. His response was painful to watch: "I certainly do not want to discuss that issue," he said immediately. She then asked about his votes against legislation requiring insurance plans to cover prescription birth control, legislation the anti-contraception right strongly opposed. He rubbed his mouth, rolled his eyes, flexed his fingers, crossed his arms, and more, before admitting, "I don't know enough about it to give you an informed answer." Finally, he told the reporter that he did not recall how he voted. "It's something that I had not thought much about," he added.

At another press conference, when a journalist asked him whether he thought contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV, he paused--for much too long--then answered, "You've stumped me." The reporter asked whether U.S. taxpayer money should fund contraception to prevent aids in Africa. "I'm not very wise on it," McCain said. What about grants for sex education? A long pause, then, "Ahhh. I think I support the president's policy." And, when the reporter pressed again, he finally said (after a reported twelve-second pause), "I've never gotten into these issues before"--an odd statement, given that he has voted on legislation related to all of them...

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-pregnancy prevention 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.

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