McCain abandons effort to change GOP platform plank on abortion


It says HERE that John McCain has bowed to the Religious Right and given up on his effort to change the Republican platform with respect to its call for a ban on all abortions.

McCain previously had wanted to allow for exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

In light of this development, I’m repeating here a commentary I posted about three and a half months ago:

John McCain is one of the millions of Americans who are generally opposed to abortion but want its legality maintained in cases of rape or incest.

Accordingly, McCain has advocated on several occasions that the Republican Party platform be changed from its current opposition to all abortions to a position allowing for certain exceptions.

But now that he’s the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mr. Straight Talk is under BIG PRESSURE from the party’s hard-core anti-abortion wing to drop his plan to change the platform.

The squeeze in which McCain finds himself involves a few angles that might not occur to the casual observer.  As I’ve said before in this forum and others, the stricter position against abortion is more logically consistent than the one that allows for exceptions. (My own pro-choice view involves numerous other factors and is not at issue here.)

The only good reason for a person to oppose abortion in general requires one to believe that it’s the taking of an innocent life. If it’s not the taking of an innocent life, it’s no different in an ethical sense than having your appendix removed.

(Granted, the decision on whether to bring a fetus to full term can involve complex emotions and considerations, but absent the homicide question, the ethics are not very problematical, and the government has no legitimate interest in the matter.)

So, the basic premise advanced by the so-called pro-life movement is that abortion is wrong because it’s tantamount to murder. If you don’t buy that argument, you have no valid reason to want abortion outlawed.

That makes it hypocritical to say you’re against abortion except in cases of rape or incest or the life of the mother.

How can a fetus in a case of rape or incest be less innocent than one produced in more acceptable circumstances? How can John McCain and those who agree with him deny that they’re logically and morally inconsistent on this score?

Indeed, one has to wonder if McCain has actually thought this matter through, or whether his opposition to abortion is an insincere political convenience for purposes of advancement in the Republican Party.

But their are lots of other hypocrites on this issue. Most pro-lifers shudder at the thought of a woman having to bring a fetus to full term in a case of rape or incest. And most politicians are loathe to buck majority sentiment in that regard. So much for the sincerity of their pro-life positions.

There’s another political question that arises here:  If a fetus is a person, and abortion is the unwarranted killing of that innocent person, why don’t any of the pro-life politicians favor a law under which the woman who gets an abortion would be charged with murder?

The answer, of course, is that taking such a position likely would be political suicide. Most Americans don’t want women who get abortions to be prosecuted as murderers.

Nor is there any consistency of logic in making an exception for an abortion to save the life of the mother. In his book “Papal Sin,” author Garry Wills argues: “If the fetus and the mother have equal status as persons, the natural and not the inflicted death should be preferred,” if you’re going to be morally and logically consistent about it.

Then, too, politicians should be required to square their anti-abortion positions with the belief among some folks — orthodox Catholics, for example — that the morning-after pill is an abortifacient. Are any of these pols willing to call for a ban on morning-after pills? Are they willing to call for murder charges against women who take such pills? If not, why not?

The politicians should be required to explain in detail their opinions on just when life starts and when, if ever, it’s permissible to end such life and what penalties should be imposed for violations of any limits that are enacted into law.

Questions like that would prompt the Republican pols, I’m sure, to squirm and dance and tie themselves into ideological knots.



  1. Jason C

    If it weren’t for technology, we’d hardly ever be faced with the issue (and so very ironic that it’s the same technology used to support life before birth is also used to support evolution). Or will technology save us from this debate? Perhaps artificial wombs could allow the transfer of a fetus from an unwilling participant without killing it. Perhaps future female chemical prophylaxis will better allow women to remain unfertile until they specifically desire procreation, to avoid accidental or coerced impregnation.

    Allowing abortion “only in the case of rape and incest” is tantamount to supporting eugenics, because it’s about preventing unsavory criminal types from breeding.

    Somehow I doubt that framing McCains position as pro-state-sponsored eugenics would fly.

  2. Craig Knauss

    I isn’t an issue about whether McCain’s previous position on abortion was right or wrong. It’s about how easily he has surrendered his values to get a few more ultra-right wing votes. Shameful.

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