ABC News' Teddy Davis Reports: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told ABC News Saturday that he still wants to change the GOP's abortion platform to explicitly recognize exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.
McCain reaffirmed his difference with party doctrine on permissible abortion exceptions after speaking to the Iowa Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner in Des Moines.
McCain focused most of his speech on Iraq but he included a passage at the top of his speech which highlighted his long-standing opposition to federal abortion rights.
"I am pro-life because of my belief in the dignity of human life," McCain told the GOP dinner.
McCain's description of himself as being "steadfast" in supporting the "rights of the unborn" for "24 years, without changing" provided an implicit contrast between himself and his top two rivals for the GOP's presidential nomination. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani says he personally hates abortion but he has long supported abortion rights. Former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., switched from supporting abortion rights to opposing them less than two and a half years ago.
Even though McCain has had his own share of conservative apostasies over the years, his camp expects his abortion position to help him against Giuliani and Romney. It is unlikely, however, to assuage the concerns of Republican presidential candidates with less funding who have been more vocal than McCain on the abortion issue over the years.
Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., the Republican presidential candidate with the most visible support at Saturday's Lincoln Day Dinner among young Iowans for whom abortion is a top concern, took issue with McCain's continued desire to modify the GOP's abortion platform.
"We should not change the platform," Brownback told ABC News. "It should not be changed."
McCain clashed with then-Gov. George W. Bush on the GOP platform's lack of exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother during a Feb. 15, 2000 CNN debate moderated by Larry King.
Read the 2000 debate transcript.