Hillary Clinton Tries New Tack On Abortion

WASHINGTON — The story goes that President Bill Clinton won his first election because his campaign kept reminding him, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

If Sen. Hillary Clinton plans to run for president, she may have adopted a different catch phrase: “It’s about God and moral values and life, stupid.”

At a speaking engagement at Tufts University in November, just days after President Bush’s victory, she pointed out that successful political campaigns have to acknowledge what is important to people. Because the Bible is important to many Christians, she said it should be used to win debates.

“No one can read the New Testament of our Bible without recognizing that Jesus had a lot more to say about how we treat the poor than most of the issues that were talked about in this election,” she said.

During a fund-raising dinner for faith-based initiatives in Boston on the eve of Bush’s inauguration, Clinton told the audience that she embraced faith-based programs as a way to help society. Religious people, she said, should be able to “live out their faith in the public square.”

New York’s junior senator mentioned God more than a half dozen times, according to a Boston Globe article, and said she has “always been a praying person.”

Most recently, Clinton made clear she wanted to show she has some things in common with the pro-life community.

“I believe we can all recognize that abortion, in many ways, represents a sad, even tragic, choice to many, many women,” she said during a Jan. 24 speech to a group of New York abortion supporters.

Clinton also expressed some sympathy for those who are fighting for the sanctity of life.

“I, for one, respect those who believe with all their hearts and conscience that there are no circumstances under which any abortion should ever be available,” she said. Clinton said she believes there is room for agreement between the opposing sides in the abortion debate. For instance, abortion supporters and opponents “should be able to find common ground” in areas such as reducing unwanted pregnancies.

“We should all be able to agree that we want every child born in this country and around the world to be wanted, cherished and loved,” she said.

Clinton even acknowledged the role that religion plays in teen pregnancy.

“Research shows that the primary reason that teen-age girls abstain is because of their religious and moral values,” she said. “We should embrace this — and support programs that reinforce the idea that abstinence at a young age is not just the smart thing to do; it is the right thing to do.”

Votes Speak Louder

But for every gracious word Clinton made in favor of life, or for the pro-life movement, she also gave reminders that she is a politician who has a 100% pro-abortion voting record, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America.

For instance, Clinton questioned the effectiveness of abstinence-only programs, saying, “We have to deal with the choices young people make, not just the choice we wish they would make. We should use all the resources at our disposal to ensure that teens are getting the information they need to make the right decision.”

Gloria Feldt, who is stepping down as Planned Parenthood’s president this year, told Newsweek magazine that Clinton’s speech was old news.

“Here’s the thing about what Hillary had to say, from my perspective: Duh,” Feldt said. “Throw us back in the briar patch. What’s our name? Planned Parenthood. We have been doing prevention for years. If the Democrats think this is something new, fine.”

In her speech, Clinton said she was in favor of “Plan B” emergency contraception, also known as the morning-after pill, especially for over-the-counter use — something the Food and Drug Administration is considering. She said Roe v. Wade is in danger of being overturned and pledged to “fight to defend it in the coming years.” And she also criticized President Bush for leaving many women around the world without access to reproductive health services, which usually include the availability of contraception and abortions.

Clinton declined to be interviewed by the Register.

A friend of the senator’s said she is genuine when talking about God and in trying to reach out to the pro-life community.

“She is one of the most spiritual people that I know,” said Donald Jones, a retired professor of theological and social ethics at Drew University and an ordained Methodist minister, who was Clinton’s youth minister when she was a teen-ager.

“When she says some things about finding common ground with pro-life people, that’s not just political,” Jones said. “That is from her heart. And I reject all of the point of views that she is beginning to play the God card for political reasons. I also would like to correct the record that seems to be out in the press now that she is just now beginning to talk about her faith when, in fact, all her adult life she has talked about values, morality and faith.”

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, a group that favors an end to abortion, welcomed the tone taken by Clinton and other Democratic leaders, such as Sen. John Kerry, who, during a recent appearance on “Meet the Press,” said his party’s discussion should not center on being pro-abortion but on “how you truly value life.”

Kerry, who supports Roe v. Wade, added that the party needs to include pro-life Democrats because “you can’t be doctrinarian negative against somebody simply because they have that position.” 

“We’re very happy to know that the Democratic Party as a whole is starting to talk about inclusiveness for pro-life Democrats, and maybe moving away from the strong abortion stance that has cost us elections and cost us the majority,” Day said. “I think the future is looking brighter for pro-life Democrats.”

But Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, said he doesn’t buy into what Democratic leaders have been saying recently. He views the rhetoric from Clinton’s Jan. 24 speech as a transparent attempt to make her appear pro-life.

“I think she sees that if she has a political future nationally she has to moderate her abortion language,” he said.

But he doubted she would moderate her voting — especially with key pro-life votes coming up.

“Will Hillary support the Fetal Pain Bill?” Ruse asked. “I seriously doubt it. Will she support the bill that will prevent minors from being transported across state lines for abortion? I seriously doubt that. Will it work? It will probably work for some people. But just like John Kerry saying that he believes that life begins at conception, I just don’t believe that people will believe there is anything pro-life in what she’s saying.”

“I think she’s simply changing the way she’s talking about it,” he said. “That’s it. End of story.”

Carlos Briceño writes

from Seminole, Florida.

Dialogue vs. Witness

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A recent appearance by Hillary Clinton at a Jesuit college in Buffalo sparked an intense debate over whether the pro-abortion senator should be allowed to speak on campus.

Pro-life Catholics were outraged that Buffalo Bishop Edward Kmiec allowed the senator to go ahead with her Jan. 31 talk at a Canisius College lecture series.

Bishop Kmiec issued a statement Jan. 28 that distanced the diocese from the speech and announced his “displeasure” with college officials. He declared that the diocese was not associated with the planning or promotion of the event and that two sponsors of the lecture series — Catholic Charities and the diocesan Office of Church Ministry — had withdrawn their sponsorships.

Citing the “Catholics in Political Life” statement issued last year by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Kmiec said he subscribes to the bishops’ call not to honor those who go against the Catholic faith’s “fundamental moral principles” with honors, awards or platforms that would lend support to their stances. But, he added, the bishops’ document also noted that the Church is committed to maintaining “communications with public officials who make decisions every day that touch issues of human life and dignity.”

“It is for that reason, despite calls for the cancellation of the event, that it was thought best to allow it to proceed, though reluctantly, in order to maintain channels of communication with Senator Clinton and others who hold her views,” Bishop Kmiec said in his statement.

In comments to reporters the day before Clinton spoke, Bishop Kmiec said he is hoping “to build bridges” in his diocese.

“They’re very, very Catholic in this area,” he said in an audiotape interview with reporters made available to the Register by Kevin Keenan, the diocesan communications director. “They have very, very deep convictions and deep faith, and, of course, that is what I need to help and augment in their lives. So, consequently, this is uncomfortable at this particular time… but, nevertheless, I’m optimistic. I hope some good will result from it.”

Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, a national organization that seeks to strengthen the Catholic identity of Catholic colleges, said it was “inappropriate” for Clinton to speak at Canisius because of her strident advocacy of abortion.

“Even when she was not speaking on that topic, it does present a scandal because it suggests the institution isn’t serious about that issue or, at the very least, is not serious about its Catholic identity,” Reilly said.

He said it’s good that the bishop wants to maintain dialogue with a public official, but there are other ways to have a dialogue beyond inviting someone to be a featured guest on Catholic property.

“It would be like saying the Pope needs to maintain lines of communication with Hitler, and, therefore, we’re going to invite Hitler to give a major policy speech at the Vatican,” Reilly said. “That doesn’t make sense to me.”

Keenan said Bishop Kmiec did not talk to Clinton when she was in town.

Clinton’s talk at Canisius was on the government’s role in health care. “The idea of talking about government and mercy may seem like a non sequitur, but it is through government — our collective mutual action — that we do or fail to do corporal acts of mercy,” she said.

Former Democratic congressman John LaFalce invited Clinton to speak. LaFalce, who is pro-life, is the Peter Canisius distinguished university professor and founded the lecture series. 

“Our position has consistently been that inviting speakers like Hillary Clinton to campus does not imply or constitute an endorsement of every position she holds,” said John Hurley, Canisius’ vice president for college relations.

He added that Clinton’s last appearance on campus, in August 2004 — during a minority business entrepreneurship initiative announcement by the college — did not attract the uproar that the recent visit has, even though she did speak during a public meeting with neighborhood representatives.

— Carlos Briceño