John McCain rethinks Roe

The "maverick" senator and presidential candidate makes another course shift as he courts conservatives.

Published February 20, 2007 4:13PM (EST)

This past weekend, out on the campaign trail, John McCain declared -- in a shift from his previous stated positions -- that he believes the landmark Supreme Court abortion case Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

In a sop to typical conservative language on the subject, McCain also said that if elected president, he would select judges who "strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States and do not legislate from the bench."

Thanks go to reader "Michaelm," who, in a comment on Mark Benjamin's article in Salon today about another hot-button issue on which McCain cannot quite seem to make up his mind reminded us of some of the senator's previous statements on the subject of Roe and abortion generally.

While on the campaign trail in 2000, McCain was asked what he would do if his daughter -- 15 at the time -- became pregnant.

"The final decision would be made by Meghan [his daughter] with our advice and counsel," McCain said at the time. "I would discuss this issue with Cindy [his wife] and Meghan, and this would be a private decision that we would share within our family and not with anyone else. Obviously I would encourage her to bring, to know that baby would be brought up in a warm and loving family, but the final decision would be made by Meghan with our advice and counsel."

McCain's current position on Roe is a change from his previous statements on the subject, but is not the total flip some have portrayed it as; it's more a dropping of some nuance. Previously, McCain said he would favor repealing Roe, but only after the possibility of a spike in illegal and dangerous abortions had been ameliorated by programs for adoption and counseling. Now he's in favor of overturning Roe, without the previous caveat.

McCain's shift on abortion, as well as other issues dear to the conservative base of the Republican Party, has widely been interpreted as a political maneuver intended to help him win the support of a key part of the Republican electorate for the 2008 presidential primary. But even this shift is already being looked at with some skepticism by its target audience; the reliably conservative Cybercast News Service, a subsidiary of conservative media watchdog Brent Bozell's Media Research Center, reports on some of that skepticism today.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

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2008 Elections Abortion John Mccain R-ariz.