Near the end of the final presidential debate Wednesday night, Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain were asked about their views on an infamous abortion law.
In the course of their responses, the two presidential nominees revealed the stark contrast between their opinions on Roe v. Wade – the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
McCain, who has a 100 percent pro-life record in his 26 years in Congress, called Roe v. Wade "a bad decision." But he would not go as far as some Republican conservatives want and seek to overturn the 1973 decision.
Instead, the Republican senator wants to turn over abortion law decisions to states.
He did, however, vehemently defend the culture of life after Obama said he believes that Roe v. Wade "was rightly decided."
"We have to change the culture of America," McCain argues. "Those of us who are proudly pro-life understand that. And it's got to be courage and compassion that we show to a young woman who's facing this terribly difficult decision."
McCain, who normally shies on culture war issues, called out Obama's record in the Illinois Senate where he voted against a measure that would give medical attention to a baby born alive during an abortion. He also pointed to the Illinois senator's votes against banning partial-birth abortion, a type of late-term abortion.
To his defense, Obama explained that in regards to the born-alive act, there was already a law in Illinois that required medical care for babies born during an abortion attempt. He said he voted against the act because it would undermine Roe. V. Wade.
Then he explained that he is against partial-birth abortions and late-term abortions as long as there's an exception for the mother's health. The bills he voted against in the Senate did not contain the exception, he said.
"I think that abortion is a very difficult issue and it is a moral issue and one that I think good people on both sides can disagree on," he said.
"But what ultimately I believe is that women in consultation with their families, their doctors, their religious advisers, are in the best position to make this decision," Obama said. "And I think that the Constitution has a right to privacy in it that shouldn't be subject to state referendum, any more than our First Amendment rights are subject to state referendum, any more than many of the other rights that we have should be subject to popular vote."
Pro-life groups, however, issued statements criticizing Obama's response to the abortion issue after the presidential debate.
The president of the Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund, Marjorie Dannenfelser, called Obama's position "abortion extremism" and denounced his vote against partial birth abortion as "senseless."
Americans United for Life accused Obama of "twisting the facts" when responding to McCain's charges against his past votes.
"I hope the American people notice that while Barack Obama misled them about his past record on abortion, he also refused to mention what he promised Planned Parenthood in July 2007 - that the first thing he would do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA)," said Charmaine Yoest, President of AUL Action.
"FOCA is a bill pending before the US Senate that would eliminate every abortion regulation in the country including popular laws such as parental notification, informed consent, and bans on partial birth abortion," she explained. "FOCA means abortion on demand, in all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason, nationwide and paid for by your tax dollars. The American people deserve to know the real truth about Barack Obama's record and position on abortion."
An ad campaign, launched this week by the conservative group Family Research Council Action PAC, also highlights Obama's support of FOCA.