(CNSNews.com) – The sanctity-of-life plank approved by the Republican platform committee this week includes essentially the same uncompromisingly pro-life language that has been in Republican platforms dating back to the Reagan years, and that Republican presidential candidate John McCain has criticized in the past.
The platform was approved by a 112-person platform committee in Minneapolis late Wednesday and is likely to be ratified by delegates at the Republican National Convention on Monday.
The platform endorses a human life amendment to the Constitution, calls for extending 14th Amendment rights to unborn children, and makes no mention of any exceptions that would allow an unborn child to be aborted.
“We assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” says the platform. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children.
“We all have a moral obligation to assist, not to penalize, women struggling with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. At its core, abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life,” it adds.
McCain’s Senate voting record has been generally pro-life, but in his presidential campaigns, he has ranged from saying in 1999 that he did not want to see Roe V. Wade overturned “in the short term, or even in the long term” to arguing earlier in this campaign that the Republican platform ought to be amended to say that abortion should be permissible in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of a mother is in danger.
“I'd love to see a point where it (Roe V. Wade) is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary," McCain told the San Francisco Chronicle in August of 1999.
"But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support a repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations," he added.
Seven months later in a Republican primary debate between presidential candidates George W. Bush, Alan Keyes, and McCain in February 2000, McCain attacked Bush for endorsing the pro-life plank in the 2000 platform which did not include exceptions for when abortion would be acceptable.
McCain accused Bush of contradicting himself: “Your position is that you believe there's an exemption for rape, incest and the life of the mother, but you want the platform that you're supposed to be leading to have no exemption.”
In April 2007, ABC News reported that McCain had told its reporters that he still hoped to change the GOP's platform plank on abortion to include exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in danger.
“Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told ABC News Saturday that he still wants to change the GOP's abortion platform to explicitly recognize exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother,” ABC News reported on April 16, 2007.
“McCain reaffirmed his difference with party doctrine on permissible abortion exceptions after speaking to the Iowa Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner in Des Moines,” it added. See Report
In 2008, however, as McCain prepared to accept the presidential nomination from the Republican Party, members of his campaign indicated that he had decided to take a hands-off approach to the formation of the pro-life plank in the Republican platform.
"There's a process in place for the delegates to work on the platform and we are going to let that process work itself out," McCain spokesman Brian Rogers told ABC News in April 2008.
“I think you're going to see a platform process that is going to maintain that plank," Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), co-chairman of McCain's Justice Advisory Committee, said. "There are going to be a number of people supporting his nomination that want that plank left exactly as it is," he added. "They're going to be a strong majority."
Conservative leaders including Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, said if McCain tried to add exemptions to the pro-life plank, it would be “political suicide.”
“I think he would be aborting his own campaign because that is such a critical issue to so many Republican voters and the Republican brand is already in trouble," Perkins told ABC News in May.
On this issue of embryonic stem cell research the GOP platform draft obtained by CNSNews.com also takes a position that is more conservative than McCain’s.
The platform states that Republican support for stem cell research is limited to research on adult stem cells and that the party is opposed to the “unethical destruction of embryonic human life.”
In the Senate, McCain twice voted for federal funding of research that requires the destruction of human embryos.
“I have come down on the side of stem-cell research,” McCain said when Pastor Rick Warren asked him if he would support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research at a forum at Saddleback Church in Colorado earlier this month.
National Right to Life Political Director Karen Cross told CNSNews.com in an email statement from Minneapolis on Thursday that the 2008 platform is the “strongest ever” in terms of its sanctity of life plank.
"We applaud the Republican Party, and especially the members of the platform committee representing grassroots pro-life Republicans across the country, for making such a strong and unequivocal stand supporting life at all stages," said Karen Cross. "The work of the platform committee makes clear, in no uncertain terms, that the Republican Party is the pro-life party."