Red State, Slave State:McCain echoes Bush on Roe v. Wade
by background n015e, Thu Jun 05, 2008 at 10:20:22 AM EDT
On July 22, 1998, McCain filled out the National Right to Life Committee's 1998 Congressional Candidate Questionnaire, including this question:
"Do you support the complete reversal of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions, thereby allowing the state legislatures and the Congress to once again protect unborn children?"
McCain responded, "Yes."
On August 19, 1999, McCain told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I'd love to see a point where [Roe v. Wade] is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary.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 vs. Wade"
The NRLC objected to McCain's "pro-Roe" statement. McCain's campaign staff defended his position, claiming it was similar to that of his opponent, Texas Governor George Bush. NRLC disputed that, noting Bush consistently favored overturning Roe v. Wade
How did McCain respond to this in his next interview on Meet The Press? Good question....
On September 12, on NBC's Meet the Press, host Tim Russert read McCain his statement to the San Francisco Chronicle and then asked,
"Would President McCain support the repeal of Roe v. Wade in the short term?"
McCain responded, "I would support the movement in that direction."
McCain's response to Russert was consistent with numerous public statements. Two weeks prior to his appearance on Meet The Press, on August 31, McCain spoke to this issue at a news conference in New Hampshire. McCain said he would "immediately support efforts to move in (the) direction" of banning abortion if he was elected president.
Over the last 8 years, Bush has made significant progress toward overturning Roe v. Wade. Just look at what he has done with the Supreme Court. He has placed Alito and Roberts on the Supreme Court. It is widely believed among legal scholars that Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas would all vote to overturn Roe v. Wade if they get the opportunity to rule on the matter. One more conservative vote will enable the court to move in the direction McCain and Bush have both embraced -- the repeal of Roe v. Wade.
The next president will have a chance to nominate at least one and possibly two Supreme Court justice. John Paul Stevens is old enough to be McCain's father. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is older than McCain and is a recent cancer survivor. Given McCain's persistent problems with political alliances on the Right, appointing a strident conservative would be an excellent opportunity for him to pander to that wing of his party.
Some people like to dismiss this talk of overturning Roe v. Wade is a "dystopian fantasy." I disagree. For those who can't imagine such a dramatic reversal of fortune, I have one word for you: <u>Reconstruction.</u>
A quick history lesson:
In 1866, Republicans forced passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 over the veto of President Andrew Johnson. In 1868, Congress ratified the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed the rights granted to free blacks could never be repealed by a subsequent congress. In 1870, Congress ratified the 15th Amendment, guaranteeing blacks the right to vote. These sweeping pieces of legislation paved the way for blacks to live as equals with whites, making them citizens and supposedly protecting their citizenship against discrimination...or so their proponents thought.
Unfortunately, the laws and constitutional amendments that supposedly gave blacks political power and social protection proved easier to write than to enforce. From the beginning, Southerners despised Northern attempts to "reconstruct" a new, more tolerant South. White supremacists, former slave-owners yearning for a return to "Dixieland," and Democrats hoping to gain a Southern power-base all worked against the reforms.
The Supreme Court was no friend to these new citizens. Decisions in United States v. Cruickshank and Williams v. Mississippi established the poll tax and literacy requirements in order to vote. Poll taxes and literacy standards had the effect of disenfranchising the lower classes. Most former slaves received no money or education from their former masters. Thus, most blacks could not pay the taxes or read. This effectively removed blacks from the political scene wherever those laws were enacted. As a result of these laws, black representation in Congress, local and state legislatures quickly disappeared.
Subsequent Supreme Court decisions, especially Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 (which legalized segregation) led to the complete social separation of blacks from whites. As a result of this law, blacks were forbidden to even use the same bathrooms or water fountains as whites. Segregated schools left many blacks bereft of a good education, thus denying them important opportunities to move up the social ladder.
A mindset soon developed as a result of these actions that allowed white supremacists to convince ordinary white citizens that blacks deserved to be at the bottom, thus retarding further civil rights progress and reversing important gains for generations.
The few remaining blacks who chose to exercise their rights were simply intimidated by violence. Lynchings of "uppity negroes" were commonplace and served to terrorize communities into silence.
The relevance of this history lesson should be obvious to anyone familiar with the growing number of attacks on family planning clinics or doctors providing safe and legal abortions.
Choice is on the ballot in November
It is hard to overstate the impact overturning Roe will have. One thing is certain. Undoing the damage will require a pitched fight that will last generations. Expect this court to be no friendlier to disenfranchised women than previous courts were to disenfranchised blacks. Evidence of this can be found in Scalia's recent response to complaints about the controversial 5-4 Supreme Court decision handing Bush the election in 2000. His message to the disenfranchised voters was crystal clear: "Get over it." Will you be able to do that? Will your daughter? Will your granddaughter?