Hillary Clinton is NOT the Best Choice Against Abortion, Part II

By: John D. Ferrer

In Part 1 of this series on Eric Sapp’s article, “Hillary Clinton is the Best choice for Voters Against Abortion,” we saw how Donald Trump is a flawed candidate, but remains the only prolife candidate on the docket. Under conventional wisdom, he would be the best way to oppose and reduce abortions. Sapp however is claiming that the best way to reduce abortions is to support Hillary Clinton, the most pro-choice candidate in the race.

We also saw in Part 1 how Sapp uses the “single-issue” accusation like a mild insult. That’s as errant as faulting abolitionists for focusing on ending slavery. Abortion, just like slavery, has been a gargantuan crime against humanity which bears upon most every other socially and politically weighted issue, including the economy, fiscal policy, religious freedom, family values, and more.

Sapp also drew a false dichotomy between prolife talk and prolife practice, that is, talking about reducing abortions versus actually reducing abortions. His dilemma is false, because prolifers have been doing both just fine, especially since switching to a state-based strategy (around 2012) incrementally restricting abortion access in each prolife state. The last five years have seen a steady decline in abortions, as prolife advocacy has been as vocal as ever. While prolife democrats try to thank Obama for that decline in abortions, the most prolific period of prolife legislation has been in those same 5 years, where 334 prolife bills passed in republican-led state legislatures. Sorry Obama, that wasn’t your doing. Obama’s only contribution to the prolife cause has been antagonism.

Sapp’s argument continues.

Exceptional Cases

Donald Trump and Republican leaders say they are “pro-life,” proclaiming from every street corner their unwavering belief that life begins at conception … and then those politicians turn around and say it’s ok to murder those precious unborn children if they were conceived through rape or incest. What does it say about politicians who proudly proclaim life begins at conception and then advocate murdering some children because that position polls better? And lest we excuse this hypocrisy as merely a realpolitik compromise required to get something done, the bills Republicans write that include these exemptions are message bills, supported only by fellow Republicans, that no one expects to pass.”

Here Sapp is using a loaded word, “murder,” to hide some critical distinctions. Prolifers do often say that abortion is murder, but even if it weren’t murder it could still be unjustified on other grounds such as (1) death profiteering, (2) animal cruelty, (3) desecration of a corpse, (4) child-abuse, (5) suffering, (6) harm, (7) manslaughter, and so on. One could treat abortion as an unjustified kind of manslaughter and it would still be unethical in a different way than murder.

Next, Sapp blatantly misrepresents and oversimplifies the prolife position, as if prolife politicians unanimously support full abolition of abortion without exceptions. The overwhelming majority of prolife bills have been and continue to be nuanced with key exceptions according to the conscience of those legislators and to help make those bills palatable to folks across the aisle. Prolifers divide sharply over how different cases of abortion should be weighed. Only the most extreme anti-abortion (such as Abolish Human Abortion) crowds advocates for full abolition yet all anti-abortionists, moderate and extreme, admit that distinct human life begins at conception.

Sapp’s next claim is strange. He asks rhetorically, “What does it say about politicians who proudly proclaim life begins at conception and then advocate murdering some children because that position polls better?” I don’t know that that scenario says anything about anybody since I don’t know that anyone but Sapp (and other Democrats perhaps) would characterize the fantastically complex landscape of bioethics in such a simplistic way.

I know of no pro-life politician who trivially approves or decries murder depending on polling data. Instead, I find pro-life politicians putting their weight behind bills that seem like they’ll reduce the number of abortions while pro-choice politicians support bills that protect or expand abortion access. Statesmen and women are liable to deliberate and change positions on a given bill, amendment, appointment, etc. after having weighed the pros and cons, but Sapp’s characterization above is so rhetorically loaded it does not help clarify that process but only derides that process in tones of propaganda.

Actual pro-life politicians may have to aim their campaign policies towards the interests of their electorate, but that’s true of all parties. Pro-life politicians may change their minds and revert to pro-choice positioning, but that’s true of all parties. Pro-life politicians may affirm that life begins at conception but also affirm that other people’s lives are at stake too, and being pro-life doesn’t require we rank one individual’s life over the other, putting the child’s life over the mother. But again, all those options are available to all parties.

So I guess I’m not sure how Sapp think’s he’s jabbing specifically at pro-life Republicans when this logic equally indicts Democrats. Indeed, we can counter with the same brand of loaded question: “What does it say about politicians, like Hillary, who proudly support aborting viable children through late term abortion, and who even voted for partial birth abortion, but then they try to soft-pedal their radical views so as not to lose the more moderate millenial voters?” Unlike Sapp, I don’t ask this question rhetorically. Hillary’s practice speaks louder than her words (see the links below).

Sapp then declares these Republican-led bills to be “message bills.” I guess I don’t see what the problem is when Republicans prove to the American public how unyielding Democrats are when it comes to abortion-choice. Through carefully phrased exceptions which should accommodate pro-life Democrats, and even moderate pro-choice Democrats, it’s no fault of Republicans when supposedly pro-life Democrats still refuse to side with life. Sapp himself seems to be playing the same political game supporting  abortion, supposedly, to reduce abortion. Perhaps if Sapp and other pro-life Democrats were more pro-life than Democrat we’d be seeing more progress on the pro-life front.

Sapp is mistaken if he thinks that these concessions (for rape, incest, or mother’s life) somehow contradict pro-life politics. Politics is the art of compromise and if prolifers are seeking to save babies, then they have every right to cooperate and negotiate to find ways to save as many babies as they can. That may mean advancing bills that are less-than-ideal. Even when Republicans are the only ones who will support a given bill, Democrats have every right to defy the abortion-choice lobby and their pro-choice democrat culture and side with life. In fact, I openly encourage them to muster the courage to do so, and side with life.

Party Platforms

“Even the House Republican late-term abortion bill that passed the House and failed in the Senate on a party-line vote included exceptions allowing late-term abortion if the child was conceived through rape or incest or the woman’s life was in danger. When Hillary Clinton allows for those exceptions, evangelicals are told she ‘supports late-term abortion,’ but when Republicans make those exact same exceptions, they are awarded 100% Pro-Life voting records?”

Sapp seems to be forgetting the party platforms.[1] In spite of pro-life Democrats like Sapp himself, the Democrat party has firmly planted its flag in the pro-choice camp. This context radically reorients the meaning of Hillary’s claims and her voting record on abortion, as opposed to the claims and voting record of the average pro-life republican’s voting record.

The 2016 Democrat Platform
The 2016 Democrat Platform

Of course
people interpret Hillary’s “exceptions” dismissively, she’s self-declared pro-choice even to the point of voting against a ban on partial-birth abortion. This fact is mentioned a lot because it’s one of the rare pro-life victories with which moderate prochoicers generally agree. Partial-birth abortion is considered scandalous by European standards (which tend to prohibit unrestricted abortion access in the 2nd and 3rd trimester). Partial-birth abortion isn’t just “late term abortion.” Any child-in-utero subject to partial-birth abortion is post-viable (after 22 weeks), and the abortion is superfluous killing since the child is one good push away from breathing free air. The child could be delivered through c-section, or delivered vaginally at that point. Partial-birth abortion is never necessary to save the mother’s life, and is typically more dangerous to the mother than just delivering the baby since the procedure requires repositioning the child for a breach delivery (feet-first), a riskier practice. By voting against the ban on partial-birth abortion she “showed her hand.” She is not simply concerned with the mother’s “health” or “well-being.” She is concerned that women have the privilege to kill their babies even when that child is well-developed, viable, and almost breathing free air. Even in case of extreme fetal disabilities and deformities, the child could be delivered through c-section and allowed to die a natural death. Partial-birth abortion is not about the mother’s health. Hillary Clinton refused to support even that restriction on abortion.

The rest of Hillary’s voting record agrees. She refuses to support any restrictions whatsoever on abortion. Clinton did refrain from voting on some controversial bills during her first run for president (2008), but seasoned political analysts acknowledge that such positioning is typical in campaign season when radicals (immoderates?) need to bring in the moderates to have a winning chance.[2]

Onlookers are entirely justified in interpreting her “exceptions” as rhetorical flourish instead of as principled pro-life negotiations aimed at saving babies. Sapp is playing coy here, pretending like there are no other reasons why onlookers would suspect Hillary Clinton of being radically pro-choice. Hillary’s record speaks for itself.

Hillary Clinton has said on record that “unborn persons” have no rights. In the same interview, she refuses to challenge Roe v. Wade, but instead trots out the phrase “Roe v. Wade” like a badge of honor, openly siding with Roe v. Wade and the legal history of expanding access and funding for abortion. She has fought for years to expand distribution of over-the-counter abortion drugs and included prescription abortion drugs under her proposed healthcare plan.  She voted for embryonic stem cell research (which, every time, kills human embryos). She voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion thus, also, supporting late term abortion. She voted against parental notifications for out-of-state abortions. She voted against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (2004). She’s openly endorsed on “Emily’s list” as a pro-choice candidates. Her voting record is 100% pro-choice.

Forgive me if I’m not swooning with compassion when she mentions “exceptions” for the mother’s health. When Clinton talks about “exceptions” due to the “mother’s health” it’s vacuous language because “health” has always been part of liberal abortion policy ever since Roe v. Wade.[3] It’s become a convenient wiggle word that includes anything from mortal threats on the mother, all the way to her psychological desire to not get fat (a friend of mine admitted that she aborted her child to avoid getting fat). “Health” is the kind of non-specific lingo that prevents any principled stopping points. Mentioning the “mothers health” does nothing to clarify any particular restrictions she might allow. Her voting records suggests instead that she doesn’t support any restrictions.

Lets Be Honest

“I want to be clear, and we all need to be honest. No presidential candidate or party leadership advocates for protecting all unborn children. But at least ‘pro-choice’ politicians who believe the fetus is not a child are being morally consistent. As I said originally though, talk is cheap. That is why Jesus warned that when judging leaders and looking out for false prophets, it is by their fruits that we’ll know them. So let’s look at the fruits.”

Yes, we should all be honest. Sapp too. None of the candidates are “great” prolife candidates. But Trump is the closest. Sapp is going to have to work improve his argument to establish that prolife republicans are inconsistent. As I explained above, his accusations of “inconsistency” are simplistic and ineffectual. He’s not shown a serious enough engagement in the nature of legislation to make his case.

Regarding consistency, well, if pro-choice politicians don’t believe the fetus is a child, whether they are consistent or not, their problem isn’t simply with me, or my fellow prolifers, it’s with science. First, “fetus” is a problematic term, it’s like saying “toddler,” “adolescent,” or “adult,” these are stages of development but do not specify what is in that stage of development. Obviously we are talking about fetal humans and not fetal horses or fetal pigs. But openly admitting the humanity of the victim is a good way to lose a pro-choice argument. Sapp is thus following the party line and conveniently eliding the mention of fetal humans. Hillary is talking about a supposed maternal privilege to kill an innocent human being. Second, whether prochoicers like it or not, that fetal human is literally the child of his or her mother. In the Lacy and Connor Law (2004), also known as the Unborn Victim’s of Violence Act, the fetal human is legally defined as a “child-in-utero.” So the primary victim in abortions is a human individual, the child of his or her mother. That child is the son or daughter of the mother. Scientifically these facts are unassailable as there is no dispute in modern fetology or embryology over whether a distinct human being begins at conception or whether that human is the biological child of his or her mother.

If you don’t believe me, I dare you to go find even one science textbook which claims that that fetus inside the pregnant woman is not normally her genetic offspring, or a member of the homo sapiens species. I don’t mean to sound cocky, but established science has ruled against the pseudo-scientific euphemisms of the prochoice camp here. You’ll be searching in vein. The fetal human being is not some undifferentiated clump of cells like a tumor or a scab (he or she is a biological organism), nor a parasite (parasites are a different species from the host), nor a sperm or egg (those are haploid sex cells, not diploid human organisms), etc. Prochoicers chronically misrepresent and suppress the fact that abortion kills human beings. Sapp and Clinton have both allied with antiquated theories about human origins theories that have since been crushed in the progress of science.

I agree with Sapp that talk is cheap. And that’s why I don’t believe Hillary’s softened language about abortion during election season, talking about “restrictions” and the need for “justification” in cases of late term abortion. Her voting record speaks louder than her words. She consistently opposes every pro-life bill and supports every pro-choice bill that’s come her way. She is not a “moderate” prochoicer but supports unrestricted abortion-choice even when the mother’s health or life or well-being is fully intact.

Abortion, Presidents, and Correlational Fallacies

Abortions rose steadily during the tenure of the first “pro-life” Republican President, Ronald Reagan. They reached their highest level under President H. W. Bush. Abortions then dropped dramatically under President Clinton, falling to 60% of the high under his pro-life Republican predecessor.

Here Sapp is citing a series of potentially unrelated facts and implying, without serious argument, that they are connected. In logic this is called a correlational fallacy. Correlation isn’t causation. Just because we may find two things together doesn’t mean we’ve proven that one causes the other.

In this case, presidents aren’t allowed to just make new laws, or selectively overturn supreme court rulings. Whether we’re talking about Ronald Reagan, George Bush, or even Barak Obama, Congress makes the laws, not presidents. Wherever abortions are directly related to legal restrictions or legalized access, congress is more important than the president.

Next, abortion isn’t simply a political or even a judicial issue, as if congress, presidents or the courts are the full causal force behind it. Richard Nixon presided over a very different American than has Barak Obama, and we are liable to misunderstand the times if we assume that the president was some prominent cause behind people’s private bedroom behavior.

But to really engage Sapp’s people we need to do a little history lesson. First, lets remember that there have only been 8 presidents since Abortion was first legalized in January of 1973. That sample set isn’t terribly large, especially since the first two presidents are non-factors.

For Sapp’s explanation to work, we have to exclude the first two Republican presidents–Nixon and Ford. I’m fine excluding them though, since they were relative non-entities in opposing or supporting Abortion. But Sapp is inconsistent for leaving those presidents out of the equation as he makes sweeping generalizations from a Wikipedia link (see, “Abortions rose“). If he leaves out the first two Republican presidents during, the abortion rate would look rather small for their time, and the republicans would appear to have presided over a super-low abortion rate. But Watergate and Vietnam overshadowed and preoccupied Nixon’s tenure post-Roe v. Wade (1973-1974). And Gerald Ford held office for just 3 years, also overshadowed by the Vietnam war. Not till Jimmy Carter did we see, in the post-Roe v. Wade era, a president elected into office. Neither Nixon nor Ford could have run on a “pro-life” platform. And frankly, most of the country was still trying to figure out what abortion was and where they stood on the issue. Sapp conveniently leaves out Carter from his sweeping assessment. Nevertheless, during Carter’s term there was no downturn in abortions at that time even though there was a downturn in live birth rates from 1971-1980. Abortion rates steadily rose under all three presidents from the onset of Roe v. Wade till the end of Carter’s term (1973-1980).

In the early days of the abortion debate, from 1973 to about 1988, the Republican party was deeply enmeshed with pro-choice ideology. Tanya Melich, a former republican, details this in-house struggle in her book, The Republican War on Woman (1996). She describes her exodus from the party over the Equal Rights Amendment and her avowed abortion-choice position. In the 70’s and early 80’s, before the influence of the “Moral Majority” had really set in, the Republican party was deeply divided on the issue of abortion. Even after the Christian Right helped place “fetal personhood,” and “overturning Roe v. Wade” in the Republican platform, the Republicans were still shifting, slowly, from a non-committal position to a fully pro-life position. Ronald Reagan himself was moderately pro-choice in his early years as a California governor, and signed into law the Therapeutic Abortion Act (1967). According to reports, Reagan signed the bill only after amending it to make it less harmful and only because he knew that any distinctly anti-abortion position would be overridden by the CA legislature.

Ronald Reagan was president from 1980-1988. According to pro-life advocate Coleen Parro, it wasn’t until 1988 that prolifers outnumbered prochoicers in the Republican party. Ronald Reagan was definitely a prolife candidate by the time he rose to the presidency. But he presided over a Democrat majority congress for most of his career, and the Republican party was still divided on abortion at the time. Moreover, abortion-choice culture was surging for reasons far beyond Reagan’s control. NARAL had been alive and kicking for more than a decade. 2nd wave feminism (and eventually 3rd wave) was rallying her troops under the banner of “reproductive choice.” And Planned Parenthood, having started performing abortions in 1970, had become a cultural powerhouse by the time of Reagan’s presidency. The steady growth of abortion rates was proportionate to the growing birth rate as America surged as an industrial and global powerhouse during the Cold War.

This is what you looked like once.

Remember also there was limited access and use of sonogram technology till the late 1970’s. Not till the late 1980’s was the technology cheap enough to where every hospital had it. Many women just didn’t know what that fetal human looked like in-utero. Sonograms, and similar technology, are no small matter either. Bernard Nathanson, one of the founders of NARAL (perhaps the most influential abortion-choice group next to Planned Parenthood), was an abortion doctor who’d performed almost 60,000 abortions, and he attributes his pro-life conversion, in large part, to sonogram technology.[4] His landmark video, “The Silent Scream” is drawn from sonogram footage. Likewise for Abby Johnson, a former director of one of the most active Planned Parenthood Clinics in the country; her “breaking point” was when she assisted an abortion by holding the sonogram wand (the transducer) on a live abortion.[5] She had helped thousands of women go through with their abortions, but that was the first time she stayed in the room and directly helped it happen. She quit her job within the month.

Under George Bush Sr., the abortion rate reached a peak of 1.6 million in 1990. But the birth rate was also the highest it had been in 38 years! That means the ratio of abortions to live births was the lowest it had been in the last 13 years! Sapp seems to fault George Bush Sr. for the higher rate of abortions though it was actually a lower ratio. Sapp’s argument does not seem to consider birth rate, or other economic factors very deeply.

After Bush Sr. came Bill Clinton. The abortion rate did decline in his term. But it’s hard to pin that on Bill. Quite literally, his philandering ways are liable to have led to an abortion or two among his mistresses. But besides that indiscretion, the U.S. economy was swelling in the Internet Boom. Abortion rates tend to decline along with poverty. The more affluent society is, the less they seek out abortions. Unlike Al Gore, Bill Clinton did not invent the internet. So he is not responsible for the influx of wealth into the U.S. economy from the internet, a boom which helped strengthen homes and generate better life decisions (i.e., fewer abortions). Bill was only a moderate Democrat by today’s standards, yet even then, he presided for 6 years over a Republican led congress. Wherever legislative influence directly impacted abortion rates, it was not Bill Clinton but Newt Gingrich, Republican Speaker of the House, who was the greater influence. Under Gingrich the U.S. had a balanced budget for the first time in ages. While Bill Clinton was averting abortion by fingering interns, Newt Gingrich was averting abortions with his “Contract With America.”

Redeeming Bush Jr.

“That downward trend stalled during most of President W. Bush’s tenure, and remained basically flat until the final two years of his term when Democrats retook Congress. And then abortions plunged again under Obama, falling to their lowest point in 40 years.” Compelling data for sure, but Presidents often have to deal with Congress and the Supreme Court … which is why President George W. Bush’s tenure is so informative. Under Bush, Republicans controlled the House and Senate, and 2/3 of the Supreme Court. Bush had sky-high public approval following 9-11, and he and Congressional Republicans owed their 2004 re-election to the overwhelming support from church-going evangelicals and Catholics. And what did Republicans do to overturn Roe or in any meaningful way limit abortion? Nothing.”

After Clinton came George W. Bush Jr. Here Sapp is just wrong in his assessment. The abortion rate did not flat-line during GWB’s terms, it actually declined by about 100,000, or about 10% during his tenure even though the birth rate rose to it’s highest level in U.S. history (4,317,119 reported in 2007). That means that the abortion ratio improved significantly during GWB’s time in office.

The same cannot be said for Barak Obama, at least not till after Republicans broke up the Democrat hegemony in congress in 2010, and took control of Congress in 2014. The birth rate dropped precipitously in his first term and never recovered. The busted Housing bubble of 2008 was not Obama’s doing, but that recession did help to explain why the birth rate dropped in his first year of office. Birth rates tend to shrink during economic down turns. And at least some of the abortion decline can be attributed to that economic downturn.

The abortion rate has continued to drop since Obama took office, but it’s hard to see why Obama should be thanked for that. Conservatives have also been surging at a socio-cultural level in that time too. Foxnews, started in 1996, had become a major player by the time Obama took office, and the TeaParty had just begun
in the closing years of the Bush era around 2007. Meanwhile, prolife sentiment was sguttmacher18urging with groups like 40 Days for Life (which began operating nationally in 2007) and LiveAction (founded in 2008).

Most likely the biggest factor explaining the declining abortion rate isn’t Obamacare, or welfare reform, or stimulus packages, or any of the show pieces in Obama’s display case. The most obvious cause of declining abortion rates has been the glut of prolife bills that have been passing in state legislatures. 334 prolife bills have passed at the state level between 2011 and 2016. That’s roughly 30% of all abortion restrictions ever enacted since Roe v. Wade. Obama had no positive contribution in those bills. His only contribution to the prolife cause has been antagonism.

. . . . Read more at “Hillary Clinton is NOT the Best Choice Against Abortion, Part III”
. . . . Or read part 1 of “Hillary Clinton is NOT the Best Choice Against Abortion”

End Notes

[1] The Democrat Party Platform on Abortion, as of 21 July 2016 reads:

Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice. We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment. We condemn and will combat any acts of violence, harassment, and intimidation of reproductive health providers, patients, and staff. We will defend the ACA, which extends affordable preventive health care to women, including nocost contraception, and prohibits discrimination in health care based on gender.” (pg. 37)

Notice, the phrase “safe, legal, and rare” has been modified, deleting the “rare” part. Democrats have no fundamental commitment anymore to rarifying abortion. And the Party has fundamentally committed itself to Planned Parenthood, an organization whose very existence depends on a steady stream of abortion-seeking women. Indeed, with the alliance between Planned Parenthood and the Democrat party, a money and voting symbiosis, the Democrat party has every reason to support more abortions. Abortion is the primary profit arm of Planned Parenthood, and the wealthier Planned Parenthood is, the more money they can send to the Democrat party through campaign contributions and public influence for democrat candidates in state elections.

[2] See, the paragraph labeled “Long-held moderate stance focuses on reducing abortions” in “Hillary Clinton on Abortion,” [Online] (OnTheIssues.org, 2 Oct. 2016), at: http://www.ontheissues.org/2016/Hillary_Clinton_Abortion.htm.

[3] Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, “Roe v. Wade: How the U.S. Supreme Court Established Abortion On Demand,” (2014-2015), para. 6-7, accessed 28 Oct. 2016 at: http://www.mccl.org/roe-v-wade.html.

[4] Bernard Nathanson, Aborting America (Life Cycle Books, 1979), and The Hand of God (Regnery Pres, 1996).

[5] Abby Johnson, Unplanned (Tyndale, 2014).

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