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WASHINGTON – Hillary Clinton is coming under fire for misleading voters about the politically touchy issues of abortion and women’s rights.
At a campaign rally in Aurora, Colorado, Tuesday, Clinton warned that pro-life candidates threaten women’s access to abortion and to some forms of artificial contraception.
“(W)omen’s rights, here at home and around the world, are clearly at risk unless people of goodwill, both women and men, regardless of political ideology, understand that women’s rights are like the canaries in the mine,” she said, according to a transcript of the speech National Journalprovided to readers.
“So as a woman and an American, I think it’s a big deal in this election. This election is important to everybody, but it’s especially important to the women of Colorado,” Clinton said.
Clinton stumped for Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who has slammed his opponent, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), for supporting “harsh anti-abortion laws.” Udall’s television ads have drawn criticism as heavy handed. The Denver Post, the state’s largest paper, accused Udall of waging an “obnoxious one-issue campaign” and endorsed Gardner.
Clinton acknowledged the criticism of Udall’s strategy. "I’ve heard, some may wonder why Mark Udall has stressed women’s rights in his campaign," Clinton said to a crowd of about 1,000 at the Radisson Denver Southeast Hotel. Yet she praised the incumbent Democrat for his record in support of abortion rights and federally subsidized artificial birth control. "I want you to understand that as far as I’m concerned and as far as Mark is concerned, when he’s fighting for women’s rights, he is fighting on the frontier of freedom,” she said.
Spokesmen for Udall and Gardner’s campaign did not return an email message. But one top congressional aide to a Colorado Republican, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter candidly, dismissed Clinton’s critique and accused her of misleading voters.
“She’s trying to pander around an issue that’s not even happening and coming across as condescending,” the aide said. “I think the tactic is the same tactic that Mark Udall has used, and it’s an insult to the intelligence of female voters. I think women in Colorado are so used to the attack they don’t even pay attention.”
At issue is Gardner’s support for “personhood” legislation. In 2010, Gardner endorsed a state ballot initiative to extend constitutional rights “at the beginning of biological development” and circulated a petition at his church. Gardner rescinded his support for the initiative in March, saying it would restrict some contraception techniques, such as the intrauterine device, which can block ovulation after conception. And in June, he endorsed selling artificial birth control over the counter rather than via prescription. Yet Gardner remains a co-sponsor of the federal “Life at Conception Act,” which would define human life as beginning at conception but not ban abortions. That would depend on subsequent legislation.
The bill, H.R. 1091, stands little chance of becoming law. It has 132 cosponsors, short of the 218 necessary to pass the U.S. House of Representatives. Govtrack.us, a government transparency website, gives the legislation a nine percent chance of passing both houses of Congress and receiving the signature of President Obama.
Establishment pro-life strategists say that pursuing a judicial rather than a legislative strategy is more likely to tighten the nation’s abortion laws and save more unborn lives. They plan to wait until another vacancy on the Supreme Court opens up during a Republican administration and pressure the president to nominate a pro-life jurist.
Clinton, a former First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State, is expected to run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. She is committed to abortion rights.
The Colorado Republican aide noted that if Roe v. Wade were struck down, state legislatures would set abortion policy. Whether Colorado would approve curbs on abortion is difficult to say, he said, but the suggestion the state would endanger women’s freedoms is a scare tactic. “I think many Americans don’t like abortion. It’s not the preferred choice. That said, what is government’s role in legislating morality? This would be a state by state vote,” he said.
Mark Stricherzcovers Washington for Aleteia. He is author of Why the Democrats are Blue.