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McCain raising profile of pro-life views

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Abortion may not be the leading national issue according to the polls but it is a top one to many social conservatives, and Republican John McCain increasingly is going out of his way to make his pro-life views known, even saying at one town hall forum that pro-lifers could count on him being an “active” advocate for the unborn.

In at least two town hall forums in recent days, McCain has turned questions not directly related to abortion into answers about his pro-life views. Each time, his answers were one of his biggest applause lines, with many in the audience giving him a standing ovation.

McCain’s strategy probably is a good one if he wants the votes of social conservatives. Even though he has been endorsed by National Right to Life, many don’t know about his views.

According to a new Pew poll, only 45 percent of voters rightly know the senator from Arizona is pro-life on abortion and only 52 percent rightly know Democrat Barack Obama is pro-choice. During the last decade McCain has received a 0 percent rating — the lowest score possible — on NARAL Pro-Choice America’s congressional scorecard. NARAL is a leading abortion rights advocacy group. Obama has a perfect score of 100 percent for his time in the Senate.

In a town hall meeting in Kansas City, Mo., July 17, McCain — endorsed by National Right to Life — was asked about the sexualization of the culture and how if elected president he would help parents protect their children from dangers on the Internet and television. In his answer McCain talked about the dangers of child pornography and then added to applause, “I also would like to say one other thing very quickly to you, and that is I am proud of my record of protecting and advocating the rights of the unborn, and I believe that this is also an important issue.

“I believe the noblest words ever written,” he added, “are those that said all of us are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and ‘life’ means the rights of the born and the unborn,” he said.

McCain then drew a contrast between himself and Obama.

“There’s a great difference between myself and Sen. Obama. When he was in the Illinois legislature … he voted against a ban on partial-birth abortions. My friends, that’s a hideous procedure. It should never be allowed anyplace on earth,” McCain added, with one man sitting close to him shouting, “That’s right!”

“That’s a great difference between the two of us, and you can count on my active advocacy for the rights of the unborn,” McCain concluded.

On July 9, speaking at a town hall meeting in Portsmouth, Ohio, McCain answered a question about divorce rates by saying one way to improve the state of the American family would be to “respect human life, both born and unborn,” Politico.com reported. He also criticized Obama’s record on partial-birth abortion.

In addition to speaking more about abortion, McCain also has increasingly underscored his goal of nominating federal judges, particularly Supreme Court justices, who won’t in his words “legislate from the bench.” That’s music to conservatives’ ears, since the two oldest members of the court — 88-year-old John Paul Stevens and 75-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg — are two of its most liberal members and support Roe v. Wade. McCain favors repealing Roe. Some legal analysts believe the nine-member court is only one vote away from having a pro-life majority.

Obama hasn’t let McCain’s criticism go unanswered and has told pro-choice groups that he solidly backs abortion rights. Planned Parenthood — the nation’s largest abortion provider — endorsed him.

“I stand by my votes against confirming [Justices John] Roberts and [Samuel] Alito,” Obama told a crowd July 10, referencing President Bush’s two Supreme Court nominees. “I’ve made it equally clear that I will never back down from making sure that women have their reproductive rights here in this country. That’s what’s at stake in this election.”

Obama is co-sponsor of a bill, the Freedom of Choice Act, aimed at overturning the federal ban on partial-birth abortion and other pro-life laws nationwide. The law would make abortion a federal right and would keep abortion legal, even if Roe v. Wade is overturned someday. He said in a 2007 speech that the “first thing” he’d do as president is sign the bill.

Conservative groups have been critical of Obama’s positions on abortion, particularly his support of partial-birth abortion and his opposition to a bill in the Illinois legislature that would have required medical care be given infants who survive abortions. As an Illinois state senator, Obama either voted “no” or “present” over a series of months when the born-alive infants bill came to a vote. Once he even killed it in a committee he chaired.

When the Supreme Court upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortion, Obama released a statement saying he “strongly disagree[d]” with the ruling and was “extremely concerned” with its implications.

Partial-birth abortion is a late-term procedure in which a doctor partially delivers a baby feet-first, and — with the head still in the birth canal — uses scissors to puncture the skull and then suction out the brain, killing the child instantly. One nurse who witnessed such a procedure testified before Congress that she saw the baby’s fingers “clasping and unclasping” and feet “kicking” prior to the procedure being completed.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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