Tags: Hillary | Clinton | Seeks | Husband's | Success | Abortion | Stance

Hillary Clinton Seeks Husband's Success on Abortion Stance

Monday, 02 May 2005 12:00 AM

The decision to have an abortion "is a profound and complicated one; a difficult one, often the most difficult that a woman will ever make," the senator said. "The fact is that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

"I for one respect those who believe with all their hearts and conscience that there are no circumstances under which any abortion should ever be available," she added to gasps from the audience.

The senator concluded her address by saying she hoped those on both sides of the abortion issue could find "common ground" and "take real action to improve the quality of health care for women and families, to reduce the number of abortions and to build a healthier, brighter, more hopeful future for women and girls in our country and around the world."

Six weeks later, on March 6, Sen. Clinton gave the keynote address at a summit held in Albany, N.Y., in honor of the 10th anniversary of the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, which was attended by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.

"Research in our country shows that the primary reason teenage girls abstain is because of religious and moral values," the senator said. "We should embrace that - and we should support the idea that young women and young men should postpone sexual activity and parenting.

Eleven days later, Clinton joined Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in introducing an amendment to a budget resolution that sought "to improve women's health, reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies and prevent abortions."

Among those actively watching Sen. Clinton try to claim the middle ground on abortion is Dick Morris, the one-time master political strategist for President Clinton who is no fan of his ex-boss's wife.

"How odd it is to see Hillary trying to convince us that she's a red state kind of girl (offering moderate views on abortion, condemning illegal immigration, emphasizing the importance of prayer in her life and backing the war) even as her party lurches to the left," Morris wrote in his Feb. 2, 2005, syndicated column.

But Morris watched former President Clinton accomplish that feat in 1996.

After vetoing the partial birth abortion ban the first time, which Clinton's critics said was a cynical effort to placate abortion lobbyists, the president was asked in Milwaukee, Wisc., on May 23, 1996, by then-ABC News White House Correspondent Brit Hume about Republican allegations that his administration lacked "direction or moral vision."

"All I asked the Republicans in Congress to do was to pass an exception for women who would face severe physical damage. And their answer was, 'Oh, you want to give them the exception so they fit in their prom dress!'" Clinton replied.

"I know what appeal this partial-birth abortion bill had because it appeals to me. I wanted to sign it. But the president is the only place in this system of ours where there's one person who can stand up for people with no voice and no power who are going to be eviscerated," President Clinton added.

Like her husband, Sen. Clinton has also been careful in trying not to alienate her liberal base and supporters of abortion rights.

The senator began her speech to the NYS Family Planning Providers by stating that Roe v. Wade was "a landmark decision that struck a blow for freedom and equality for women." She also said she looked forward "to working with all of you as we fight to defend it in the coming years."

Clinton said that "the jury is still out on the effectiveness of abstinence-only programs," and one element of the "common ground" the senator hoped everyone could agree on was emergency contraception, also known as the Plan B "morning after" drug regimen, which she said should be made "available - automatically - to women who are victims of sexual assault and rape."

During her March 6 speech, Sen. Clinton criticized the Bush administration for reinstating the so-called "global gag rule," which prevents U.S. aid from going to foreign groups that perform or advocate abortions.

"Practically speaking, making it harder for women to get information, counseling and family planning services is a counterproductive policy," she said. "It does nothing to reduce abortion; in fact, it does just the opposite.

"Without access to contraception and family planning services, there will be more unwanted pregnancies. And without access to adequate medical care, many women will die undergoing unsafe abortions," the senator stated.

And when introducing the Prevention First Amendment with her Nevada colleague Reid, Sen. Clinton said the measure "sends a strong statement that we think contraception should be available to women who need it so that abortion will become safe, legal, and rare," borrowing a phrase her husband frequently invoked as president.

The Senate rejected the Clinton/Reid amendment by a vote of 47 to 53, and a similar bill called the Prevention First Act has yet to gain approval from the chamber's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said that any suggestion Sen. Clinton is moving to the right is "laughable."

"There may be a rhetorical shift to the middle on a few issues like abortion and defense," Sabato said, but, he added, "She didn't concede anything on the abortion issue. She simply said, 'We ought to talk.' It's the usual political 'blah-blah.'"

Sabato told Cybercast News Service he believes that Clinton is definitely positioning herself for future campaigns, beginning with a 2006 run for re-election to the U.S. Senate.

"She's from a very, very blue state," he said. New York "is almost always blue. It's never been red, and it's very blue today. This isn't Arkansas she's representing."

Looking toward a possible Clinton run for the White House in 2008, Sabato said he considers it "virtually impossible" for her to win over most voters in red states, "except for a dramatic change of position, a substantive change of position that would alienate her own base, which she can ill afford."

Sabato added that conservatives have every right to be skeptical of a "new and improved" Hillary Clinton. "I think there's a significant difference between what she is saying and what she actually believes and would do in office," he said.

Janice Crouse, executive director of the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the policy arm of the conservative group Concerned Women for America, agreed with Sabato that Sen. Clinton's recent comments are "nothing new."

"Mrs. Clinton comes from Middle America, and she knows how Middle America thinks," Crouse told Cybercast News Service. "She's very skillful at saying one thing and doing something else politically. She has mastered that art, and she's done it over and over again throughout her career.

"Back in Beijing in 1994, she's the one who came up with the phrase, 'Women's rights are human rights,'" Crouse said "By that, she meant, and they all understood her to mean, the whole women's rights agenda, which includes abortion, acknowledgement and mainstreaming of lesbianism and the whole range of gender issues.

"At the same time, she knows that most of us on the religious right are not as savvy about the 'women's agenda,'" she added. "Most people in middle America think, 'of course women's rights - you know, the right to earn the same salary, the right to have opportunity and so forth.' They applaud that, and they like that about Hillary."

Nevertheless, Crouse said there is "no way" the senator is moving to the right. "We're talking about her central values, which have not wavered for 30 years, and they are not going to waver in the next 20. She is indeed a true believer, and that is, I think, cast in concrete."

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The decision to have an abortion "is a profound and complicated one; a difficult one, often the most difficult that a woman will ever make," the senator said. "The fact is that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in...
Monday, 02 May 2005 12:00 AM
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