DURING HILLARY CLINTON’S April 5th appearance on The View, co-host Candance Cameron Bure asked the Democratic candidate if she believed a person could be both “pro-life” and a feminist. Clinton responded in the affirmative: “Yes I do, absolutely.” When Cameron Bure pressed Clinton to say that the two are not mutually exclusive, she did so, and then gave this explanation:
Look, I’ve been, and I’m sure that [The View co-hosts] Whoopi [Goldberg] and Joy [Behar] have been, we’ve been in these conversations now for, what, 40-plus years, right? And I respect the opinions and beliefs of every woman.
The reason why being pro-choice is the right way to go is because it is a choice and hopefully a choice that is rooted in the thoughtfulness and the care that the women bring to this decision … So, of course you can be a feminist and pro-life.
Clinton’s right on the money… sort of. Although “respect[ing] the opinions and beliefs of every woman” is part and parcel to feminism, the former Secretary of State did not shy away from — correctly — stating outright that “being pro-choice is the right way to go.”
So really, what Clinton said isn’t problematic at all. What she didn’t say, however, is.
The last few months of this election cycle have seen Clinton move to the left of her previous stances. It’s possible that the popularity of fellow candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) drove that transition, but it’s just as likely that Clinton, like the rest of the U.S., is shifting to the left.
Just two days before her appearance on The View, however, Clinton referred to a fetus as an “unborn person” on NBC’s Meet the Press, saying: “The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.” Then, as if preemptively deflecting conservative criticism that would paint her as a willful baby-killer, she added:
That doesn’t mean that we don’t do everything we possibly can, in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support.
This addition didn’t stop those characterizations. Personhood Alliance’s Rebecca Kiessling harped on the hypocrisy of Clinton’s comments, saying: “It’s interesting that Hillary has now recognized the unborn as person and that she wants to deny them equal protection.”
Her statement on Meet the Press did nothing to endear Clinton to pro-choice feminists, who opposed her use of personhood terminology. Planned Parenthood community engagement manager Diana Arellano took to Twitter to call out the candidate for stigmatizing abortion and trying to restrict late-term terminations.
It seems likely that, if Clinton misspoke on Meet the Press, she would have been more guarded when speaking to the co-hosts of The View. So, it’s entirely possible that the Democratic candidate does not agree with what I am about to say, which is what she left out of her comments on being pro-life and feminist.
The modern-day anti-choice movement takes a radical position on abortion, one that is not shared by your average “pro-life”-identifying person. Anti-choice organizations campaign against contraception and sex education, both of which have been shown to reduce the number of abortions performed. They staunchly oppose abortion in cases of rape and incest, and often believe it should be illegal to save the life of the mother.
Most of the pro-life folks you meet on the street don’t think abortion is a cut and dry issue. They recognize that women and girls should not have to remain pregnant with their rapists’ babies, regardless of what other women may choose to do. They realize that sometimes it’s more ethical to terminate a pregnancy than to give birth to a baby whose entire life will be agony. And they know that, at the end of the day, it’s none of their damn business what another woman chooses to do with her body and life.
This is all to say that, yes, people can oppose abortion on a personal level — that is, to choose to bring any pregnancies they have to term — and recognize that termination should remain a safe, legal, accessible option for others. But here’s the thing: those people aren’t pro-life. Because they understand that women should have family planning options, up to and including abortion, they’re pro-choice.
And that’s what Clinton left out of her comments.
Being a feminist doesn’t mean you have had, or would have, an abortion. It means you believe that women have the right to choose what to do with their lives, even if their decisions are not the ones you would have made, were you in their position. However, because there can be no social, economic, or political gender equality without abortion, you cannot align yourself with the mainstream pro-life movement — which lobbies to deny women their right to choose — and be a feminist.