Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has gotten in hot water with anti-choice groups for his comment this Sunday that Republicans should stop focusing on abortion if the GOP wants to appeal to broader group of Americans. The Susan B. Anthony list and Personhood USA, two leading anti-choice groups, both issued statements strongly condemning McCain’s suggestion:
“He should figure out why he decided to take that position [to oppose abortion rights] in the first place,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “The folks that have taken the stand on this issue have taken it because we’re talking about defending vulnerable human life. If it’s not about that, it’s not about anything.” …
Personhood USA took a more direct tact in an earlier statement, calling on the GOP to “drop” its former presidential candidate over his desire for a de facto truce on abortion. “We will never be successful if we compromise,” said Jennifer Mason, the group’s communications director.
These groups appear to be speaking for anti-choice advocates across the country — lawmakers in multiple states began a renewed push to enact harsh abortion legislation in the weeks right after the election, despite the fact that voters decisively rejected that agenda on November 6.
Personhood USA’s campaign in particular has been extremely unpopular with the public. The group endorses legislation to redefine legal personhood as beginning at conception — hence criminalizing abortion without exception, and potentially several forms of contraception as well — and that ambition has been frustrated at every turn, as every personhood initiative to come to a final vote has been defeated. In the most recent example, Virginia Republicans conceded earlier this week that they don’t have the votes in their own party to advance personhood legislation beyond committee.
McCain himself, however, doesn’t fit the typical profile of the politicians who anti-choice advocates usually target, since he remains staunchly opposed to abortion rights. As the New Republic’s Sarah Blustain reported in 2008, “There is no ‘latitude’ in McCain’s position on abortion. Interviews with dozens of people who have dealt with him on the issue–pro-choice and pro-life activists, Hill staffers, McCain confidants, pollsters, and staffers — along with a two-and-a-half-decade-long perfectly anti-abortion voting record, make that clear.”