April 30, 2010


Hillary Clinton's abortion grenade (Michael Gerson, April 30, 2010, Washington Post)

Last month, during a political controversy in Canada on the issue, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at a news conference in Quebec. "I've worked in this area for many years," she said. "And if we're talking about maternal health, you cannot have maternal health without reproductive health. And reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortion."

The Toronto Star described this as a "grenade in the lap of her shell-shocked Canadian hosts."

Clinton's search for a fight on this issue is not the recent norm. Increased development assistance to improve global health has been one of the bipartisan achievements of the past decade -- an exception to Washington's general bitterness. Millions are taking AIDS drugs, sleeping under anti-malarial bed nets and getting treatment for tropical diseases because ideology has not been allowed to sabotage goodwill.

But the political alliance on this issue has always been fragile. Traditionally, liberal advocates of global health spending have worked in uneasy alliance with conservatives -- mainly non-libertarian social conservatives -- who hold a moral view of America's role in the world. This is the Bono-Bush coalition that passed and then reauthorized the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) -- an initiative that intentionally avoided the issue of abortion to prevent infighting among its wildly diverse supporters.

Clinton's grenade did damage beyond Canada. Liberals need to understand -- however strong their pro-choice convictions -- how offensive many conservatives find the global health argument for abortion. It seems like addressing poverty by doing away with the poor; like fighting disease by getting rid of those with diseases.

Death is Health, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 30, 2010 6:04 AM
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