DEBATES: Abortion Featured in Both Parties Debates
GOP presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) once again came under attack yesterday from antiabortion advocates after telling reporters that his teenage daughter would have the "final decision" on whether to have an abortion should she ever become pregnant. Faced with the hypothetical question, he said, "It would be a private decision that we would share within the family and not with anyone else. ... I would encourage her to know that the baby would be brought up in a warm and loving family. The final decision would be made by Meghan with our advice and counsel." McCain, however, backpedalled almost immediately, as he called a reporter to say he had "misspoken" and meant to say it would be a "family decision" and one not made by Meghan alone. Republican contender Alan Keyes pressed McCain on the issue during last night's New Hampshire debate, accusing him of "display[ing] a profound lack of understanding of the basic issue of principle involved in abortion" (Walsh, Washington Post, 1/27). Keyes said, "[I]f your daughter came to you and said she contemplated killing her grandmother for her inheritance, you wouldn't say 'let's have a family conference.' You would look at her and just say no because that is morally wrong." Keyes' comments drew the ire of his opponent, who offered up his "long antiabortion record" as evidence of his commitment to the issue and said he refused to draw his children into the debate. Pointing to his work on the "partial-birth" abortion ban, parental consent and parental notification legislation, McCain said, "I am proud of that pro-life record and I will continue to maintain it." Keyes again questioned McCain's "understanding" of the issue (CNN, 1/26). "I've seen enough killing in my life. I know how precious human life is. And I don't need a lecture from you," McCain said to Keyes (Mitchell, New York Times, 1/27). Steve Forbes and Gary Bauer responded similarly. Forbes said, "We are a loving family. We would urge her to bring it to term and assure her that we could raise it in a loving atmosphere." Texas Gov. George W. Bush has declined to answer the hypothetical question (Miller, Los Angeles Times, 1/27). But he did indicate support last night for a constitutional amendment stipulating "that every child, born and unborn, is protected in law and every child welcomed into life" (Scully, Washington Times, 1/27). Trying to strike a "delicate balance," he added that the next president should "recognize that good people can disagree on this issue" (New York Times, 1/27).
Dems Duke It Out
Democratic presidential rivals Bill Bradley and Al Gore last night also took their turns at the debate podium in New Hampshire, squabbling over abortion. Pointing out that Gore had received an 84% "positive rating" from the National Right to Life Committee during his early years in Congress, Bradley said, "Your campaign shouldn't go around saying that you've always been for a woman's right to choose, because the record shows you did not." Defending himself, Gore admitted, "It's true ... I wrestled with the question of what kinds of exceptions should be allowed to the general rule that Medicaid should also pay for this procedure," but argued that he has since solidified his position to hold that "all women, regardless of their income, must have the right to choose" (Clymer, New York Times, 1/27). At Bradley's questioning, Gore twice emphasized that he has "always supported a woman's right to choose"; after both assertions, Bradley shot back, "Al, that's not true" (CNN, 1/26). The Boston Globe reports that Gore has voted a number of times against federal funding of abortions and once voted in favor of an amendment that would ban such funding (Hohler/Zuckman, Boston Globe, 1/27). Bradley attempted to portray Gore's inconsistency on the issue as an indication that "he might change his mind on other issues too -- and to cast doubts on the vice president's veracity," the Wall Street Journal reports (Calmes/Davis, Wall Street Journal, 1/27). He said, "If you don't tell the truth as a candidate, how can people trust you as president? You continue to do what you know is untrue" (Cohen, Newark Star-Ledger, 1/27).