As far as global reproductive health, the foreign policies of John McCain and Barack Obama are as different as night and day. More particularly, the candidates have opposite positions on the Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule (the “Rule”), which prohibits U.S. foreign aid for family planning programs going to any U.S. non-governmental organization that either performs abortions, counsels on abortions or advocates for legal abortion. Senator McCain supports the Rule and Senator Obama opposes it. The difference is that clear. Senator McCain has voted consistently to support the Global Gag Rule in votes in the Senate to overturn the Rule, while Senator Obama has consistently voted to overturn it. In the September and December 2007 votes to overturn the Rule, neither Senator was present to vote. However, in a prior vote in April 2006 to overturn the Rule, Obama voted in favor of overturn and McCain voted against. In five previous votes since 1991, McCain voted to uphold the Global Gag Rule. Senator Obama was not a member of the U.S. Senate for those votes. Senator Obama told me personally in January 2008 that he would sign an executive order overturning the Global Gag Rule.
In the fight to reauthorize PEPFAR in 2008, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, both Senators were co-sponsors. In 2003 Senator McCain voted to require one-third of AIDS funds be spent on abstinence-only programs. Obama was not a member of the Senate for this vote.
With respect to funding UNFPA, McCain voted at least five times against funding UNFPA, while Obama has voted in favor. Obama says specifically that he will work to fund UNFPA as President. McCain has been silent on this issue.
The differences between the candidates on U.S. domestic reproductive health care issues are as stark, with McCain voting and calling himself “pro-life” and Obama voting and calling himself “pro-choice”. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political arm of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, rates McCain at 0% and Obama at 100% and has endorsed Obama for President. It is likely that, based upon past votes and statements made as candidates, as President that Senator McCain would continue the reproductive health policies of President Bush, while Senator Obama would pursue reproductive health policies more akin to those of President Clinton. The difference is clear.