Schecter quotes an August 1999 speech that McCain delivered to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco:
"I'd love to see a point where [Roe v. Wade] is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. 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 to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations."
Then he flashes forward to 2006, as McCain prepared for this year's presidential race, when the senator declared that he does not merely favor overturning Roe, but supports a constitutional amendment that would ban abortion in almost all circumstances. Schecter provides another quote, from a McCain appearance last year on "Meet the Press," when he claimed that he has "always been pro-life, unchanging and unwavering." Except when he wavered and changed, of course.
It is possible that McCain feels differently about choice now than he did 10 years ago, and not only because his new stance is more convenient for a candidate who needs conservative votes. Perhaps he honestly cares about reducing the number of abortions. If so, he might want to encourage broad access to contraception and sex education, since he probably remembers what young people tend to do (and what he tended to do as often as possible when he was young and not so young).
On these issues McCain might, in other words, think for himself. Instead he merely parrots the extremists of the far right, who vainly hope to prevent sex but in fact promote teenage pregnancy -- and abortion as well as sexually transmitted disease -- by blocking contraception and sex education. He simply doesn't care about the toxic effect of these policies on young women. He prefers mindless posturing to thoughtful policymaking, as he demonstrated a year ago when he fumbled reporters' questions about condoms, contraception and AIDS, both in Africa and the United States, in a series of startling exchanges on his campaign bus.
Crass political expediency obviously goes a long way toward explaining McCain's flip-flops on reproductive freedom. Here's another possibility:
Dean added, however, that in recent DNC-sponsored focus groups designed to gauge voter opinions about McCain, participants regularly brought up the Arizona Senator's age as a potential point of concern.
Those worries fell into two main categories, Dean said. The first was a "health concern"; the second was the idea that McCain has "very old fashioned" opinions on a variety of topics. As evidence, Dean cited a focus group of conservative women in Charleston, West Virginia. When the Democratic organizers of the group told participants that McCain opposed insurance coverage for birth control pills and supported abstinence-only education in schools, they reportedly said "this guy is out of step with what modern views are."
Adds a little extra punch to the phrase "vote as if your life depended on it," doesn't it? (As if it needed it.)