Hillary vs. Women

Candidate Alienating the Sisterhood?

Can Hillary Clinton count on the “sisterhood” to support the first woman president? The Susan B. Anthony List’s recent survey said: No, ma’am. Support from the girlfriends is underwhelming.

In our mid-August poll of women, a majority said they would support a woman president, just not the actual woman who is running. As it turns out, women care about the actual positions she holds.

How ’bout that? They care not just about style and anatomy, but substance. And as it turns out, the stands Clinton has taken on abortion could significantly undermine her support among women.

The world is awash with unquestioned assumptions about what “women’s leadership” means. This poll and others that reveal a pro-life trend among young women provide evidence that women are looking for female leadership that is life-affirming. They are looking for more Susan B. Anthonys.

While a majority of women in the poll (of 600 women, with a 4% margin of error) applied the open-minded-sounding “pro-choice” label to themselves, vast majorities took a life-affirming position on specific abortion issues like taxpayer funding of abortion, partial-birth abortions and parental involvement in minor’s abortion decisions.

Women are not interested in paying for other women’s abortions. In fact, 68% of women said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who disagreed with them on this question.

They are horrified by partial-birth abortion and don’t want strangers or older boyfriends spiriting their young daughters or friends across state lines for abortions.

The vast majority of women said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who disagreed with them on these issues. Clinton has voted against the majority female position on these three issues consistently.

Putting this in context, Clinton’s natural base is women. And since she polls miserably among men, she must earn a sizable majority of women’s votes to win. Certainly she can win, but it will be despite her abortion position — if pro-life Americans allow her to bury her views. But her candidacy is just one example to prove a point.

The vast majority of women holding public office are way out of step with American women on arguably the most crucial human rights issue of our day. And on an issue that affects women intimately.

Women in the abortion lobby have carved out a tough spot for themselves in the name of “liberation.” In order to receive the massive amounts of campaign funding abortion groups are prepared to dole out ($54 million in the 2006 election), candidates cannot oppose any abortion under any circumstance.

So, supporting the overwhelmingly popular measures like a ban on the horrendous partial-birth abortion makes a candidate persona non grata at the abortion lobby’s candidate selection committee meetings.

If you want to ban any method or any abortion, you are not pro-woman enough, they insist. So when Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Clinton receive endorsement and campaign cash from these organizations, they take the cash, fight in the Congress but then try to hide their most extreme positions on the abortion issue back home on the campaign trail.

Right now, the hot topic to which these candidates deflect is contraception. The sound bite goes this way: “If you really cared about abortion, you would fully fund contraception for everyone.”

When I was on a radio show recently, the two rabbi hosts double-teamed me. They asked, “Wouldn’t you give your daughter contraception so she can avoid an abortion?”

I offered the modest proposal that the better plan would be to explain the many benefits of waiting until marriage. This did not stand the straight face test with my rabbi friends. I offered evidence that 46% of abortions occur after failed contraception. They moved on to a new topic.

The point: When you must go to great lengths to steer the conversation away from your real position on abortion, you are justly concerned about its resonance with voters. These candidates can only steer away from the deaths of 4,000 girls and boys per day on their clocks if we allow them the unfettered use of the campaign car.

We have to take the wheel. We have to point to the win-win pro-life position for women and unborn children. Love them both. Killing one can never elevate the other.

So what should women who believe in affirming the lives of both mother and child do? What attracted me to the Catholic Church and to the pro-life position was Pope John Paul the Great’s advancement of an inclusive, life-affirming model of female leadership. We’ve got love enough and resources enough for everyone.

And if the women’s movement’s success is built upon a stack of cards that has killing its own children at its base, then it will not take much for the movement to come crumbling down. Which I predict it is.

What is emerging is a new brand of woman in public office. There is a political realignment going on among women, and it is because of this issue.

On Election Day 2006, the pro-life movement lost many great champions in the U.S. House and Senate and on the state level.

However, the Susan B. Anthony List beat EMILY’s List (the wealthy pro-abortion rights political action committee for women) in head-to-head match-ups. The pro-life women running against abortion-supporting women won the clear majority of races. That is a dramatic shift from previous elections.

Granted there were many factors going on in this election, but those factors tended to pull the pro-life female candidates down. Factors like the Iraq War and congressional scandal tended to work against pro-life candidates who tended to be Republican.

There is a generation of women who raised their children, who always rejected the abortion culture and who are now running for public office.

This is a sign of great hope for our culture. Something broken (the bonds between mother and child) is slowly healing because of the courage and decisiveness of some great women. It is the advent of authentic women’s leadership.

As a Catholic, I am convinced that women’s leadership has to be life-affirming to be authentic.

Pope John Paul II wrote extensively about the “feminine genius.” What woman could resist?

A woman is especially gifted with the ability to see the person first, exclusive of their institutions and circumstances. This makes them good mothers capable of unconditional love. This makes them great leaders in complement with their male counterparts.

This love and inclusiveness is a place of strength. No house of cards here. In contrast, there is no inclusiveness in the abortion position. No child, no father, just a vacuumed out, forsaken, silently suffering mother.

The early feminists were life-affirming women leaders. They were true to women’s real selves. They saw the existence of abortion as a sign that something was terribly askew in the culture. Such desperation was a cry for help that abortion would only exacerbate.

Susan B. Anthony called abortion “child murder.” She encouraged her movement to do all it could to address the “root causes” of abortion. The sisterhood agreed.

Her compatriot Elizabeth Cady Stanton said, “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women to treat our children as property to be disposed of when we see fit.”

We have women in public office now that are beautiful spin-offs of this authentic version of women’s public leadership. They include Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R.-N.C., Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., Rep. Jeanne Schmidt, R-Ohio, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Rep. Michelle Bachman, R-Minn., and Rep. Virginia Fox, R-N.C.

These women take the floor of Congress and directly challenge the myth that abortion liberates women. There are many more in Congress and on the state level.

They are moving up in seniority. They are a direct challenge to the “leadership” the women’s movement of the past three decades produced. But there are still not enough of them.

Clinton and the majority of other women running for office face an irony. In purporting to advance women’s rights, they are losing women’s support. Seasoned politicians like Hillary Clinton and all women launching political careers should look closely at the majority views of women voters before claiming to represent them.

The “sisterhood” is looking for a change.

Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of the pro-life

Susan B. Anthony List. She writes from Arlington, Virginia.