SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hillary Doesn’t Care That Much About Abortion Rights

Hillary Clinton’s recent attack on fellow presidential hopeful Marco Rubio (R-FL) over abortion (“offensive,” “outrageous” and “troubling,” she said) reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to wonder aloud for some time:

Why doesn’t the Democratic Party call for a federal law legalizing abortion?

Thanks to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, abortion is legal. Given the 5-4 balance of the Supreme Court barely in favor of that 1973 decision, however, federal abortion rights could vanish following the next vacancy on the high bench, especially if it happens under a Republican president. (Abortion would remain legal in liberal states.)

Four decades of legal limbo is enough.

If Hillary, Bernie Sanders and Congressional Democrats really believe in a woman’s right to control her own body — for the record, I think they do — they should jointly endorse a bill legalizing abortion throughout the land.

It is true, of course, that full-throated support for reproductive freedom carries political risks.

With only 50% in support of abortion rights and 35% against, Democrats would risk losing some of the conservatives we used to call Reagan Democrats, or just swing voters, especially Catholics. Incredibly, you’re more likely to poke someone who likes gay marriage than abortion when you shake a stick.

Of even greater concern to Democratic strategists is losing leverage over their progressive wing. Following decades of marginalization and watching their political views overlooked in favor of Clintonite “Third Way” centrists, the left is disgruntled, voting and giving donations in smaller numbers. One thing that still motivates these liberals to turn out for Democrats is the prospect of a Republican-controlled Supreme Court, followed by the overturning of Roe v. Wade — a threat many social-issue liberal Democrats find appalling.

If Congress legalizes abortion, this motivation goes away — and leaves a party that went along with the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, passed welfare reform, and enthusiastically pushed through a spate of free trade agreements viewed by economic populists as corporate giveaways that kill American jobs.

This is almost certainly why Hillary Clinton talks a good game on abortion — and that’s where it ends. She just doesn’t care enough to take a chance.

Despite the downsides, Clinton, Sanders and the party ought to press for a federal bill. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama played to the polls, the latter endorsing gay marriage, saying his views had “evolved” only after surveys told him it was safe. Voters are starving for leadership, for politicians who point the way forward, telling us where we should go before we form a national consensus.

Certainly, such a move would solidify support for the party among women by signaling that it is willing to take risks. The bill could go down to defeat. But legislative defeat could become a moral victory, as in Ellen Pao’s unsuccessful sex discrimination lawsuit.

It would also put Congressional Republicans on the spot, forcing them to go on the record as voting against abortion rights — which most American women support. This tactic, forcing opponents to vote “nay” so you can beat them up with attack ads later, is rarely used by Democrats. I don’t understand why. Is the SCOTUS threat really so powerful that it justifies the real possibility that tens of millions of women and girls in conservative Southern states will lose abortion as an option? Aren’t strategists worried that, at some point, liberal women in particular will get wise, and ask the same question I’m posing here: why don’t Dems even try for a federal abortion-rights bill?

If nothing else, it would be nice to see an end to the 42-year-old ritual of protests outside the Supreme Court in Washington, attended by pro-choice and pro-life factions yelling insults at each other.

It’s time for American political culture to get real and grow up about abortion. It’s silly and weird and unproductive for a major nation to remain so paralyzed so long over such a major issue. Women deserve to be able rely upon more than a flimsy court decision.

There ought to be a law — and Democrats should lead the charge.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower, to be published August 25th. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)


22 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hillary Doesn’t Care That Much About Abortion Rights

  1. I’m not in the habit of quoting Hillary (and for the record, I don’t intend to vote for her)

    But she did say something noteworthy on this issue. “I’ve never met anyone who is pro-abortion, but I’ve met many people who are pro-choice”

    I think that sums it up nicely. No woman *wants* to have an abortion, only that it beats the alternative of risking her life and health to bring another unwanted child into the world.

    • I believe you’ve hit upon a key distinction:
      “Pro-life” advocates want to make the decisions for each and every individual.
      “Pro-choice” advocates want each and every individual to be able to make her own independent decision.

      • Anti-murder advocates want to make the decisions for each and every individual.

        Anti-rape advocates want to make the decisions for each and every individual.

        Anti-theft advocates want to make the decisions for each and every individual.

        I’m sure this point will sail right over your heads. No worries. We can take it another way!

        Progressives want to decide that…

        that joke you told at work was harassment.

        that drunk girl you hooked up with was rape.

        you make too much money.

        your girlfriend can abort your child. (Sorry, dad, you don’t count.)

        (Regrettably, time and space are finite for mortals and with respect to this fact, I end the list here. You’ll just have to imagine it going on forever as it could.)

      • @ CrazyH –

        Please take care of the small-fry sitting over in the corner playing with himself, will you?

        I don/t respond to trolls.


    • Actually, a pro-life girlfriend of mine had a “friend” who didn’t use birth control and said if she got pregnant she would just get an abortion and not tell anyone. No big deal. Clearly trying to avoid the possibility of an abortion, right? And it’s such an acceptable thing to do that she wanted no one to know.

      Do you know any actual fucking people? “No woman *wants* to have an abortion” Really? Beyond the pale–even for you.

      • Have you seen any of the videos of those narcissists filming their own abortions? Get real.

  2. Ted,

    Two things.
    1. George Carlin.
    2. Your own recent (ongoing) experiences with the LA(TimesPD).

    George Carlin mentioned on more than one occasion that most of the “feminists” he met didn’t give a shit about minority women’s problems. The “feminists” cared about their own reproductive options.

    How many “progressive” organizations left you, ass in the wind, while the law firm of Goldberg, Pringle & Durr took your reputation into a back room and slit its throat?

    More to the point, what would the result have been if, instead of the sound of crickets, Poynter had jumped RIGHT on the issue with a condemnation of the unethical aspects of the case? What if NPR had done the same? Or CJR? What if the entire mass of failing news organizations had put its foot down and roared?

    Instead, you had to cobble it together a tiny piece at a time from one fringe site after another. Why? Because, even though the LA Times’ own reader representative was too chickenshit to say Word One, the New York Times public editor, the ombud at the Washington Post, and so forth, all stood by quietly too while you got Kitty Genovese’d.

    See? It’s the same thing. None of them ever crosses the power structure in any confrontation or aggressive manner of any kind. I’ve lost track of how many of the NY Times ombuds columns can be summarized as “Well, opinions differ, but I think the Times made the right choice after all.”

    In the same way, Hillary Clinton will never lack for abortion availability. Chelsea? Ditto. Chelsea’s children? The same. Who needs these reproductive choices at the LOCAL level? Poor (and by poor, mostly minority) people, who can’t helicopter out of the Hamptons to a private clinic and pay cash for anything their top-notch insurance won’t cover.

    To expect Hillary to actually be genuinely progressive on abortion (as in, demanding a federal level law that REQUIRES abortions be kept legal, safe and affordable) is ridiculous. As she burns through all other possible options to garner ratings in her rapidly wilting campaign, she will, I am sure, start making noise about abortion. And I’m sure her stance will not be possible to express in a single sentence. There will be caveats, exemptions, and all manner of conditions. The lawyer version of “It’s a nice day,” with 16 footnotes and four citations to earlier cases that demonstrate that the opinion made is no guarantee and that the grantor of the opinion, as a Limited Liability Company, is exempt (via subsection 23-J of the Municipal Code), from any liabilities or writs of replevin.

    • Since when have feminists other than Camile Paglia and a couple others perhaps ever cared about anything they believed did not or would not affect them personally?

  3. Not that the US still has a Constitution that means anything, but the Federal government has no Constitutional Right to make state law. The Supreme Court ruled that choice is a woman’s Constitutional right, so the US Congress could affirm that ruling, but they still can’t make state laws. Though, of course, they do. Like saying the US will give states lots of money if they impose Federal speed limits, but not to the states that don’t.

    It’s still too complicated.

    • I would ask you then to explain how it is that homosexual marriage is now a Constitutional right and that individual states must conform. Is this not on a par with abortion rights?

    • Man, you’re confused – the government has no *rights* whatsoever.

      *Citizens* have rights.

      The constitution does not specify what citizens are allowed to do, instead it specifies what the government is *not* allowed to do. Neither the federal government nor individual state governments are allowed to restrict citizens’ rights.

      I’m glad I could clear that up for you.

      • He meant to say, “the Federal government has no Constitutional *Power*”

        Now, I haven’t read my constitution in a few months, but I’m pretty sure they don’t have the power to legislate on abortion. Then again, not having constitutional power has not stopped them from legislating other issues.

  4. “at some point, liberal women in particular will get wise”

    If they did that, they’d be conservative!

    Thanks for the hearty laugh.

  5. “Of even greater concern to Democratic strategists is losing leverage over their progressive wing”.

    LOL. “Progressives” have pushed the Democratic party as far and as hard away from them as they could by making impossible demands with unachievable timelines. And then to add insult to injury “progressives” blame the party for the tonal shift they caused. Democratic strategists wrote progressives off as impossible to please long ago- that’s why the party keeps going right. They aren’t worried about “progressives” at all- they know that when “progressives” actually want to make PROGRESS- “progressives” will need to get back in the party’s good graces, not the other way around.

    “This tactic, forcing opponents to vote “nay” so you can beat them up with attack ads later, is rarely used by Democrats. I don’t understand why. ”

    Because it NEVER.WORKS. Setting up votes you know will fail at best makes you look weak; at worst, makes you look stupid and/or crazy. See: Obamacare votes, Republican

    • Sanders is gaining on Clinton bigtime – he’s now in the realm of “serious candidate” rather than “loonie fringe.”

      We have our first truly liberal candidate in many years, while the GOP is fielding only clowns.

      So, what’ll it be Whimsy? Will you be voting for an honest-go-god liberal, or for the conservative in the pantsuit?

      • Oh, I’ll vote Bernie in the primaries, but he’s not going to get the nom.He’ll be out before this time next year.

        That said, I’ll vote for whoever gets the Democratic nod in 2016. It’s the only sane choice- ALL the Republican nominees are cuckoo crazypants and would be utter, country-ending disasters.

        And don’t get me started on the utter stupidness/selfishness of not voting/throwing your vote away.

      • > I’ll vote for whoever gets the Democratic nod in 2016

        I don’t doubt that in the least. Wouldn’t it be easier to just sign your proxy over to the DNC and save yourself a trip to the polls?

        > [Bernie] out before this time next year.

        Maybe yes, and maybe no. But you’re not going to bring about change by voting for the same-o same-o. Vote fro the same-o same-o, yer gonna get the same-o same-o.

      • Hillary is only conservative if your only criterion is the principle of maintaining the status quo.

    • I reject your premise: Hillary is a slight improvement over Obama, and a slight improvement is the best that can be expected in a single election cycle. When “progressives” grasp this they will actually start making progress on the things they claim to care about. However, even if I accepted your premise, when the only other viable choice is country ending lunacy: same-o, same-o remains the only sane choice.

      Besides, even though he’s not gonna win , the longer Bernie stays in the race, the further left Hillary’s going to go. So its worthwhile to keep him in the race to the last possible moment to improve Hillary as a candidate.

      • > the longer Bernie stays in the race, the further left Hillary’s going to go.

        That’s the first intelligent thing you’ve said in the past two years. There’s hope for you yet.

      • In what possible way can Hillary be an improvement, however slight? She’s exactly like Obama except even more bloodthirsty. Even if she alters her campaigning due to Bernie, that will mean nothing to her once she has won.

        More to the point, since she is same-o we can expect no changes. At least Trump would tackle immigration and stop the “free trade” deals. At least Rand would bring home troops and tackle the debt and civil rights. Hillary will do nothing good. Nothing at all.