Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has long been known for supporting legal abortion. But her comments in this election year have some pro-life critics saying that she is becoming more radical.
“She is publically signaling to the abortion lobby that she backs abortion on demand and won’t support any restrictions,” said Mallory Quigley, communications director for the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life political advocacy group.
In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Clinton was asked when, or if, an unborn child has constitutional rights.
“Well, under our laws currently, that is not something that exists,” she said. “The unborn person doesn't have constitutional rights.”
In the same interview, Clinton said she supports “reasonable restrictions” on abortion that account for “health of the mother.”
Quigley suggested that these comments are both incoherent and an attempt by Clinton to convince voters that she has a moderate stance on abortion.
“It’s a complete contradiction to say that the unborn are people, to recognize them by calling them persons, but to insist that they do not have constitutional rights,” Quigley told CNA. “If you acknowledge that the baby is a person, then of course they should have constitutional rights.”
In the interview, Clinton did not specify which restrictions she would support. Quigley said that because the definition of health in abortion legislation is so broad, it is questionable whether Clinton supports any restrictions at all.
“(S)he’s really gotten increasingly radical on this issue,” Quigley said, discussing the abortion language used in Clinton’s campaign speeches over the years.
In one speech during her bid for the nomination in 2008, Clinton responded ‘Yes’ when asked whether her goal was ultimately to “reduc(e) the decisions for abortion to zero.”
During that discussion, Clinton said that she thought abortion should be “safe, legal and rare, and by rare, I mean rare” and that it “should not in any way be diminished as a moral issue.”
Four years later, Clinton has dropped the emphasis on making abortion “rare” and ultimately nonexistent.
This February, when responding to claims from Sen. Marco Rubio that she believed in abortion on demand and without restrictions, Clinton said: “You know, I’ve been on record for many years about where I stand on abortion, how it should be safe and legal and I have the same position that I’ve had for a very long time.”
Quigley said she thinks the change in Clinton’s abortion platform mirrors what has been happening in the Democratic Party over the past few years.
“The Clintons were famous for normalizing the mantra of ‘safe, legal and rare’, but over time the Democratic party has really become more extreme, taking the word ‘rare’ out of the party platform and putting in ‘regardless of ability to pay,’ which of course means paid for at taxpayers’ expense,” Quigley said.
Other comments about abortion during Clinton’s campaign have also caused some critics to question whether her stance on the issue has become more extreme. In April 2015, Clinton said she believes that “religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” to expand access to abortion.
And in August 2015, Clinton likened GOP candidates with pro-life views to terrorists:
“Now, extreme views about women, we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don't want to live in the modern world, but it's a little hard to take from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States,” Clinton said at a speech in Cleveland. “Yet they espouse out of date, out of touch policies. They are dead wrong for 21st century America. We are going forward, we are not going back.”
The most radical position that Hillary has espoused during her 2016 presidential bid, Quigley suggested, is her proposal to get rid of the Hyde Amendment, which since its passage in 1976 has barred taxpayer money from paying for abortions other than in cases of an endangered life of the mother. In 1993, President Bill Clinton expanded the exceptions to include rape and incest.
Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have made repealing the Hyde Amendment part of their 2016 campaign, which signals a dramatic, “abortion on demand and without apology” platform, Quigley said.
“(Clinton) wants to change longstanding federal policy, which has always been bipartisan,” she said. “The Democrats have for a long time realized that many taxpayers just can’t stomach the idea of federal funding for abortion without limits, but her position is more and more extreme at a time when it’s very clear that there’s areas of consensus when it comes to abortion.”
Polls indicate that there is the greatest consensus on abortion policy surrounding abortion restrictions after 20 weeks, when scientists generally agree that a fetus can feel pain in the womb.
A 2013 Washington Post-ABC News poll found 56 percent of voters preferred limiting unrestricted abortion rights to 20 weeks rather than 24 weeks. A 2012 Gallup poll found 61 percent of Americans believe abortion should generally be legal during the first trimester, but the support dropped to 27 percent in the second trimester and 14 percent in the third trimester. A 2014 Quinnipiac poll found that 60 percent of Americans support pain capable legislation, which restricts abortion after a fetus can feel pain, typically after 20 weeks.
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, said since so many American voters favor restrictions on abortion after 20 weeks, Clinton’s more extreme views seem out of touch with the American people.
“She (Clinton) surrounds herself with these people who are telling her that everyone supports abortion, but it’s a minority view, it’s not what the rest of the country believes,” Day said.
“If you look around, and all these states are passing 20 week bans and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood.”
Twenty states limit abortion after fetal viability, and 23 states have some form of limits on abortions at 20 weeks or later, with varying exceptions. In Sept. 2015, the Senate blocked a Republican bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks nationwide.
Quigley added that election pressures from the pro-choice and Planned Parenthood lobby have likely led Clinton to embrace a more extreme stance. For the first time ever in their 100-year existence, Planned Parenthood announced their endorsement of a candidate, Clinton, during the primaries rather than waiting for the general election.
“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Hillary Clinton is the most outspoken supporter of Planned Parenthood among all the presidential candidates,” Planned Parenthood said in January of their endorsement of Clinton.
Other pro-choice groups including NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC have also endorsed Clinton. CNA reached out to Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America for comment, but did not hear back by press time.
“They are certainly one of Hillary Clinton’s key allies, so as they’ve gotten more and more stringent, not allowing for any concessions on abortion at all, the politicians have been forced to follow suit because there’s a lot of money that comes with those endorsements, money and power,” Quigley said.
Ultimately, however, she thinks “the American people are going to reject that level of extremism when going to the voting booth.”
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