Politics & Policy

Hillary Clinton Should Name the Hypothetical Abortion Restrictions She Supports

(Justin Sullivan/Getty)

At the Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire on February 6, Senator Marco Rubio called Hillary Clinton an extremist on abortion because she supports abortion-on-demand up to “the baby’s due date.” Mrs. Clinton promptly rejected that charge, saying that she does support restrictions on abortion “in the very end of the third trimester.” She went on to tell ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that those restrictions should not apply in cases of the life and health of the mother, and that “rape and incest have to be always taken into account.”

Forty-three years of Roe v. Wade have shown that allowing a woman’s health exception to a late-term abortion ban is a loophole so big as to make the underlying restriction meaningless. It applies to anyone who claims to feel “mental distress” at the thought of having a baby. And it’s hard to take seriously the idea that a woman who stood by as her husband vetoed a law to prohibit the gruesome practice of partial-birth abortion now opposes the very abortions the technique was designed to administer.

But the pro-life movement welcomes converts every day — I’m one myself. Let’s take Hillary at her word. She says she opposes late-term abortions except in cases of the mother’s health (including mental health), life, rape, and incest. It’s worth exploring, then, the circumstances under which she thinks abortion should be restricted.

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The majority of late-term abortions are done on healthy babies developing normally through uncomplicated pregnancies. Does Mrs. Clinton support a ban on those abortions? Does Mrs. Clinton support a law prohibiting abortions for sex selection? These abortions primarily affect female babies. What about abortions to reduce triplets to twins? A surrogate mother in Georgia is being pressured to have such an abortion, simply because the babies’ parents don’t want a third child. Abortion, particularly late in pregnancy, often targets the handicapped for elimination. The number of babies born with Down’s syndrome has been declining as more parents opt for abortion after a prenatal diagnosis. Ohio and Missouri have passed laws to prohibit such abortions, with more states to follow. Does Mrs. Clinton agree that Down’s syndrome babies should be protected from abortion?

The fact is that by wide margins the American people support these and other restrictions. The vast majority would like to see abortion banned at or before the 20th week of pregnancy, a point in the second trimester at which an unborn child demonstrably feels pain. And polls consistently show that women are more likely than men to support limits to abortion on demand.

#share#Senator Rubio was right — it’s a scandal that in five Democratic debates, not one question has been asked about abortion, but it’s not surprising. The Democratic party’s extreme position in favor of abortion, expressed in the party’s platform, puts it at odds with the American people. That’s why Hillary Clinton felt compelled to reject Senator Rubio’s claim that she supports abortion up to a baby’s due date within hours of the claim being made. Her interviewers on the Sunday shows seemed more interested to know what exceptions she would allow rather than which abortions she would restrict. It’s too bad the rest of the media seems equally unwilling to elicit this information from the Democratic frontrunner.

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This issue takes on even more urgency now with the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia and the possibility that Mrs. Clinton will choose his successor. His replacement could uphold or strike down even today’s modest abortion limits, like the Congressional bans on partial-birth abortion and taxpayer-funded abortions. We are no longer dealing in hypotheticals.

I, for one, welcome Mrs. Clinton’s support for any restriction whatsoever on abortion, no matter how small. Legislation to enact a restriction she supports would pass Congress in a heartbeat. I hope over the course of the campaign she will be forced to name one.


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