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February 17, 2005

Hillary, Abortion, and the Partisan Juggernaut

Even those who might be otherwise viewed as ideologues often get caught up with the juggernaut of partisanship, putting preservation of the party over advocacy or principle.

We’ve seen support among conservatives for changing historic Senate filibuster rules because the Republicans are frustrated by Democratic misuse of the rule that protects the minority party. But even more blatant is the failure of the pro-life movement to recognize and even praise unquestionable shifts within the Democratic Party on abortion.

“Since its defeats in the November elections, nothing has put the fractured soul of the Democratic Party on display more vividly than abortion. Party leaders, including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and the new chairman, Howard Dean, have repeatedly signaled an effort to recalibrate the party's thinking about new restrictions on abortion.” (Source)

When Senator Clinton moderated her public position on abortion restrictions, infuriating the pro-abortion cabal, the only thing we heard from conservatives was skepticism and analysis of the enemy’s political calculation.

William Saletan wrote in Slate:

[Clinton said]: "There is no reason why government cannot do more to educate and inform and provide assistance so that the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances."

Does not ever have to be exercised. I searched Google and Nexis for parts of that sentence tonight and got no hits. Is the press corps asleep? Hillary Clinton just endorsed a goal I've never heard a pro-choice leader endorse. Not safe, legal, and rare. Safe, legal, and never.

Senator Clinton’s move is no doubt a political adjustment, not a change of heart. But if we discount changes by politicians that are, well, political, we will discount much that is done in Washington (maybe a good idea).

Perhaps I missed it, but I didn’t hear any pro-life conservatives celebrating this shift by Clinton. All I heard were observations about how early in the election cycle she was moderating her positions in order to be electable. I’m sure she is doing just that, and that is the right political commentary. But the pro-life movement should be celebrating any new successes and praising Democrats for the changes that are being made.

And it’s not just Hillary:

Other examples:

Senate Democrats named a professed opponent of abortion rights, Harry Reid of Nevada, as the leader in the Senate.

Many Democrats supported another abortion opponent, Timothy J. Roemer, for the party's chairmanship.

The party has recruited Robert P. Casey Jr., Pennsylvania's treasurer and a Catholic opponent of abortion (and son of one of the party’s renowned abortion opponents) to challenge Senator Rick Santorum.
One Republican Senator has noticed.

Pro-life Senator Sam Brownback, (R- Kansas) said: "Just the language that allows for the Democrats to open up and even encourage people to run for office as a pro-life candidate is an enormously positive development for me."

(I guess the pro-life groups are otherwise occupied. I just noticed that the American Life League has announced its National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day. I’m sure that will change a lot of hearts and minds.

The list of thoroughly pro-life Democrats is short, mind you (Note the website of Democrats For Life), but progress on the issues of life on both sides of the aisle should be praised by pro-life advocates, if indeed saving lives is more important than electing Republicans.

Posted by Jim at February 17, 2005 08:10 AM

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Surely you can be serious about the Democratic party's "shift" on abortion? When it comes to opponents of abortion, the Democratic party has sent a very clear and concise message: You are not welcome.

I'll praise the Democratic party when I see evidence of a genuine shift, not just the hollow platitudes of people like Hillary Clinton who are opportunistically positioning themselves for a presidential run in 2008. Her record and the longstanding record of the Democratic party speak louder than words ever can.

In no way, shape, or form is the party about to actually abandon Planned Parenthood and its many other campaign fund-providing special interest groups that are dead set against any restrictions on abortion, even partial birth abortion.

Sorry, but it is never going to happen, a few pandering and meaningless words to red state voters notwithstanding.

Posted by: Tom B. at February 17, 2005 08:58 AM

That's because Hillary's "new tone" has absolutely nothing to do with her stance actually moving. Her feelings havn't changed one iota - she's merely saying, "let's talk nice to the Nazis."

Posted by: TheAnchoress at February 17, 2005 01:28 PM

Or, let me put it another way, because that last comment was not a good one: Notice that the line Hillary uttered, which you liked, "Does not ever have to be exercised..." says nothing about actually bringing in restictions to Roe v Wade. She's doing what she has always done, she's using nice-nice words, but the core of her message is: nothing changes. We'll just keep "educating" people and hope that someday abortion doesn't HAVE to be used...but we'll not place any restrictions on abortion itself.

It is literally hot air...sound and fury signifying absolutely nothing. Don't be fooled by her. Her words are empty. Her throat is an open grave.

Posted by: TheAnchoress at February 17, 2005 01:40 PM

Don't get me wrong. I am no Hillary Clinton advocate. But there is some movement among the Democrats, at least in their rhetoric. The movement is a result of the voice of the people in the last election, no doubt, not Hillary and the others "coming to Jesus," so to speak.

While rhetoric is empty if it produces nothing, it is, nonetheless, important. It changes people's minds, it can make a difference. NARAL and the others recognize this, and that's why they are up in arms about some the softer rhetoric from the Dems.

I'm not naive enough to think we're going to see the Democratic party seeking the reversal of Roe v. Wade. But when the abortion cabal is upset, it should tell us something.

I do believe it is helpful to the process to recognize a shift in even rhetoric by the proponents of abortion.

Posted by: Jim Jewell at February 17, 2005 02:15 PM

The softening of rhetoric is not really something to be celebrated. As long as it's the same ideas being packaged nicer, nothing has changed.

Now... the fact that a few pro-life Democrats have actually had a shot at significant positions within the party... that's something to be celebrated. For years, the message has been "if you're pro-life, get out." (My mom was kicked out of the National Organization of Women back in the 70's for her pro-life positions, and I know many others who've been pushed out of the Democratic party for it.) This newfound inclusivism is refreshing...

Posted by: LotharBot at February 17, 2005 02:35 PM

I'll side with Jim here; softening of rhetoric does make the abortion at any cost crowd look like extremists.

To me, the big test is a stance on the partial birth abortion ban. If a smart Republican (or reporter) can corner Hillary into a position condemning the courts for declaring the partial birth abortion ban unconsitutional, then we're making progress.

This type of test would also be very telling of Hillary's "true" feelings. If she can't bring herself to give unwaivering support to a law that is supported by more than 2/3 of Americans, America will know her other words on abortion are hollow.

Posted by: Rick Brady at February 17, 2005 04:39 PM

What is worrisome about the softening of the rhetoric is that it tends to soften the opposition, meaning the squishy middle who don't really like abortion, but don't really want to see RvW overturned, either.

Hillary doesn't need to make her base happy right now. They might complain, but they're already hers in '08 and she knows it. She had them at "hello" so to speak. But I fear that people who are basically of a non-confrontational bent, people who really "want" to all "get along" (and I am not saying I am not a softie in my way, but you know what I mean...) this softening of the rhetoric will play as not merely a rhtorical event, but as real "movement."

Those folks with busy lives who only scan the headlines or listen to the news with half and ear think, "oh, look, Hillary isn't so pro-abortion anymore...well, if she's toned that down, maybe she's not so objectionable..."

A change is rhetoric is only valuable when it is followed up with corresponding action. Otherwise, it is nothing more than a kid-gloved attack on the opposition, with a bit of smoke-and-mirrors thrown in.

Posted by: TheAnchoress at February 17, 2005 07:17 PM