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Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008

Think You Know John McCain?

His birth control dodge continues

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I don’t usually duck an issue, but I’ll try to get back to you,” Sen. John McCain told a Los Angeles Times reporter in early July.

The uncomfortable moments documented on video—and in a Planned Parenthood campaign ad—show the presumptive Republican nominee squirming and stammering when he was asked why he voted against a 2003 bill that would require private insurance companies to cover prescription birth control, just as they cover Viagra.

“I certainly do not want to discuss that issue,” McCain told the reporter. One month later, McCain’s position is still unclear.

In a town hall meeting in Racine on July 31, McCain was asked by a NARAL Pro-Choice America volunteer if he could clarify his stance on birth control coverage.

“It’s up to the person who purchases the insurance. If that person wants certain coverage of any kind then that person ought to be able to receive it. So it’s up to the person,” McCain said. But that doesn’t really answer the question.

Does McCain think the employer— who typically selects the insurance policy for workers—should find a plan that includes contraceptives—or not? Or does he think the individual should make that decision? And, if he thinks it’s an individual’s choice, then what happens if an employer only offers a plan that doesn’t cover contraceptives? Should women pay for birth control prescriptions out of their own pocket? Is this part of McCain’s overall plan to end employer-based insurance coverage and force individuals to purchase health insurance on the open market?

McCain’s Wisconsin campaign office did not return a call seeking comment for this article.

Carmen Marg-Patton of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin said she’s confused by McCain’s response. “Either he’s totally out of touch with how health insurance works or his position is 100% unacceptable, that employers should come between a woman and her doctor in the decision of whether she should use birth control,” Marg- Patton said. It’s also unclear if McCain’s proposal would be legal in Wisconsin.

Marg-Patton noted that former state Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager wrote a formal opinion stating that employer health care plans that include prescription coverage must cover birth control.

Marg-Patton said that McCain should be upfront about his position on birth control, since it could have a huge impact on a woman’s health or her decision to have children. In addition to opposing insurance equity, McCain supports abstinence-only sex education and overturning Roe v. Wade. “

He’s been very hesitant to talk about birth control, which is also concerning to us because we think the president of the United States should be able to talk about these issues, since 98% of American women will use birth control at some point in their life,” Marg-Patton said.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com.

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