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Safe, Legal, and Hillary

George Neumayr

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Hillary Clinton's idea of an overture to pro-life groups is to blame those who oppose abortion for its spread. This line of reasoning is comically convoluted, but Hillary Clinton has been trying it out anyway, saying President Bush is responsible for the rise in abortion in some states because he won't fund her favorite prophylactic programs.

But even in extending a thorn branch to pro-life groups, Hillary Clinton draws gasps, head shaking, and troubled silence from pro-abortion activists. So reported the press after she said earlier in the week that "We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic, choice to many, many women." Notice that she didn't say it is a tragic choice for the aborted babies, only for the women who get abortions.

But this was still too much for the crowd. To them abortion is a cause not for tears but for sighs of relief. After the speech, Martha Stahl, director for public relations and marketing for Northern Adirondack Planned Parenthood, disputed the characterization of abortion as a tragic choice, telling the New York Times that "we see women express relief more than anything else that they have the freedom to choose."

This sentiment, not Clinton's rhetorical repositioning in the wake of a bewildering defeat, represents the real feeling on the pro-abortion side. In fact, leading pro-abortion theorists have been arguing recently that unless abortion is seen as an unambiguous good the movement will die. They reason that if abortion is increasingly seen as a tragedy, then society will question the practice and ultimately ban it. Feelings of remorse invite the political order to scrutinize the source of the remorse. So Planned Parenthood is urging women to take pride in their abortions.

The "I Had An Abortion" T-shirts Planned Parenthood sold online last year were an attempt to "demystify and destigmatize it," said a spokesman for the group. The strategy here is to normalize abortion, make it so commonplace that no one will think to question it. If you can talk happily and casually about your abortions -- as Barbara Ehrenreich did in the New York Times last year in a piece titled "Owning Up to Abortion" -- then how bad can the practice be?

Understanding this psychology, Alexander Sanger, the grandson of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, has been emphasizing that abortion advocates should go beyond "choice" -- an insipid, evasive rhetoric, he thinks -- and celebrate abortion unapologetically. After all, he says, the unborn child is an interloper who deserves death. "The unborn child is not just an innocent life," he writes, but a "liability, a threat, and a danger to the mother and to the other members of the family."

Imnotsorry.net is a website that reflects the culture of abortion without apology that Sanger believes essential to the movement's survival. According to its founders, the website -- which allows women to post testimonials expressing their "relief" and "joy" after an abortion -- "was created for the purpose of showing women that exercising their legal right to terminate their pregnancy is not the blood-splattered guilt trip so many make it out to be."

Ron Fitzimmons, president of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, has told the press, "We have nothing to hide. The work we're doing is good. We are there to help women, and it's important to talk about abortion so that it's not a stigma." Like Sanger, Fitzimmons eschews "choice" talk as too weak and vague to protect abortion. He implies that since everybody now knows that abortion means killing a child abortion advocates will have to sell the public on abortion not just as a choice, but as a good choice -- it is better that unborn babies die. "We can no longer respond to [pro-life arguments] with 'it's your right to choose.' We need to recapture the notion that abortion is a difficult moral choice for women, but one that is, in fact, a moral choice."

Hillary Clinton's contrived overtures to pro-life groups represent a return to the fake mantra of safe, legal, and rare that Dick Morris taught her to memorize. To fool mainstream America Hillary Clinton figures that she will have to head-fake her supporters from time to time (like her husband and Sister Souljah). But what is said beneath the podium at pro-abortion events by the Alexander Sangers is far more significant than any self-serving political noises she makes above it. When Hillary Clinton says safe, legal, and rare, they hear safe, legal, and often.

George Neumayr is executive editor of The American Spectator.

Read this article on the American Spectator website (new window will open). Reprinted with permission of the author.

Posted: 31-Jan-05



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