This is a pivotal election for the pro-life movement.
In one corner stands Senator John McCain, a grizzled veteran who sports war wounds. His claim to the presidency comes from his decades of experience as a public servant and his straight-shooting approach toward leadership. His Vietnam War record is famous and widely admired. However, he has had trouble winning the trust of many conservatives who continue to wonder: is he really one of us?
In the other corner is Senator Barack Obama, young, athletic, and — at least to the youth and minorities that turn out in droves to see him — wildly charismatic. His rhetorical skills are seemingly unrivaled, but he has a tendency to speak in glittering generalities. And even moderates are troubled by the fact that, in his short time in the U.S. Senate, he has managed to compile a record to the left of any other Congressman, even our lone socialist.
But for committed pro-lifers, these matter are secondary. What they want to know is how do these two figures rate on a strictly pro-life scale? What issues separate them, and by how much?
First of all, there is the issue of judicial nominations. The Supreme Court is currently effectively deadlocked on the life issues, with Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas reliable pro-life votes, and Breyer, Ginsburg, Stevens and Souter equally reliably pro-abortion. Kennedy, the Court’s “swing vote,” see-saws somewhere in the middle.
Stevens and Ginsburg are getting on in years, and Souter has reportedly expressed a desire to retire. This has led to a flurry of speculation on the candidates’ purported nominees. If a pro-lifer were to take the White House in 2009, he would have the opportunity to fill up to three Supreme Court seats with judges who share his views, creating a strong majority on the court. A pro-choice liberal, on the other hand, would presumably nominate people of like mind. Given that the Democrat pro-abortion majorities in both Houses of Congress will probably increase in the fall, this scenario would amount to giving the pro-choicers a kind of one-party dictatorship, since all the powers of government — legislative, executive and judicial — would no longer be separated, but would be controlled by people of the same ideological bent.
How do Obama and McCain differ on the matter of judicial appointments? The Illinois senator’s prospective judicial appointments, as outlined in the National Journal, are not only pro-choice, but zealously so. These justices could include people like Diane Wood, Eric Holder, Jr., and possibly even Hillary Clinton. Obama himself insists that he wants “people on the bench who have enough empathy, enough feeling for what ordinary people are going through.” He seems to forget that Supreme Court justices are supposed to be impartial arbiters of the law, not championing Robin Hoods for underprivileged or minority groups. That is the job of liberal politicians.
Who would McCain pick? Prospective candidates include Michael McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and Paul Clement. These are all pro-life conservatives, who are not likely to agree that the Constitution allows abortion on demand. McCain has consistently voted to confirm pro-life judges, and insists that men like John Roberts and Samuel Alito would be his models when choosing candidates.
How do McCain and Obama compare on other life issues?
Obama’s abortion record is nothing short of atrocious. He co-sponsored the infamous Freedom of Choice Act, a bill that would have swept aside all pro-life laws to ensure that abortion on demand, without restrictions or conditions, remains the law of the land. He also supports expanded access to abortifacient contraceptives. While an Illinois senator, he voted to increase taxpayer funding of abortion, and consistently opposed parental notification laws. He also opposed legislation against partial-birth abortion, enthusiastically supported embryonic stem-cell research, and even voted against anti-infanticide legislation in Illinois.
In statements to NARAL and Planned Parenthood, Obama proudly declared that on the “fundamental issue” of choice, he “will not yield and Planned Parenthood will not yield.” Small wonder, then, that the president of the pro-life group Fidelis, Brian Burch, has challenged the public to examine Obama’s “quotes and his record together.” With all the press spin and Obama hype, Burch says, it is sometimes easy for the public to overlook what Obama says “in front of the people that it matters most, namely Planned Parenthood, NARAL and specifically as a legislator himself.”
John McCain’s record on the life issues is the mirror image of Obama’s. He has a 100% pro-life voting record, having consistently, over decades, cast votes in defense of the unborn. To be sure, he is not perfect. He allows exceptions for rape and incest, going along with an effort to change the GOP platform to reflect this. He has also adopted the same stem-cell compromise that President Bush earlier did. He would allow experimentation on existing stem-cell lines while forbidding funding for the creation of new ones.
In sum, McCain is conservative on life issues, if not particularly vocal. As George F. Will of Newsweek aptly put it, “McCain sounds at best perfunctory when talking about things other than those that really interest him.” The abortion issue has never been McCain’s “thing,” but if his rhetoric does not show passion, his record does show quiet consistency. He would turn the abortion issue over to the states, supports parental notification laws and ban on partial-birth abortion, and opposes tax-funded abortion and human cloning.
This puts him head and shoulders above Obama, whose radical pro-abortion stance and his inflammatory rhetoric on the issue clearly place him at the pro-abortion extreme of his party. McCain may be only a pragmatic moderate on the pro-life issue, or he may be a little more, but Obama, clearly, is rabidly pro-abortion.
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