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CNN Today

Election 2000: Sen. McCain Faces Tough Question on Abortion

Aired January 26, 2000 - 1:22 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: The other big story of the day involves another Republican, Senator John McCain, and his views on a tough topic, abortion.

Correspondent Jonathan Karl traveled with McCain here in New Hampshire, this morning. He joins us now with the story -- Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Frank, you know, there's been increasing attention paid to this abortion issue since Steve Forbes parlayed a better-than-expected -- got a better-than-expected second-place finish in Iowa with his strong, forceful anti-abortion rhetoric. Well, now everybody's asking the candidates about their positions on abortions, the subtleties. Today, riding on his Straight Talk Express with a handful of reporters, John McCain was asked what he would do if his 15-year-old daughter, Megan, became pregnant and wanted to get an abortion.

Here was his response:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No I would discuss this issue with Cindy and Megan, and this would be a private decision that we would share within our family and not with anyone else. Obviously, I would encourage her to bring -- to know that that baby would be brought up in a warm and loving family. But the final decision would be made by Megan with our advice and counsel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: McCain was asked if that contradicted his position of being anti-abortion. This is what he said:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I don't think it's the choice position to say that my daughter and my wife and I will discuss something that is a family matter that we will have to decide. If that's viewed as pro-choice, I think -- well, you know.

QUESTION: But the option is that she would have an abortion.

MCCAIN: I'm not going to talk about what I'm going to do with my daughter in the most personal and painful kind of a situation that I can imagine outside of a terminal illness. I mean, really.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Within an hour, the McCain campaign was rushing a clarification to reporters. They were saying that what McCain meant to say was that if his daughter wanted to have an abortion, that would be a family decision, not the decision of his daughter alone.

Now, his response, both initially to the question and his clarification, is not pleasing some anti-abortion groups. The American Life League is saying this contradicts what he says is a pro- life position, although interestingly, a group here in New Hampshire, the affiliate of the Coalition of Right to Life, is saying that this is a personal matter. What they're more concerned about is where McCain stands about -- on the issue.

SESNO: They're saying it's a personal matter. They're also saying the question is somewhat theoretical, and question as posed, as I understand, Jonathan, was if you're daughter became pregnant, it wasn't layed out as to how that might have happened.

KARL: Exactly. We've seen this question come up in the past where candidates have been asked, if a family member were raped how would you respond. That has not the way this question was put; it was very specific: if your daughter became pregnant -- no mention of circumstances -- and she wanted to have an abortion, what would you say.

KARL: You expect it to come up at the debate tonight?

KARL: I imagine that the abortion issue certainly will.

SESNO: All right, thanks, Jonathan Karl.

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