1/29/2005

Safe, Legal, and Never

William Saletan of Slate Magazine argues that Hillary Clinton gave a highly effective speech last week that helps reposition the Democratic Party to win the "abortion war." Highlights:
Clinton's speech began by talking about Romania and China, two regimes that in the last two decades forced women to abort (in China's case) or not to abort (in Romania's case). Bush says he's liberating women around the world; Clinton said Bush is repressing them with a "global gag rule" against internationally funded family planning. What China and Romania illustrate is the ugly mechanics of turning anti-abortion morality into law. Clinton said: "With all of this talk about freedom as the defining goal of America, let's not forget the importance of the freedom of women to make the choices that are consistent with their faith and their sense of responsibility to their family and themselves."
Note the concluding words: faith, responsibility, family. This is the other side of Clinton's message: against the ugliness of state control, she wants to raise the banner of morality as well as freedom. Abortion is "a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women...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."
Safe, legal, and never.
Once you embrace that truth--that the ideal number of abortions is zero--voters open their ears.
They listen when you point out, as Clinton did, that the abortion rate fell drastically during her husband's presidency but has risen in more states than it has fallen under George W. Bush. I'm sure these trends have more to do with economics than morals, but that's the point. Once we agree that the goal is zero, we can stop asking which party yaps more about fighting abortion and start asking which party gets results.
Admit the goal is zero, and people will rethink birth control.
Clinton says we can cut the abortion rate through sex education, money for family planning, and requiring health insurers to cover contraceptives. What's your plan, Bush? Ban abortion and monitor everyone's womb like Romania did? Or ban it and look the other way while the pregnancies go on and the quacks take over?
This is the way to shake up the Democratic position on abortion--not with tiny defensive concessions but with a big offensive to promote responsibility and bring down the abortion rate.
A message of responsibility allows Democrats to turn the moral tables on the GOP.

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