Obama and McCain: Straight Facts on the Life Issues

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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  • Grace Harman

    If we choose the “abortion candidate”, we will destroy ourselves and our freedoms- or maybe GOD will destroy us.
    This IS a real social justice issue, because abortionists directly target the poor, marginalized or handicapped, and minorities (also including Native Americans, Hispanics, and Eskimos) for the killing of their babies.
    There is no other issue that takes over a million lives(here)in a year, and affects negatively up to twice that many through guilt and depression or other residual results (infertility & pain). It is also the largest cause of death of Black Americans – more than the next 3 causes combined, and 6% of the U.S. population (black women) have 37% of the abortions. (with similar figures for Hispanics).
    Abortion is pure evil that targets helpless babies for a horrible death -even those who might survive outside the womb- if they were not directly murdered or allowed to die by purposeful neglect.
    Wake up America! Abortion doesn’t “help” anyone! We need leaders who can see this truth and we need to vote out those who don’t know the difference between helping the people and killing the people.

  • dennisofraleigh

    “But for committed pro-lifers, these matter are secondary,” says Colin Mason.

    And there’s the rub.

    How many among that vast sea of “Catholic” voters out there can we count on to go to the polls as “committed pro-lifers?” The face of the Congressional delegations from New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, California and other heavily “Catholic” populated states tells me that abortion hardly registers on many “Catholic” radars as a factor in choosing between a “pro-choice” candidate and a “pro-life” one. Their choice for POTUS will be decided no differently despite the glaring contrast between the voting records of the two contenders, one constantly “pro-life,” the other consistently “anti-life.” (Add to that the matter of one being a strong defender of the traditional family, the other committed to tearing down the boundaries and redefining “family” and “marriage” to include those living arrangements Sacred Scripture characterizes as “unnatural.”

    Sadly for most, if Catholic Social Justice factors in at all in their voting preferences it is as a one-dimensional “flatland” landscape, one issue carrying no more weight than the others, morally speaking. I take that back. There are a lot of “niche” “Social Justice” Catholics who have staked out what in *their* minds is *the* issue: Iraq war, protection of the environment, amnesty for illegal aliens, or just venting their spleen at anything that has a “Republican” label. (So much of the anti-McCain propaganda tries to appeal to this group by linking him with GWB.)

    I’m preaching to the choir here for the most part. Those who really need to be reading articles like Mr. Mason’s are over at justpeace.org or networklobby.org. (or moveon.org)and don’t particularly want to hear what *we* (or the U.S. Bishops for that matter) have to say about abortion and the preeminence of protection of the innocent unborn. Their ears have long gotten used to the sound of “Choose Life” and have learned to effectively tune that message out.

    That isn’t to say that those who are pro-life can walk indifferently by when confronted by issues involving economics, the environment, health care, etc. But we understand that these others are for the most part prudential judgment matters. The USCCB’s 2007 “Faithful Citizen” statement makes that very clear.
    But they also make clear that when faced with a clear choice between a “pro-life” candidate and “pro-choice” candidate our consciences should lead us toward the defense of Life, and not give issues like tax reform greater weight than reversing Roe v. Wade. Yet, tragically, a lot of Catholics do just that.

    If ever a national election in this country compelled us to prevailing prayer, it is this one.

  • Delia Benchaita

    Can’t we have a pro CHOICE platform that includes the right to CHOOSE life? why do people think that pro CHOICE is pro abortion? What I think we need to do is promote abstinence, pressure Media to not promote promiscuity in films and TV and promote adoption as a CHOICE . We have lost our moral compass as a society and our children are being force fed a diet of sex and materialism–that’s the real issue–not a law. Why should we have a law that protects pornography and not one that protects a woman from becoming a criminal if her doctor thinks a pregnancy is life threatening? We have to teach better morality to our children but not live under a form of dictatorship where girls,1/2 of the population, are targeted with criminal intent.

  • Bruce Roeder


    The problem is that the “pro-choice” position is one which recognizes abortion as a morally acceptable act. In other words, to be “pro-choice” is to call abortion a suitable option among other options.

    Substitute another intrinsic evil and see if “pro-choice” seems palatable regarding slavery, racism, or murder.

    Also, the aim is not to target 1/2 of the population with criminal intent. Just as the movement to abloish slavery was not aimed at prosecuting the many slaveholders in the South — it was to recognize a moral evil in our midst and free the human beings being denied their liberty. Likewise, the aim of the pro-life movement is to recognize those being denied their right to life.

    It might be helpful to consider that 1/2 of the 45+ million babies killed in their mothers’ wombs have been female.

    Who is targeting whom?

  • rakeys

    If abortion were once again made illegal in this country, current proposals of law state that the mother will not be held accountable, just the doctor or person performing the abortion will be guilty of murder.

  • mike

    Choice. Ha. When does the child get a choice regarding his or her own execution?

  • lsmith

    If you can demand death of the unborn under the law. When can we demand the death of those who are unproductive?