16 August, 2008

The Candidates and Abortion

This is the twentieth post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.

This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) plans regarding abortion.

Perhaps no topic is quite so divisive in our country as abortion. I'm not even sure that the gun rights debate has the level of heat and fire as in the debate over abortion. And Democrats have been using this topic to scare voters since 1973. "They're going to try to overturn Roe v. Wade!". You're guaranteed to hear that at some point during every election cycle.

Roe v. Wade is never going to be overturned. Stop being scared about that. Abortion rights may be reigned in a bit from time to time, but they're here to stay, just like gun rights.

But, I digress. The topic here is not stare decisis nor "settled law". It's the candidates and their views on abortion rights.

Let's start with Obama.

Obama is probably the closest thing there is to an "all abortion, all the time" candidate. He is a co-sponsor of the Freedom of Choice Act. It's hard to find any information about this bill that's not bursting with hyperbole and extremism, but what it aims to do is this:

The promoters of the FOCA sometimes claim that its purpose is to "codify Roe v. Wade," the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on demand. But the key binding provisions of the bill would go further than Roe, invalidating all of the major types of pro-life laws that have been upheld by the Supreme Court in the decades since Roe.

In fairness to Obama, the bill has quite the list of co-sponsors including Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT).

Obama has said that he would make signing that bill one of his first priorities in his administration.

"The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act," he said.

Obama supports partial-birth abortion:

On an issue like partial birth abortion, I strongly believe that the state can properly restrict late-term abortions. I have said so repeatedly. All I've said is we should have a provision to protect the health of the mother, and many of the bills that came before me didn't have that.

The quote is interesting. Despite his words, I can find no instance of him ever voting for a bill restricting partial-birth abortion.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has a perfect lifetime rating from NARAL. If possible, Obama's position is to the left of hers on this issue.

He believed that the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act somehow undermined Roe v. Wade.

The difference between the state and federal versions, Obama explained, was that the state measure lacked the federal language clarifying that the act would not be used to undermine Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court opinion that legalized abortion.

Note that NARAL didn't oppose this bill, and yet Obama did.

Well, I think that about covers Obama. Let's look at McCain.

McCain supports abortion in cases of rape and incest and feels that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. He has often been represented as pro-choice, but does not appear to be so:

Many Republican voters, however, seem to believe, incorrectly, that the current Republican front-runner, Arizona Sen. John McCain, supports abortion rights, too.

The misperception is interesting, considering that McCain has not attempted to keep his pro-life views a secret. Here's how he put it on an appearance last year on NBC's Meet the Press:

"I have stated time after time after time that Roe v Wade was a bad decision, that I support a woman — the rights of the unborn — that I have fought for human rights and human dignity throughout my entire political career.

He has a similar answer to how he'd handle his daughter wanting one to mine:

KEYES [to McCain]: What you would say if your daughter was ever in a position where she might need an abortion? You answered [earlier today] that the choice would be up to her and then that you’d have a family conference.

I can't find anything on McCain and the Freedom of Choice Act, but it's hard to believe he'd do anything other than veto it.

I did find at least one instance where he voted for a pro-choice bill.


Obama: A+. If there was a grade higher than A+, Obama would get it. This is the first A+ I've given either candidate and I can't see how he could possibly receive any other grade.

McCain: D. He gets a D because of his exclusions for rape and incest and his statement that he'd let his daughter make the decision, and that he has voted for pro-choice bills. Without those three he'd get an F.

Results so far:

Obama McCain
First Amendment* F
Second Amendment D- C-
Third Amendment B B
Fourth Amendment D+ D+
Fifth Amendment D+ B-
Sixth Amendment B B
Seventh Amendment C C
Eighth Amendment C B
Eleventh Amendment B+ B-
Thirteenth Amendment D+ B+
Fourteenth Amendment D+ C+
Fifteenth Amendment B B
Nineteenth Amendment B B
Twenty-First Amendment A- A-
Twenty-Third Amendment A- B
Twenty-Fourth Amendment B B
Twenty-Sixth Amendment B B
Taxes D B-
Abortion A+ D

* Obama's First Amendment grade lowered as documented in this post.

UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.

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