McCain of Mystery

Amie Newman

Planned Parenthood surveys women in the "battleground states" and finds a serious misunderstanding of McCain's views on abortion and reproductive rights.

John McCain may be a man of mystery to many women considered swing voters, a new poll by Planned Parenthood reveals.

If you've read or heard about the exchange between John McCain and a reporter last year when McCain was asked whether he believed that contraceptives helped stop the spread of HIV and whether or not they should be publicly funded, you may be in the minority as a female living in a swing state:

Reporter: "Should U.S. taxpayer money go to places like Africa to fund contraception to prevent AIDS?"

Mr. McCain: "I haven't thought about it. Before I give you an answer, let me think about. Let me think about it a little bit because I never got a question about it before. I don't know if I would use taxpayers' money for it."

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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 abstinence?"

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."

Q: "I mean, I think you'd probably agree it probably does help stop it?"

Mr. McCain: (Laughs) "Are we on the Straight Talk express? I'm not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I'm sure I've taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception-I'm sure I'm opposed to government spending on it, I'm sure I support the president's policies on it."

Despite – or maybe because of McCain's refusal to stake out strong ground in the public reproductive health arena – a new Planned Parenthood poll conducted among 1,205 women in 16 likely battleground states (including Iowa, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Arizona and New Mexico) found that John McCain's reproductive rights position is either misunderstood or unknown to a majority of these women.

In fact, nearly one-half (49%) of women who say they are supporting McCain express pro-choice positions. Almost all of those women support upholding Roe v. Wade.

In addition, half of all women surveyed in these battleground states – and fully half of all female, pro-choice McCain supporters – are not informed enough about John McCain's views on abortion to be able to describe what his positions actually are. Even more shocking: almost one-quarter (23%) of these pro-choice McCain supporters believe mistakenly that he is, according to the poll report, "in step with their own views." In other words, they believe that John McCain is pro-choice.

Finally, when these voters are informed of where McCain actually stands in regards to abstinence-only programs, his record of voting against requiring health care plans to cover birth control and in opposition to preventive measures that would reduce unintended pregnancy, almost 40% of these current pro-choice McCain voters say they would likely revoke their support in favor of Obama (38%) or Clinton (40%).

In October of last year, Rewire sent out a reproductive health questionnaire to all of the then presidential candidates. John McCain did not answer the questionnaire but we did cull together this information on his reproductive health and rights record and positions.

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