August 17, 2007
Hillary Clinton calls pro-choice voters lazy
This month’s issue of Marie Claire contains an interview with Hillary Clinton. Here’s what she had to say on the subject of abortion (emphasis added):
JC: Next subject: abortion. Some women feel that your language is becoming much more moderate on the issue. What do you say to reassure them?
HC: I’ve been saying the same thing for as long as I can remember: I believe abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. I do think women should have a choice but also that women should be making responsible decisions. I think people who have been pro-choice have basically gotten lazy about it. There will be a concerted effort by the Supreme Court to try to push as far as they possibly can [last spring, the court upheld a ban on so-called partial-birth abortions], and if they go all the way and either repeal or overturn Roe v. Wade, then it will become a political issue again in the legislatures of every state, and people will find themselves having to be politically active. When you’re part of a group that cares deeply — as the anti-choice people do — you get organized, and you vote on that issue, whereas people who are pro-choice vote on a lot of different issues. I bet a lot of people among your readers voted for George W. Bush because they concluded that he was more likeable or whatever. But if [abortion rights] is the most important issue to any of your readers, then it has to become a voting issue.
[My response on the flip side…]
First of all, my subscription to Marie Claire was a gift, but it’s one of the few mainstream fashion magazines I’m willing to read on a regular basis because it has a social conscience. (Though there was another article in this issue that nearly had me calling up to cancel my subscription, which I’m thinking about blogging about in spite of the fact that it’s very personal and not something I ever really wanted to talk about on my blog.) Because of that, I felt thoroughly insulted by the statement that lots of MC readers probably voted for George Bush because “he was more likeable or whatever,” and judging by one of the online comments, I’m not alone in feeling that way.
Second, as to the alleged laziness of pro-choicers: are you fucking kidding me?? It has to become a voting issue?? Senator Clinton, what exactly do you think women like me have been doing since we turned 18? Voting for the candidate most likely to give us a pony? Failing to get to the polls on election day because we were getting a manicure? When abortion rights are under the gun, do you generally see solely anti-choice demonstrations? I’ll certainly grant that Bush wouldn’t have gotten elected had pro-choice voters outnumbered anti-choice voters at the polls (of course, that begs the question of whether or not he truly won the popular vote either time), but I think Clinton’s viewpoint fails to take the power of the religious right and its anti-choice rhetoric into account. Maybe it’s fair to say that many women who self-identify as pro-choice need to become more vocal and active about it if they want to guarantee a woman’s right to choose, and I think we (i.e. pro-choicers) all need to work more toward true reproductive freedom (to wit, bring the issue of women of color being sterilized or otherwise prevented from having children out of the darkness and work toward reproductive protections for them as well). That being said, however, how dare you accuse pro-choice women of laziness, Senator Clinton?
Finally, like just about any issue, I think the issue of a woman’s right to choose falls on a spectrum. There are people who fall toward the center, and while they might self-identify as pro-choice or “pro-life,” it’s not something they really get passionate about. Then you have the people closer to the ends of the spectrum, and I don’t think the people on the “pro-life” end have been any more vocal or active about the issue as those on the pro-choice end. I think any discrepancies that exist come from the people in the middle. They come from the people who are swayed by bogus accounts of the horrors of “partial-birth” abortion. They come from men who believe the issue doesn’t affect them, or who have taken women’s statements like “my body, my choice” to heart, but unfortunately take it to mean that they shouldn’t vote on the issue. They come from people who aren’t paying attention.
Yes, there are other issues I’m passionate about. That’s patently obvious to anyone who reads this blog. However, a) candidates who are strongly in environmentalist, pro-freedom of speech, pro-labor, pro-religious freedom, pro-GLBT rights, pro-animal rights, pro-education, etc. camps are rarely anti-choice, and b) if I did find a candidate who stood for all the things I stand for but wanted to limit reproductive freedom, I could not in good conscience vote for that candidate. It’s never come to that point, however, because I have never come across a mainstream candidate who agreed with me 100%. Of the current Presidential candidates, the two who seem to come the closest (at least according to the Political Compass) are Gravel and Kucinich. By the time the general election rolls around, I fear I’ll be voting for whoever the Democrats send up there simply because it’s the best I can do, but that’s the way it goes in a representative democracy.
A final question: how on earth was that answer an attempt to “reassure” women who feel Clinton’s “language is becoming much more moderate on the issue” of abortion? It felt more like a kiss-off to me.