Obama and McCain: Repro Rights Checklist

How the presidential candidates measure up on reproductive rights
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  September 24, 2008

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"I had an abortion: A Portland woman’s story," by Anonymous

"Personally speaking: Abortion and Life tells whole truths," by Deirdre Fulton

To be sure, personal and private health decisions won’t be at the top of people’s minds when they step up to the ballot box this November, what with the economy crumbling around us and two wars still raging overseas. But it’s important to know where our next president stands with regard to reproductive rights — and to remember that those rights are constantly evolving depending on who’s in charge. Here are the presidential candidates’ positions on five important women’s health issues.

Roe v. Wade

  • OBAMA On the 35th anniversary of the historic Supreme Court decision earlier this year, Obama said he “will make preserving women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as president. I oppose any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling in this case.” He is a co-sponsor of the Freedom of Choice Act, which would basically codify in law the protections afforded by the court in Roe, and would supersede any state attempts to ban abortion, should Roe be repealed.
  • McCAIN Believes Roe v. Wade should be overturned. In a 2006 TV appearance, he said: “I do believe that it’s very likely or possible that a Supreme Court should — could overturn Roe v. Wade, which would then return these decisions to the states, which I support that.” And when onus is placed back on the states? In a 2000 appearance on Meet the Press, he told Tim Russert that he hoped all of them would outlaw abortion. (He does, however, believe abortion should be legal in cases of rape, incest, or if the woman’s health is endangered.)

Comprehensive Sex Education

  • OBAMA Supports comprehensive and age-appropriate sex ed (including teaching kindergartners about “inappropriate touching” and how to protect themselves from sexual predators); opposes funding abstinence-only programs.
  • McCAIN Supports abstinence-only education (but should get some comprehensive sex ed of his own — he’s not sure if contraceptives help prevent the spread of HIV).

Hyde Amendment
(PROHIBITS THE USE OF FEDERAL MONEY TO HELP LOW-INCOME WOMEN PAY FOR ABORTIONS)

  • OBAMA Opposes.
  • McCAIN Supports.

Global Gag Rule
(BARS NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS THAT RECEIVE FEDERAL FUNDS FROM PERFORMING OR EVEN EDUCATING PEOPLE ABOUT ABORTIONS IN OTHER COUNTRIES)

  • OBAMA Opposes.
  • McCAIN Supports.

Appointing Federal Judges

  • OBAMA At a Planned Parenthood conference in 2007, Obama said: “We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.” On the Senate floor and in his votes, he expressed serious reservations about Bush nominees Samuel Alito and John Roberts. As a former lawyer and constitutional-law professor, he has both interest and expertise in judicial matters.
  • McCAIN Although extreme right-wingers fault McCain for joining a bipartisan group of senators (the so-called “Gang of 14”) in 2005 and brokering compromise to stop judicial-appointment deadlock (in doing so, he forced the GOP to get rid of some of its most conservative nominees), McCain is reliably conservative when it comes to the Supreme Court. He’s held up Antonin Scalia, who has written dissenting opinions in key reproductive-rights decisions, as a “conservative model.” And on his Web site, he vows to appoint strict constructionists: “As President, John McCain will nominate judges who understand that their role is to faithfully apply the law as written, not impose their opinions through judicial fiat.”
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