McCain on Embyronic Stem Cell Research

McCain on Embyronic Stem Cell Research January 9, 2008

I am shocked and amazed to find Catholics claiming that John McCain has a good record on pro-life issues. These Catholics must be, no doubt, quite ignorant of political processes, for John McCain is a strong supporter of embryonic stem cell research, one of those “non-negotiables” we often hear about in Catholic circles. He has voted for every measure that seeks to provide funding and enhancement for embryonic stem cell research while a Senator for Arizona. He has joined with Hilary Clinton and Barak Obama in supporting such legislation–the three have identical voting records on stem cell research.

In the past few years, McCain voted “Yea” on S.5 and H.R. 810. S.5 and H.R. 810 were bills to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for human embryonic stem cell research. These measures passed the Senate, but were vetoed by President Bush.

As I mentioned in a previous post, McCain is not a pro-life candidate. Not even close.


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  • Thanks for reminding me of this; I had forgotten. On the other hand, he has a 0% NARAL record. Maybe we could elect him just to piss them off.

  • I agree. In no sense does McCain have a “strong” pro-life record, as his position on ESCR indicates.

  • Policraticus

    I find the NARAL records helpful for an intial assessment, but not for a deeper one. NARAL is a pro-choice organization, so its evaluation of what constitutes “anti-abortion” not always correlates with what Catholics view as “pro-life.”

  • Jonathan

    Since McCain would be a President, and hence, not responsible for legislation, we can thankfully focus on his abilities as to the Executive.

    All those in favor of electing a person with both the ability to pass laws and the ability to execute them (the laws, not the people), say “Monarchy!”

  • jonathanjones02

    As we saw in the latter half of last year, technology may help to alleviate some of the (obviously deeply serious) concerns Catholics must have about embryonic stem cell research that supports the destruction of life. That still doesn’t make his record excusable, because it isn’t. But it does provide a useful contrast to the biggest issue, mass abortion.

    Any candidate who supports the overturn of Roe v. Wade and pledges to advance the sort of anti-abortion legislation I detailed in the comments Policraticus highlighted deserves support. Abortion is the biggest issue, and overturning Roe will do more to advance the culture of life and the protection of life than any other set of actions. Returning abortion to the legislative process will be a significant Catholic and pro-life victory that will enable the saving of many children.

  • Since McCain would be a President, and hence, not responsible for legislation, we can thankfully focus on his abilities as to the Executive.

    Hmmm… I’m noticing some bias here. So… why can’t we vote for a Democrat then?

    Let me reword this (I added Giuliani, but feel free to put any pro-choice candidate)

    Since Giuliani would be a President, and hence, not responsible for legislation, we can thankfully focus on his abilities as to the Executive.

  • Policraticus

    Since McCain would be a President, and hence, not responsible for legislation, we can thankfully focus on his abilities as to the Executive.

    The president would have the ability to veto legislation that supports embyonic stem research. Congress twice passed bills for enhancement of embryonic stem cell research, which, thankfully, President Bush vetoed. With a Democratic Congress, we can be certain that President McCain would not veto that same legislation.

    Besides, I could use your argument to justify voting for just about anyone on life issues. Not even Ronald Regan appointed all pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, so under your rationale why even bother to worry about which justices get appointed?

  • Jonathan

    On the contrary, one could not vote for a president-elect who promised to appoint pro-Roe justices to the court, nor could one vote for a president who promised or conceived of using torture, since that would also fall under the premise of a commander-in-chief. Since Giuliani has potentially contemplated torture as part of his role of the executive, then one could legitimately not vote for him on that ground.

    Equally, and on different grounds, most of the candidates promise to enact this or that legislation – which, of course, is a violation of the separation of powers if taken literally. Should we take them at their word, and allow Congress to get away with doing nothing when it wishes, then blaming the President when executive orders / decisions / tyrannous acts – go awry?

    Hence, my thought that the US is sliding slowing into tyranny.

  • Catholics for McCain? @ Catholics in the Public Square, including the full roster of John McCain’s “Catholic Leadership Team.”

  • rgarnett

    Let’s see . . . I *do* think that McCain has a good record on pro-life issues. And, I am certainly not “ignorant of political processes.” So, I guess Policraticus’s argument doesn’t hold up. Q.E.D.

    Yes, he is (like many other politicians with good records on abortion-related issues) wrong on stem-cell research. It appears, though — thank God! — that recent scientific breakthroughs will reduce the salience of the federal-funds-for-embryo-destroying-research.

    One day in Phoenix, my mother — and no one loves the babies more than my mother — went up to Sen. McCain in a bookstore and said — with no one listening or taking pictures — “thank you for defending the unborn.” He said, “it is my privilege and duty to do so.” Nice.

  • JPF

    With the emergence of the powerful “unitary executive” who has no qualms about utilzing Executive Orders and “signing statement” the differentiation between executive branch and legislative branch (and monarch) have become increasingly muddied.

  • This discussion is ridiculous, I’m sorry. I can definitely see the bias towards the Republican candidates. One is either 100% PRO-life or NOT.

  • “One is either 100% PRO-life or NOT.”

    But what to do in the event one is faced with the choice between several less-than-satisfactory non-Catholic candidates? — McCain’s record on ESCR is disappointing (and I agree with Michael’s criticism of those who present him as an ‘ideal’ Catholic candidate). On the other hand, there’s little disputing that his pro-life record is above and beyond that of Obama and Hillary, both of whom are presently trying to — let’s face it — out-boast each other on who can kill more babies (Clinton to Obama: You’re not as Pro-Abortion as me! LifeSiteNews January 7, 2008.

  • Blackadder

    “One is either 100% PRO-life or NOT.”

    True. But it doesn’t follow that one is either 100% pro-life or 0% pro-life.

  • jonathanjones02

    Katerina,

    Unless one doesn’t vote – a perfectly fine position I would very happily defend – it is completely proper to weigh the most important issues and then how the candidates stand on those issues. For myself and quite a lot of Catholics, the unborn must be top priority and to me it is undisputable that an overturn of Roe v Wade is the most important thing. The other issues of the aforementioned comment are quite important also, and McCain measures up well.

  • M.Z. Forrest

    True. But it doesn’t follow that one is either 100% pro-life or 0% pro-life.

    Isn’t that kind of like being half pregant?

    I get your point. Just teasing, since I’m in a playful mood. There are many issues where rights of the unborn are disregarded. Personally I combine them into one and do a percentage weight, but I know others don’t do the same.

  • Donald R. McClarey

    McCain has never been my favored candidate, and I hope he, along with Guiliani, Ron Paul and Huckabee, all for different reasons, are not the GOP nominee. However in a contest between McCain and Clinton or Obama, I would unhesitatingly cast my vote for McCain because of his long record of opposing abortion in Congress.

  • radicalcatholicmom

    I have found myself liking McCain more and more. He is not the 100% pro-life individual that I would like, but no candidate is. My options are limited and thus I am forced to actually consider him. Huckabee is NOT an option for me. I do not trust him.

  • radical catholic mom, me too! I feel like McCain would be a more effective and vocal defender of life than any of the other truly viable candidates. I read through McCain’s website and through quite a lot of criticisms of him, but in the end, he’ll have my primary vote.

  • It is ridiculous to even thing that McCain is pro-life. There are no gray shades in this issue. You are either pro-life or not.

  • Policraticus

    Imagine this scenario:

    A brutal dictator commits consistent and prolonged genocide in his own country, killing hundreds and thousands on account of their ethnicity or their political position. Yet, he outlawed all abortion in his country except in the rare cases of hereditary disease or when the life of the mother was in danger.

    This actually happened. It was Joseph Stalin.

    Under the very same logic of rgarnett, Donald, RCM and LeeAnn, Stalin would be considered “good” on pro-life issues because of his opposition to abortion. Give me a break, guys.

  • Donald R. McClarey

    Actually Michael Joseph a better analogy is this comment by Frederick Douglas on Abraham Lincoln:

    “Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined. ”

    Once again, if McCain is the nominee he will not be running against a pro-lifer. He will be running against a candidate who trumpets and celebrates her or his ardent embrace of abortion in order to gain votes and campaign funds. Under those circumstances, I find a vote for McCain a very easy vote indeed. Thank you for starting this thread. It has helped me clarify my own thoughts in regard to McCain.

  • I still tire of people thinking the only pro-life issue is abortion; as long as they view it this way, they are not pro-life, they are merely anti-abortion. They have yet to grasp the full dignity of life. To be pro-life requires the full commitment to the Gospel of Life. Anything else isn’t pro-life. And that is why I think many Catholics who are anti-abortion are not pro-life; their glib remarks to the rest of the real pro-life message demonstrates to me they care not for life, and makes me wonder what their real reasons for being anti-abortion are (because the arguments they use to justify collateral damage, etc could be used for abortion as well).

  • Donald R. McClarey

    Henry some of us really do think that killing children in the womb is as close to absolute evil as you can get. The Church has always viewed this as a hideous sin, I will have many sins to answer for when I stand before God. Supporting politicians who endorse this abomination will not be one of them.

  • Donald

    When you actually respond to my point instead of some red herring, please, let me know.

  • Henry,

    I don’t think anyone is saying that abortion is the _only_ thing that matters in regards to being pro-life. And everyone here is agreeing that McCain’s endorsement of ESCR is a moral problem, as are the few circumstances in which he believes that abortion should be legal.

    However, one thing that is surprising to me about the Vox Nova pile-on against McCain is that he does not seem to getting any credit for this positions on torture and immigration. Given how much some Republicans have been blamed around here for their positions on those issues, I might have expected to see a little discussion on those points.

    Instead, we’ve had a couple paeans to St. Obama from one of the authors.

    I am not a McCain supporter, but I’ll certainly say this much: I think that if he is the nominee and remains strong in his anti-abortion views (and he has the principled pugnaciousness that suggests he would) he would help to challege the too-widely-held meme that only unthinking reactionaries. McCain has a fan base on the left of center, and I would love to hear him expound his (admittedly imperfect) pro-life views to those people.

  • Jonathan

    Henry, to what point do you wish Donald to respond? You have said the following, without specifics or support:

    I still tire of people thinking the only pro-life issue is abortion; as long as they view it this way, they are not pro-life, they are merely anti-abortion.

    To which other pro-life issues do you refer? You have only said, there are other issues, and failing to agree on those makes one solely anti-abortion.

    They have yet to grasp the full dignity of life. To be pro-life requires the full commitment to the Gospel of Life. Anything else isn’t pro-life.

    What do you see as the Gospel of Life, and is it part of the Catechism? And why do you see it or parts of it as necessarily part of a debate on the President?

    And that is why I think many Catholics who are anti-abortion are not pro-life; their glib remarks to the rest of the real pro-life message demonstrates to me they care not for life…

    Another conclusory statement – and potentially a straw man, since you do not identify the “glib” remarks. It makes me think you do not want to address or probe the arguments, but simply wish to dismiss them summarily without the need for discussion.

    and makes me wonder what their real reasons for being anti-abortion are (because the arguments they use to justify collateral damage, etc could be used for abortion as well).

    Well, at least you have finally given an example here – collateral damage. But, since you do not provide the underlying arguments that you believe those who are anti-abortion but would be willing to allow “collateral damage, etc.” depend upon, there is still no counter-argument or discussion available.

  • Policraticus

    However, one thing that is surprising to me about the Vox Nova pile-on against McCain is that he does not seem to getting any credit for this positions on torture and immigration. Given how much some Republicans have been blamed around here for their positions on those issues, I might have expected to see a little discussion on those points.

    I have posted on McCain’s view of torture and immigration.

  • Jay

    Embryonic Stem cell research and stem cell research generally can be very confusing depending upon which scientist you believe. I simply believe that McCain is a bit confused on these delicate issues and I feel that he is still pro-life enough in conjunction with other important issues generally, that he is by far, the most well-rounded, experienced Republican candidate available.

  • Policraticus

    Embryonic Stem cell research and stem cell research generally can be very confusing depending upon which scientist you believe. I simply believe that McCain is a bit confused on these delicate issues and I feel that he is still pro-life enough in conjunction with other important issues generally, that he is by far, the most well-rounded, experienced Republican candidate available.

    Dogmatic denial. McCain, just as Clinton and Obama, voted “yea” on bills that sought to enhance embryonic stem cell research and on bills that sought to enhance adult stem cell research. He knows the difference. Don’t allow your will to overcome your intellect on this one: McCain is not “pro-life” enough.

  • Jonathan

    There is no candidate liekly to be nominated who is “pro-life” enough, Policraticus, under your views. Therefore, can we assume that you will not be voting, absent a change of heart from some candidate?

    If there is some candidate who is, why so?

  • Policraticus

    Jonathan,

    Embryonic stem cell research and abortion are modes of the same practice: destroying/killing human life. If McCain were against federal support for stem cell research, yet were 100% opposed to abortion, there would be no difference on his pro-life status.

    To answer your question, if both major party nominees are not pro-life on abortion and embryonic stem cell research, then I will follow my duty as a Catholic and not support either. A vote for a lesser evil is still a vote for evil, so I would either look into a third party candidate or abstain.

  • Jonathan

    Of course, Policraticus, this – http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13170-stem-cell-breakthrough-leaves-embryos-unharmed.html – has now appeared [HT to Rick Garnett at Mirror of Justice].

    And thank you for the second paragraph.

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  • Jay

    You are mostly right and I can’t say that I disagree with your overall point. But the President does not have as much to say on the abortion issues as opposed to the Federal judges they nominate. And McCain did AN OUTSTANDING JOB helping get Roberts and Alito on the High Court. That my friend, is what I am hanging my hat on, and we really have NO CLUE what Huckabee will do in that regard (other than a politician’s promise).

  • Baptist Preacher in New Orleans

    Thank you, Catholic Friend, for clueing me in on McCain’s ESCR vote. And, thanks for the links too. I’ve been leaning his way up until now.

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