John McCain: Openly Scoffing at Your Health

I believe that I speak for many American women when I say in response to last night’s debate (video below) that I do not want Senator McCain’s brand of “compassion,” and I sure as hell do not want his kind of “help.” I do not need him to help me have the “courage” to let him make my choices for me about my body.

When it comes to an unplanned pregnancy, the kind of “compassion” I want is not a paternalistic pat on the head. I don’t want to be told how hard this is as if I don’t already know, only to have it explained that for that reason, the decision has been made for me. The kind of compassion I want is the ability to make the right choice for me regarding that pregnancy and any assistance needed to be empowered to make it. It’s the same kind of compassion that I want for each and every woman on this planet, and it’s the kind that McCain is not willing to provide.

I’m tired of the condescension. Do many women who would prefer to not have an abortion need to be provided with the tools and resources they need to feel as though they can carry a pregnancy to term? Yes, absolutely, I’ve said as much and it’s the Democratic platform that is supporting such policies.

But providing resources to carry to term does not solve the problems of every unintended pregnancy. A woman who does not want a child, who does not want a child with the particular man she became pregnant with or has even been raped, who does not want a child at her age no matter how much money she has, who is finished with her childbearing, or who is facing a mental or physical health issue is not “helped” by the McCain “compassion” which would eliminate their access to abortion. And in any case, McCain doesn’t support programs that would do the things he claims he wants to do; that kind of “redistribution of wealth” is for socialists.

If you think that I’m using a lot of scare quotes, rest assured that I’m not the only one. Below is the video from last night’s debate, of McCain talking about his “compassion,” and at the end of the video using scare/air quotes to talk about those radical pro-abortion people.

Yes, you just watched John McCain put scare/air quotes around the word “health,” as in “health of the mother.”

Women’s health is so trivial to McCain that he can’t even force himself to spit out the word with a straight face. Considering the health of women when discussing the issue of abortion is ridiculous to Senator McCain, something he sees as the “extreme pro-abortion” position. And this should come as no surprise, after seeing this video by NARAL yesterday, which shows McCain stating his position that abortion should be illegal, and admitting his “understanding” that it would cause the deaths of many women.

I think it’s also extremely telling that in the above video clip from the debate, when Obama talks about making the option to carry to term a reality for more women, he talks about it in such a way that indicates he would like to provide resources to help her parent. McCain, on the other hand, explicitly discusses increased options for women considering abortion including not the ability to parent, but the “resources” to put the child they were forced to give birth to up for adoption to good, understanding “pro-life” people like him and Cindy. In fact, though he keeps using that word “help,” he doesn’t talk about helping women at all; he spends the entire time talking about the importance of their fetuses.

I sure as hell did not agree with every word that came out of Senator Obama’s mouth regarding abortion, but in the end what we got was the picture of a man who respects the health of women and their right to control their own bodies. What we got from Senator McCain was a clear picture of an extremist who disregards women’s autonomy and their very lives. And as a woman, yes, I do take that personally.

cross-posted at The Curvature

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19 comments for “John McCain: Openly Scoffing at Your Health

  1. October 16, 2008 at 11:44 am

    He made it more than clear last night that his only interest was in the child. He did not even bother to outline how he would make it easier for more women to single parent. Adoption is not the right answer for everyone concerned. It was like he was saying look I adopted a poor brown girl so I get to decide for everyone else.

  2. FashionablyEvil
    October 16, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Exactly, Cara and Renee. Apparently we women can’t be trusted to know what’s healthy for us and will just skip down to the abortion clinic to have a late-term abortion because, gosh darn it, we just don’t feel like doing the whole pregnancy thing anymore.

    I continue to be neauseated by the way people ignore the real world implications of their views which is that there will be more dead women, either from illegal abortions or because their “health” wasn’t taken seriously.

  3. SunlessNick
    October 16, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    And in this case, he’s not even denying it; he just doesn’t think it matters.

  4. October 16, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    I work for NARAL Pro-Choice America and I just wanted to make sure you saw the web video we released about Mccain mocking women’s health with “air quotes.”

  5. Jasmine
    October 16, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    I was shocked that he actually used air quotes. What a condescending asshat

  6. October 16, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Thanks for posting this. My jaw dropped at the air quotes. I knew his position was messed up, but that clearly was a moment that any minuscule lingering respect I had for him (mostly nostalgia from 2000).

    Tangent: This morning I got facebook message from an old debate friend which screamed about Men’s Rights and abortion. I might have been hiding under a rock for a while since I had no idea that these guys – as a movement – existed. What the hell is up with that? I read the MRA definition page over at Shakesville, but where can I find more information about these guys? My partner addressed this on our blog in terms of dude logic, but I am looking for a resource directory of some sort. Thoughts?

  7. FashionablyEvil
    October 16, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Alex, you could try Feminism 101
    (I think that’s the right link–my computer doesn’t like it when I have mutiple browser windows open–it might be blogspot).

    Basically what it comes down to is that MRAs believe that men have the right to have a say in whether or not a woman continues her pregnancy. The also whine about how men are victims in divorce proceedings (that courts always favor the mother, etc.), that men should be protected against rape allegations, and that women are really the people with the power in our country.

    (I’m sure the archives here, Feministing, Pandagon, Shakesville, etc have plenty of posts about MRAs.)

  8. ElleBeMe
    October 16, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    I am GLAD McCain did what he did last night. Not because I agree in any way, shape or form with his views – but because he showed the nation that “a culture of life” doesn’t include the lives of women.

    That came accross LOUD and CLEAR. And for all anti-choice types that had to leave a little discomfort – for if they were ever faced with a life-threatening pregnancy, McCain – their candidate du jour – would have them sooner in the morgue.

    He put a real face on the “compassion and respect for life (many exceptions apply)” movement. Bravo McCain – you did what the pro-choice people have been trying to show America for years.

  9. Shar
    October 16, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    16 years ago, my husband and I were told that our unborn daughter had a fatal genetic defect called Edwards Syndrome. We chose to carry our daughter even though she was failing to thrive within the womb. Every sonogram showed the cysts taking over both ventricals of the brain, I never felt her move. Every day I cried from the moment I got up til I went to bed. I suffered panic attacks on an hourly basis. If my mental health along with my physical health would have been at risk, I’m not sure what I would have done. Many other women have been in my situation and have chosen other avenues, I could never judge them or think any less of them. Our daughter passed away within minutes after birth, and we never regretted our decision. The point is, I had a choice, and I’m thankful that I did. I would never want my state, Sarah Palin, or John McCain telling me or any other woman how to handle such a personal and painful experience.

  10. Cactus Wren
    October 16, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Oh, but don’t you see? If we allow a “health” exception to abortion laws, then every week of the year, somewhere in America a woman seven months pregnant — happily pregnant, eagerly looking forward to having a baby — will come home from a day of shopping for nursery furniture and layette sets, find an invitation in the mail, and gasp, “Oh, no! This party is for next week! How will I ever fit into a sexy dress? I’d better tell my doctor I’m getting … ohh, headaches, or bad fingernails, or something. He’ll give me one of those partial-birth thingies, and everything will be fine.”


    Gad. McCain might as well have been wearing a t-shirt that said “WHY YES, I DO DESPISE WOMEN.”

  11. Leah
    October 16, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    What a nasty, bitter, disgusting old man. To actually sit up there in the national spotlight and imply that the government should get involved in making the medical determination of whether a woman’s life should be saved (Mr. Smaller Government, where have you gone?) because the alternative is that women will FAKE medical distress because they WANT to have a late term abortion? Is he out of his fricking skull? Does he honestly believe that there are women out there who just haven’t BOTHERED to get an abortion before they get to the third trimester? That they’re just lying in wait until the baby gets old enough in order to abort it?

    All I can say is, if he really believes vile, filthy things like that about women (I’m sorry, only LIBERAL women… as we all know the health of CONSERVATIVE women would never be endangered by pregnancy), we are all in deep shit if he actually makes it into the white house. God help us that such a throw-back could find any supporters in this country, much less enough to get him into the presidency.

  12. Cat
    October 16, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Shar, I am sorry for your loss.

    I chose another avenue. We decided not to bring our baby into the world. It brings me sadness every day but I do not (nor does my husband) for one second regret our choice. CHOICE. Damned inconvenient word for anti-choice asshats (nice one, Jasmine) like McCain. Just like always, the mother does not matter — she is but a vessel for the baby and that is ALL that matters for these people. Oh yeah, and nary an iota of support for mother OR child after birth…

    That Mr McCain, Sarah Palin, or any of the rest of them see it appropriate to tell ME that I HAVE TO carry my sick baby to term all while decrying the goverment to get out of people’s lives is the ultimate in hypocracy.

    I felt sick to my stomach last night. I am glad my child-bearing years are over. But I fear for my daughter’s.

  13. October 16, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Excellent post, Cara. I included it in my link round-up:

    Odds and Sods – last debate edition

  14. October 16, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    I don’t want to be told how hard this is as if I don’t already know, only to have it explained that for that reason, the decision has been made for me.

    Seems to me, back in the 19th Century we British had a term for that. Wait a minute, it’ll come to me…

    Oh yes.


    As I recall from history lessons, the “Darkies” and the “Fuzzie-wuzzies” showed us their appreciation for our “courage” and “compassion” by revolting every few years, and eventually kicking us out of their countries and setting up self-government.

    So, yeah, Senator McCain, it’s not really a popular approach, what you’re describing, with the people you claim to be helping. It really isn’t.

  15. Koren
    October 16, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Thanks for this post. As soon as John McCain ridiculed the possiblity of a woman’s health being a rationale in support of an abortion I was pissed. But then mostly I was sad. There we are again, marginalized in favor of our baby making ability.

    I am thankful for the feminists that came before me – what I have, what Sarah Palin has, what we all have is more of a choice than our mothers and grandmothers ever did. If Cindy McCain wants to stand by her man like a trophy, that’s her choice. On the other hand, why punish a woman with an unplanned pregnancy. I don’t think that’s good for anyone. There are many reasons women choose to have an abortions. As a Christian, i am not in any position to judge.

    Sad times for women. Sad times for America.

  16. Lynn
    October 16, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Shar, I had a very similar experience. At about 15 weeks, my second child was labelled by several doctors as “incompatible with life” — a jarring term for a pregnant woman to hear about her unborn baby, to say the very least. My husband and I were in agony at the possibility that our baby might live a short while and feel only pain and suffering, maybe for days and days, before ultimately dying anyway, so we researched options for termination. Our state offers no legal options at all past the first trimester, and limited access even before, but we did find a clinic several states away that would induce labor early, thereby reducing the baby’s chances for suffering. I ended up keeping the baby for a lot of complicated reasons. He made it almost to term; luckily, he only lived a few hours and didn’t suffer at all. I spent a lot of sleepless nights during my pregnancy, though, not only mourning my baby and feeling my family’s grief, but also worrying that my decision to keep him might result in suffering for my baby. It is a backwards way to think about abortion — for us, considering an abortion was an attempt at mercy for our child. What makes my husband and me so mad about so many pro-“life” folks (and I’d put McCain and his smugness at the top of my list) is the narrow way they think about abortion. The idea that it is only used as birth control is just not true, and that perspective betrays a lack of considered thought on the topic. Not many policy-makers and law-makers have considered the issue from my point of view, I’d guess. I think that’s it, though: it’s exactly because we cannot imagine everyone’s experience and perspective that we need to let everyone decide for themselves. Like you, Shar, I’m grateful to have had a CHOICE of how to care for my own baby.

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