While President Bush telephoned thousands of abortion opponents pledging to work toward a “culture of life,” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said his shortchanging of family planning could be causing abortion rates to rise.
Addressing a rally on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s right to abortion, Bush thanked pro-life demonstrators “for your work toward building a culture of life–a culture that will protect the most innocent among us and the voiceless.”
Bush said the “America of our dreams, where every child is welcomed in life and protected in law may still be some ways away,” but his administration is “making progress” toward legislation “that protects the vulnerable and promotes the culture of life.”
Bush cited his signing of a ban on partial birth abortion and other laws protecting infants born despite an attempted abortion and doctors and nurses who refuse to take part in abortion and allowing prosecutors to charge persons who harm or kill a pregnant woman with harming or killing the unborn child.
Addressing a counter-demonstration of abortion-rights supporters, meanwhile, Sen. Clinton said all sides on the issue should work together to reduce the number of abortions.
“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 minds that there are no circumstances under which any abortion should ever be available,” the New York senator and former first lady said, according to the Associated Press.
Setting a tone that observers said reflects polls showing American voters concerned about moral values, Clinton said: “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.”
“We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women,” Clinton said. “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.”
That is where she said the Bush administration may not have matched its anti-abortion rhetoric with its actions.
During her husband’s administration, when family planning funding was a priority, “We saw the rate of abortion consistently fall,” she said. “The abortion rate fell by one-quarter between 1990 and 1995, the steepest decline since Roe was decided in 1973,” Clinton said. “The rate fell another 11 percent between 1994 and 2000.”
In the first three years since President Bush took office, she said, eight states have seen an increase in abortion rates and four saw a decrease.”
An anti-abortion Web site said the numbers come from a study by Fuller Theological Seminary Professor Glen Harold Stassen, which a pro-life activist claimed were flawed.
In an article that appeared on EthicsDaily.com and other media outlets, Stassen said abortions were decreasing in the decade prior to George W. Bush’s presidency and had been on the rise ever since. He said unemployment and concern about health care might be causing more women to terminate their pregnancies.
Randy O’Bannon, director of education at the National Right to Life Committee, said Stassen used wrong figures in several states and gave Clinton credit for numbers that actually declined under his predecessor, the first President Bush.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.