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More of the Same: McCain, Like Bush, Opposes Preventive Health Services for Women Extreme Positions Out of Step with Voters

Contact: Planned Parenthood Action Fund Media Office, 212-261-4433

For Immediate Release: 01.28.08

As Sen. John McCain accepted President Bush's endorsement today, the symbolism could not be more fitting when it comes to women's health care.

"John McCain represents more of the same extreme Bush policies on women's health," said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. "They both oppose commonsense preventive health services for women. It's clear voters want a change — a president who supports access to basic health care, including family planning, affordable birth control, and appropriate sex education for young people. After eight years of George Bush, John McCain is simply more of the same."

Since he's been in Washington during the past 25 years, Sen. McCain has consistently voted against women's health. From opposing funding for family planning programs to voting against requiring insurance coverage of birth control, McCain has taken extreme positions against women's health and has not supported legislation that would help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion. This has earned him a zero rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the lowest rating possible in the U.S. Senate.

Just as alarming, John McCain wants to overturn Roe v. Wade,potentially putting the lives and health of women in jeopardy.

McCain's extreme positions on women's health care put him out of step with the vast majority of voters.

  • According to a recent Quinnipiac Poll (August 2007), 62 percent of voters support Roe v. Wade, with 64 percent of independent voters supporting Roe v. Wade.
  • In the same poll, by a 20-point margin, voters believe abortion should be legal (57–37); among independent voters, that margin increases to 26 points (59–33).
  • According to a recent Hart Research poll (April 2007), 73 percent of voters support making it easier for women at all income levels to obtain contraceptives.

McCain More of the Same

McCain opposed allocating $100 million to prevent unintended and teen pregnancies. In 2005, McCain voted NO to allocate $100 million to "expand access to preventive health care services that reduce unintended pregnancy (including teen pregnancy), reduce the number of abortions, and improve access to women's health care." Funding could be used for programs such as family planning services, teenage pregnancy prevention programs, and public education about emergency contraception. [Appropriation to expand access to preventive health care services; Senate Amendment 244 to S Con Res 18 ; vote number 2005-75, 3/17/05]

McCain opposed legislation to provide funding for comprehensive and medically accurate sex education, including teaching about abstinence. McCain voted NO on legislation that would help reduce the number of teen pregnancies by providing funding for programs to teach comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education and other programs to prevent unintended teen pregnancies. [Lautenberg/Menendez Teen Pregnancy Prevention Amendment, S.Amdt. 4689 to S. 403, vote 214, 7/25/06]

McCain opposed legislation requiring abstinence-only programs be medically accurate and scientifically based. McCain voted NO on legislation that would help reduce the number of teen pregnancies by requiring that abstinence-only programs be medically accurate and scientifically based and providing funding for programs to teach comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education and other programs to prevent unintended teen pregnancies. [Lautenberg/Menendez Teen Pregnancy Prevention Amendment, S.Amdt. 4689 to S. 403, vote 214, 7/25/06]

McCain opposed Title X family planning program. In 1990, McCain voted NO on legislation to extend the Title X federal family planning program, which provides low-income and uninsured women and families with health care services ranging from breast and cervical cancer screening to birth control. [Motion to Invoke Cloture; Family Planning Amendments of 1989, S.110, 9/26/90]

McCain opposed requiring insurance coverage of prescription birth control. In 2003, McCain voted NO on legislation to improve the availability of contraceptives for women and would have required insurance coverage of prescription birth control. [Murray Amendment, S.Amdt 258 to S. 3, vote 45, 3/11/03]

McCain opposes comprehensive sex education. In an interview aboard the "straight Talk Express," McCain struggled to answer a question about comprehensive sex education, stating that he supported "the president's policy."

Q: "What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include 
instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush's policy, which is just 
Mr. McCain: (Long pause) "Ahhh. I think I support the president's policy."
Q: "so no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think 
contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?"
Mr. McCain: (Long pause) "You've stumped me."
[New York Times The Caucus blog, 3/16/07; 

McCain is unsure where he stands on government funding for contraception. "Whether I support government funding for them or not, I don't know," McCain said about contraceptives. [washingtonpost.com, 3.16.2007; 

McCain opposed repealing the "global gag rule," which restricts access to contraception and abortion services in poorer countries. In 2006, McCain voted NO on legislation to overturn the "global gag rule" which bars foreign non-governmental organizations from receiving U.S. family planning assistance if the organization (using its own, non-U.S. funds) provides abortion services or information or advocates for pro-choice laws and policies in its own country. [Boxer Amendment to S.600, vote 83, 4/05/05]

McCain supports overturning Roe v. Wade. In February 2007, the AP reported, "Republican presidential candidate John McCain, looking to improve his standing with the party's conservative voters, said Sunday the court decision that legalized abortion should be overturned. ‘I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned,' the Arizona senator told about 800 people in South Carolina, one of the early voting states." [AP, 2/18/07]

McCain says Roe v. Wade was a "bad decision." In May 2007, during an appearance on Meet the Press, Sen. McCain reiterated his support for overturning Roe v. Wade, saying, "I have stated time after time after time that Roe v. Wade was a bad decision, that I support a woman — the, the rights of the unborn." He went on to say, "My position has been consistently in my voting record, pro-life, and I continue to maintain that position and voting record." [NBC Meet the Press, 5/13/07]

McCain would have signed the 2006 South Dakota abortion ban.In February 2006, the Hotline reported, "According to a spokesperson, McCain ‘would have signed the legislation, but would also take the appropriate steps under state law — in whatever state — to ensure that the exceptions of rape, incest or life of the mother were included.'" As the New York Times" Paul Krugman points out, "That attempt at qualification makes no sense: the South Dakota law has produced national shockwaves precisely because it prohibits abortions even for victims of rape or incest." [National Journal's Hotline, 2/28/06; New York Times, 3/13/06]

McCain touts "pro-life" credentials at Family Research Council conference. At a speech at the Family Research Council Voter Values Summit in October 2007, Sen. McCain said, "I have been pro-life my entire public career. I believe I am the only major candidate in either party who can make that claim."

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Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including voter education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy.