McCain (not) Speaking About Abortion

While speaking about the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Republican Presidential Nominee and Arizona State Senator failed to mention abortion or Roe Vs. Wade in his speech. Read the article below from the Daily Women’s Health Policy Report:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) failed to mention Roe v. Wade in a speech Tuesday outlining his judicial philosophy at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., the Miami Herald reports. The speech led some abortion-rights advocates to criticize the senator for his lack of “straight talk.” McCain’s campaign also announced its “Justice Advisory Committee,” which will be co-chaired by former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) (Stearns, Miami Herald, 5/7).

During his speech, McCain said if elected president, he would appoint justices who are similar to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito (Bumiller, New York Times, 5/7). “I will look for people in the cast of John Roberts, Samuel Alito and my friend the late [former Chief Justice] William Rehnquist — jurists of the highest caliber who know their own minds, and know the law, and know the difference,” McCain said. He added that he would “look for accomplished men and women with a proven record of excellence in the law and a proven commitment to judicial restraint” (Gaynor, Reuters, 5/6).

According to the Wall Street Journal, McCain’s speech included references that “appeared calculated to reassure judicial conservatives.” Although McCain did not name any Supreme Court justices he believes have abused their powers, he criticized justices for using the words “penumbras” and “emanations.” McCain said such words are “airy constructs … the court has employed over the years as poor substitutes for clear and rigorous constitutional reasoning.” According to the Journal, these words come from the court’s 1965 decision in Griswold v. Connecticut to strike down a state ban on contraceptives for married couples. In that decision, the court found that marital relations fell within a “penumbra” of various provisions that created a “zone of privacy.” According to the Journal, some evangelical leaders interpreted McCain’s remarks as critical of the 1973 Roe decision, which found that constitutional privacy guarantees include abortion rights (Bravin/Holmes, Wall Street Journal, 5/7).

Elizabeth Shipp, political director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, said McCain is “learning the secret code,” adding, “The secret code is what he has to say in public when people are actually paying attention to him to appeal to independent and pro-choice Republican voters. He can’t come out in a major speech and say, ‘Yeah, I want to see Roe v. Wade overturned” (Miami Herald, 5/7). Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said that the issue of judicial nominations could help McCain garner support among social conservatives. “Conservatives want judges who will not legislate from the bench, because when we allow judges to legislate from the bench we get abortion on demand, we get same-sex marriage, we get everything that’s bad for society,” Perkins said (Reston, Los Angeles Times, 5/7).

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