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Opinion: What I wish Hillary would say— and think — about abortion

On Jan. 18, 2015, a 10th anniversary March for Life was held in Chicago. | Al Podgorski / Sun-Times Media

Do you ever daydream about Hillary Clinton?

My friend and colleague Ramesh Ponnuru did once. It’s how he opened the first chapter of his book, “The Party of Death,” some years ago.

Ponnuru goes on to do some excellent speechwriting for Senator Clinton in his dream. He has her talking about domestic violence, rape awareness, the so-called glass ceiling and child care.


Ponnuru’s dream Hillary continues: “No woman should ever find herself in jail because an unplanned pregnancy has left her desperate. We don’t make criminals out of pregnant women in America. The Supreme Court guarantees that. If ideologues in the other party tries to change that, we will fight them every step of the way.”

In his dream, the crowd now chants: “HILLARY! HILLARY!”

And, for the record, I am so with you, Hillary of Ponnuru’s dreams.

And then dream Hillary says: “But that doesn’t mean we’re for abortion. … Abortion is a tragic choice. We want to liberate women. Abortion is a sign that our society is pitting them against their children.”

Now the audience isn’t entirely sure what to do.

It was a little like what House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi found herself saying in an interview with Roll Call editor Melinda Henneberger the other day. The former speaker of the house — the first woman in the job — didn’t really “give” much to the pro-life movement. She said that she is not for “abortion on demand.” But she also made clear that she opposes most pro-life efforts to restrict abortion.

So she pretty much remained the stalwart she has been known as on the issue. And yet, NARAL Pro-Choice America, a leading abortion advocacy group, reprimanded her.

What a beautiful thing it would be if Pelosi pushed back against NARAL. To have a little dream of my own: She would insist that, indeed, the Democratic party should not be for abortion on demand, and should work with all people of good will to find alternatives for women who need help.

She would go on to say something of the sort that Ponnuru had Hillary saying in his dream: “I think maybe we’ve been so busy fighting the people who want to throw women in jail that we’ve somehow lost sight of the fact that abortion is a terrible act of violence against the young. If the law can discourage it without … making criminals out of women — then we ought to consider it. We ought to have laws that involve parents in their children’s decisions, for example.”

I’ll add something here: I know a lot of pro-life leaders, and am good friends with many. I’ve been involved with many of the major national pro-life groups including the National Right to Life Committee, Students for Life of America, Americans United for Life, Feminists for Life, the U.S. bishops (who have led the march for protecting the unborn since the Roe v. Wade regime began), among others. I’ve never known any of these to consider jailing women desirable — never mind a priority.

This is akin to a little rant Pelosi went on during the Roll Call interview about Republican men and contraception. The narrative that Republicans, conservatives, Catholics, Mitt Romney, etc., somehow are waging a war on women, one that includes wanting to take away access to contraception is another fallacy. We can discuss what harm the sexual revolution has done to women, men and families, medical research and the environment. But that’s different than claiming that some basic measures to take taxpayer funding out of an ugly business or to protect religious liberty of those who want nothing to do with insurance coverage of abortion and contraception and sterilization, is something other than what it is: protecting basic freedoms.

In the Ponnuru Hillary dream cycle, Clinton ends with:

“America deserves better than abortion, and America deserves better than this fight we’ve been having for over a generation. And I’m willing to work with anyone, in either party, who wants to move past that fight.”

This coming Friday, people will descend upon Washington, D.C., for the 43rd time to protest Roe v. Wade, under the theme “Pro-Life and Pro-Women Go Hand in Hand.” That theme is an idea that needs to be heard. To paraphrase Ponnuru: We deserve better than the miserable politics of abortion in America.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute and founding director of Catholic Voices USA.

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