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Friday, September 05, 2008

John McCain on Abortion

MTP Interview, January 30, 2000.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the issue of abortion, which is a difficult one for all candidates. The Right to Life Committee had this to say about John McCain, and I'll put it on the screen for you and your viewers. They say, "Senator McCain's positions have been conflicting, and we do not think he warrants the support of pro-life voters."

You have said that you believe life begins at conception.


MR. RUSSERT: And, yet, you want exceptions for rape and incest.

SEN. McCAIN: And the life of the mother, yes.

MR. RUSSERT: That would be the taking of a human life.


MR. RUSSERT: How is that consistent morally?

SEN. McCAIN: Because I think that these are careful balances that you have to make. And by the way, that also happens to be Henry Hyde's amendment, the wording of Henry Hyde's amendment, who is the leading pro-life advocate in the Congress of the United States. We have to make careful decisions here. These are all moral problems that we have to work out for ourselves. The life of the mother, obviously, is a human life, too. The gripping aspects of rape and incest are terrible situations and we have to kind of come to conclusions, taking into consideration the interests of all parties in this very difficult issue.

I have come to the conclusion that the exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother are legitimate exceptions in this situation, but I don't claim to be a theologian. But I have my own moral beliefs and I hold those. And by the way, I do have a 17-year voting record that's pro-life. Mr. Johnson and the National Pro-Life Committee have turned a cause into a business, and they are very worried that if I have campaign finance reform, all this uncontrolled, undisclosed contributions may be reduced and it may harm them in their efforts to continue this huge business they've got going in Washington, D.C.

MR. RUSSERT: A constitutional amendment to ban all abortions?

SEN. McCAIN: Yes, sir.

MR. RUSSERT: You're for that?

SEN. McCAIN: Yes, sir.

MR. RUSSERT: If, in fact, all abortions were banned in America...

SEN. McCAIN: I understand.

MR. RUSSERT: ...under President McCain...

SEN. McCAIN: Understand.

MR. RUSSERT: ...let's look at our country. What would happen to a woman who had an abortion?

SEN. McCAIN: Obviously, it would be illegal, but I would not prosecute a woman who did that. I would think that it would be such a terrible trauma that--but I would not make those abortions available or easy as they are today in America. And I think that, again, we're talking about a situation which is very unlikely at this time, and I would like to see us ban partial-birth abortion, pass parental notification, parental consent and move forward in the areas that we can move forward in, including working with pro-life, pro-choice Americans on trying to make adoption easier, which is very difficult in America, trying to improve foster care, trying to move together in areas that we can agree on, rather than polarizing us as both ends of the spectrum have done.

MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, women across the country would say, "Senator McCain, prior to Roe v. Wade, hundreds of thousands of women a year went to the back alleys to have abortions."

SEN. McCAIN: I understand that.

MR. RUSSERT: Many died.

SEN. McCAIN: I understand that.

MR. RUSSERT: And here you are, want to bring that back.

SEN. McCAIN: Perhaps.

MR. RUSSERT: Would you prosecute a doctor who broke the law?

SEN. McCAIN: If a doctor violated the law, I believe that he would be prosecuted. But the fact is that if Roe v. Wade were repealed, then it would then be up to the states in the United States of America to make those decisions. It would not immediately outlaw abortion. It would mean that each state would make the decisions on that issue among the states.

MR. RUSSERT: But if it's a moral issue, you would not want to have any state allow abortion either.

SEN. McCAIN: I would not, but your thesis that a repeal of Roe v. Wade would immediately outlaw abortion isn't true. What would happen, it would then return those decisions to the states.

MR. RUSSERT: But you would hope all the states would outlaw abortion, too.

SEN. McCAIN: Yes, I would. Yes, I would.

MR. RUSSERT: And so a doctor would be criminally liable.

SEN. McCAIN: Would be liable.

MR. RUSSERT: Not criminally.


MR. RUSSERT: A woman would be an accomplice.

SEN.McCAIN: Tim, look. This is...

MR. RUSSERT: This is reality.

SEN. McCAIN: I know.

MR. RUSSERT: It's easier for people to say, "I'm for banning all abortions..."


MR. RUSSERT: ...and then when you apply it in a real-life situation...


MR. RUSSERT: ...circumstances of human beings are involved...

SEN. McCAIN: In a real...

MR. RUSSERT: well as...

SEN. McCAIN: In a real...

MR. RUSSERT: ...the unborn baby.

SEN. McCAIN: And in a real-life situation, we in America want to reduce and eliminate abortion over time. We want to work on those areas in which we agree and then address those we don't agree on. Partial-birth abortion is a practice that's taking place today in America. More than 80 percent of Americans think that that's a terrible procedure. Let's work on that and reduce that.

Most parents in America believe that they should be notified if their child is going to receive or seeks an abortion. I think that that also should be made into law, parental notification. There are areas--adoption, foster care--we need to work together and do it in a lot less confrontational fashion. You and I are talking about some very theoretical situations that don't match with the reality in America and where we are in abortion, although I'd be glad to discuss them with you.

MR. RUSSERT: But go slow on banning all abortions outright?

SEN. McCAIN: It's not so much go slow, recognize reality. Abortion is not going to be banned outright. Recognize that. So in the meantime, we go down the path, trying to work with pro-choice, as well as pro-life Americans to reduce and eliminate abortion. Most pro-choice Americans don't like abortion either and would like to work with us to try to reduce and eventually eliminate, not all, but eliminate abortion in America.


Markh said...

Pro-life activists should be very wary of this guy.

Granted, this interview is 8 years old, but taken at face value, he knows the words that the conservatives want to hear, but he's also admitting that actually living with a different set of rules would be very, very difficult and inconsistent.

Can't have it both ways.