McCain Poised to Flip on GOP Abortion Platform

Likely Republican contender challenged Bush on abortion position in 2000.

ByABC News
May 9, 2008, 4:48 PM

May 9, 2008— -- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., faces enormous pressure from social conservatives to ignore his repeated commitment to change the GOP's platform on abortion.

"If he were to change the party platform," to account for exceptions such as rape, incest or risk to the mother's life, "I think that would be political suicide," said Tony Perkins, the president of the conservative Family Research Council, to ABC News. "I think he would be aborting his own campaign because that is such a critical issue to so many Republican voters and the Republican brand is already in trouble."

A senior Republican close to McCain told ABC News that building a more inclusive GOP is a top priority for the Arizona senator.

But this adviser does not see changing the party platform to include exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother as necessary for achieving that vision.

The problem for McCain, however, is that he excoriated then-Gov. George W. Bush during a 2000 debate for not being willing to make this change to the platform, and Democrats are salivating at the prospect of arguing, in the words of one strategist, "that another four years of Bush begins with another four years of Bush's platform."

Watch McCain's heated exchange with Bush here.

While McCain has not addressed the abortion platform since becoming the presumed Republican nominee, he reaffirmed his desire to change the GOP's official abortion stance following a multicandidate forum that took place in Des Moines, Iowa, April 14, 2007.

Despite McCain's support for changing the platform in 2000 and 2007, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., the co-chairman of McCain's Justice Advisory Committee, significantly downplays the possibility that McCain would revise the party's call for a nationwide constitutional ban on abortion with no exceptions.

"I don't think that's going to happen. I think you're going to see a platform process that is going to maintain that plank," said Brownback, a leading abortion rights opponent who endorsed McCain after ending his own White House bid.