By Dave Andrusko
Recent comments from Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (who just announced she will not run for re-election, instead focusing on her presidential campaign) and former Planned Parenthood President Dr. Leana Wen that espousing support for any and all abortions at any time for any reason may be problematic have produced some interesting results.
First coined by “Slick Willie” (Bill Clinton), to talk of abortion being “safe, legal, and rare” was hypocritical, of course. Clinton never meant a word of it. But hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to (in this instance a comparative) virtue, and so he frequently offered up the mantra.
But (as they say) that was then, and this is now. The time for even the slightest hesitancy about abortion on demand– and publicly funded, at that–has come and gone for any Democrat running for higher office, let alone the presidency.
Which brings us to post written by Anna North for Vox under the headline “How the abortion debate moved away from ‘safe, legal, and rare’: Democratic politicians used to say abortions should be rare. Here’s how that changed.”
North’s jumping off point was that Hillary Clinton used the safe, legal, and rare refrain back in 2008 when running for president. “The language was likely meant to appeal to people who supported the right to an abortion in principle but still felt morally conflicted about the procedure — a large group, according to some polling,” North writes.”
But in the very next sentence, North instantly transitions: “But many abortion rights advocates argued that calling for the procedure to be ‘rare’ placed stigma on people who seek it.”
And away we go.
By 2016 the “rare” component was gone and full-throated opposition to the Hyde Amendment (which banned almost all federal funding of abortion) was a plank in the party’s platform.
But as Gabbard showed, the framing of “safe, legal, and rare” isn’t gone. Her comment, and the conversation surrounding it, were a reminder not just of how much the Democratic Party has changed in recent years on abortion rights, but of the divisions that still remain.
While the article principally shows why the move was inexorable, North does a decent job illustrating why there are holdouts who see throw-all-caution-to-the-wind as a non-starter for a public that, unlike the abortion militants, is (at the very least) ambivalent about abortion.
The factors leading to the new over-the-top militancy include….
- Variations of #Shoutyourabortion, the intent of which is to “destigmatize” abortion. …
- Passage of pro-life legislation in many states. …
- Two Supreme Court appointments made by pro-life President Donald Trump raising pro-abortion fears and pro-life hopes. …
North pulls these trends together to draw the conclusion, “In a time when access is dwindling and Roe is at risk, advocates have argued that calling for abortion to be ‘rare’ just makes it even harder for people who already struggle to get the procedure.”
So we see Hillary Clinton going full-bore abortion on demand in 2016, including in a crucial debate with Donald Trump; the Democrat Party embracing the elimination of the Hyde Amendment; and “safe, legal, and rare” being replaced by “safe, legal, accessible, and affordable.”
However, North tells her readers, “Despite the shift, divisions on abortion remain among Democrats.” In a nutshell (my interpretation here), those who still believe in voicing “safe, legal, and rare “ fear Planned Parenthood is becoming so politicized and so identified with abortion, its reputation will sooner or later take a dramatic hit.
It’s worth recalling that polls conducted in the past show that a huge percentage of Americans do not know Planned Parenthood performs abortions (including even many pro-lifers) and even those who did know greatly underestimate the number (321000+ annually).
If you are Planned Parenthood, do you really want to repeatedly (and loudly) trumpet that you are the largest abortion provider in the United States?