McCain Changes Tack on Abortion

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - Switching positions on Roe v. Wade, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) now says he believes the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion should be overturned -- but pro-lifers aren't necessarily convinced about his sincerity.

Thirty-four years after the court ruling, it remains highly contentious and a fixture of electoral politics.

In 1999, when McCain was on the presidential campaign trail, he took a different stance on the abortion law.

"Certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force x number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations," he told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time.

But on Sunday, during a campaign stop in Spartanburg, S.C., McCain -- once again a Republican presidential contender -- stated: "I do not support Roe v. Wade. It should be overturned."

National Right to Life praised the senator's comments.

"Roe v. Wade has resulted in the deaths of 48 million unborn children and should be reversed, once again allowing legislative bodies to protect unborn children and their mothers," the pro-life group said.

"People certainly grow in office," Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs at Family Research Council, told Cybercast News Service. "If that is him growing in office, he's growing in the right direction."

But McClusky conceded that McCain's change of position could be politically motivated.

"I'm sure 2008 has effected his decision also, in realizing that the base of the Republican Party is pro-life and a number of them don't consider him pro-life," he said.

"People can say whatever they want to say, but I'd like to see more action," McClusky added.

In particular, he said, he would like to see McCain "being more of an advocate on the life issue: opposing the extra funding for Planned Parenthood that the Democrats are trying to do, opposing embryonic stem cell research, which he unfortunately supports. There are a number of actions he could take which would back up the words."

At the same time, McClusky said, "I'm heartened that he signed the letter to President Bush asking him to veto any attempts at legislation by the Democrats to change current pro-life law."

McCain was one of 35 senators to sign the letter to President Bush last week. Though not a majority, the senators could block any attempts to override a veto.

Although Planned Parenthood, National Abortion Federation, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the National Organization for Women did not respond to requests for comment for this article, it is unlikely that McCain's comments will change how the groups view him as a candidate.

NARAL gave the senator a zero percent rating in 2006. And according to Project Vote Smart, which looks at voting records in Congress, McCain supported the interests of the Planned Parenthood and NARAL zero percent of the time from 1996 to the present.

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