McCain Appears to Change Position on Abortion - Again

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

( - For the second time in a week, Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain has made statements on abortion that appear to contradict his previous positions, leading conservative critics to accuse him of weakening his stand to gain political support.

In a letter to National Right to Life Committee president Wanda Franz on Tuesday, McCain said: "I share our common goal of reducing the staggering number of abortions currently performed in this country and overturning the Roe v. Wade decision. I truly hope this clarifies any ambiguity on my position ... "

McCain shocked conservatives when he said recently he would not support the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal in the United States.

"I'd love to see a point where it is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary," McCain said last week. "But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] dangerous and illegal abortions."

McCain also said he would not have an abortion "litmus" test for a running mate or Supreme Court nominees. "We all know, and it's obvious, that if we repeal Roe v. Wade tomorrow, thousands of young American women would be performing illegal and dangerous operations," McCain said.

In Tuesday's letter to the NRLC, however, McCain said he wished to clarify his "unequivocal support" for overturning Roe v. Wade.

"I have always believed in the importance of the repeal of Roe vs. Wade, and as president, I would work toward its appeal," he said.

An NRLC spokeswoman told that McCain's letter still has not put the matter to rest.

"Last week, he said he would not support overturning Roe v. Wade in the short term or the long term. This week he is saying he supports overturning Roe v. Wade, but he is not saying when," NRLC spokeswoman Susan Muskett said.

McCain's comments also drew criticism from presidential opponents and conservatives.

"When, and in what sense, does McCain think abortions are 'necessary,'?" conservative columnist George F. Will asked in an op-ed piece in Wednesday's Washington Post.

McCain's critics accused the GOP presidential hopeful of abandoning his former position out of political expediency, and of taking cover behind his reputation as a "political maverick" to escape media scrutiny.

"The trouble is, [McCain's] own way is frequently the way favored by the major media," Will said. "For example, his grand passion, campaign finance reform, would enhance the media's power by leaving them, unlike most other advocates of political causes, exempt from government regulation of political advocacy."

McCain's apparent waffling on the abortion issue illustrates the need for all presidential candidates to spell out what they would do for women in crisis pregnancies if elected president, a leading campaigner for abortion alternatives told

"We need political leaders who will provide leadership in this area, and that means making abortion not just rare, but unthinkable and unnecessary," said Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life of America, in an interview with

The candidate's personal position on abortion is not as important to voters as their stating unequivocally what they would do to end abortion if elected president, Foster said.

"We need a candidate who will say, 'here are 10 things I would do to significantly reduce abortion in the next four years,'" she said.

Americans should think about federal funding of crisis pregnancy centers, Foster said.

"Federal and other support for services for a long-term pregnancy should be proportionately higher than those for a short-term abortion," she said.