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Posted by on Jan 24, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

Hillary Continues Her Move Towards The Center

Hillary Clinton is continuing to take stances that carve out a key spot for her in the center of polarized 21st Century America — the latest being an almost startling middle-leaning stance on the powder-keg issue of abortion:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Monday that the opposing sides in the divisive debate over abortion should find "common ground" to prevent unwanted pregnancies and ultimately reduce abortions, which she called a "sad, even tragic choice to many, many women."

In a speech to about 1,000 abortion rights supporters near the New York State Capitol, Mrs. Clinton firmly restated her support for the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. But then she quickly shifted gears, offering warm words to opponents of legalized abortion and praising the influence of "religious and moral values" on delaying teenage girls from becoming sexually active.

"There is an opportunity for people of good faith to find common ground in this debate – we should be able to agree that we want every child born in this country to be wanted, cherished and loved," Mrs. Clinton said.

What’s going on here? Sen. Clinton will most certainly not please activists on each side of this issue. And it’s also unlikely that she will lose most activists who firmly endorse abortions by her extending an olive branch to the other side.

But if she maintains this position, it’s not unlikely that she could peel off some of the less adamant supporters on each side — those who feel the issue is important but don’t go to rallies and would even dare vote for someone who doesn’t hold their position on abortion, because they’re not single issue voters.

This is clearly an appeal to more centrist, or less militant, voters in both parties — and to broaden if not her base of support than soften some of the opposition against her. You can see more of the significance of this political position as you read more of this New York Times piece:

Her speech came on the same day as the annual anti-abortion rally in Washington marking the Roe v. Wade anniversary. Mrs. Clinton’s remarks were generally well received, though the audience was silent during most of her overtures to anti-abortion groups. Afterward, leaders of those groups were skeptical, given Mrs. Clinton’s outspoken support for abortion rights over the years.

So some hardcore supporters of abortion were not pleased or convinced:

Mrs. Clinton, widely seen as a possible candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2008, appeared to be reaching out beyond traditional core Democrats who support abortion rights. She did so not by changing her political stands, but by underscoring her views in preventing unplanned pregnancies, promoting adoption, recognizing the influence of religion in abstinence and championing what she has long called "teenage celibacy."

She called on abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion campaigners to form a broad alliance to support sexual education – including abstinence counseling – family planning, and morning-after emergency contraception for victims of sexual assault as ways to reduce unintended pregnancies.

"We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women," Mrs. Clinton told the annual conference of the Family Planning Advocates of New York State. "The fact is that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place."

Leading anti-abortion campaigners, in both New York and nationwide, pounced on Mrs. Clinton as a suspect spokeswoman for compromise and common ground.

And hardcore opponents of abortion were not pleased or convinced (but many of them are also unwaveringly hardcore Hillary haters: those are not the constituency she’s trying to build bridges to or will ever convince).

"I think she’s trying to adopt a values-oriented language, but it lacks substance, at least if you compare it to her record," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council in Washington. "If you look at Senator Clinton’s voting record on this issue, it’s like Planned Parenthood’s condoms – it’s defective."

(A good line, by the way.)

The Times notes that Mrs. Clinton’s speech came amid a Democratic Party soul-searching on this hot-button issue that the GOP has used to rally its base for years. Democratic bigwigs such as Nevada’s Harry Reid and California’s Dianne Feinstein (a very skillful politician whose advice should not be discounted, by the way) have also urged more of an emphasis on reducing unwanted pregnancies. Also, the Times notes, Democratic consultants have urged the party to do better with the language used in trying to reach voters who consider moral issues critical.

Also, note this quote:

"Our focus in the speech was to make sure that she still communicated that she was pro-choice – she doesn’t want to undermine that – but she also thinks we can have some common ground among all sides and make abortion rare," Neera Tanden, legislative director for Mrs. Clinton, said in a telephone interview.

So this is unquestionably a move to find and carve out a new middle position, and it is a change for Mrs. Clinton:

Before the election, Mrs. Clinton was a visible and public defender of abortion rights, appearing at a huge rally in Washington last spring and denouncing what she called Republican efforts to demonize the abortion rights movement.

And in her remarks, she seemed to acknowledge that this image of her was well known by anti-abortion campaigners while adding that, to her, it did not tell the full story about her views. "Yes, we do have deeply held differences of opinion about the issue of abortion and I, for one, respect those who believe with all their hearts and conscience that there are no circumstances under which any abortion should ever be available," Mrs. Clinton said, going on to assert that even some critics still support abortions in some cases, such as when the life of the mother is at risk.

The story notes that she also praised faith-based and religious groups for promoting abstinence.

Do you want to take a bet now on one of the candidates who will be running in the 2008 Presidential race after four years of steadily broadening her base?

-InstaPundit has some interesting links.

Michelle Malkin:"Nice try, Sen. Clinton. But your wolf’s clothing isn’t fooling anyone on either side of the aisle."
Mike Rappaport:"Hillary is scaring me…First, she is a hawk on the War on Terror.  Then, she talks about the importance of bringing God back into the public square.  And now she is moving to the center on abortion.  Not only is she running for President, but she could win."
Ann Althouse:"While I give credit to Hillary Clinton for attempting to explain the
middle position, I am well aware that she is choosing her positions
with an eye toward future political advantage and that her statement
has a flaw that antagonizes abortion opponents.."