April
2nd 2010
Hillary Clinton on maternal health and abortion services

Posted under: Gender, O Canada, the body, women's history

Here is U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Quebec on Tuesday, making an important point with respect to abortion, contraception, and maternal health:  ”I’ve worked in this area for many years, 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. . . and finally, I do not think governments should be involved in making these decisions.”

In Canada, the opposition (and some of the newspapers, apparently) are enjoying this smackdown of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government, which wants to make maternal health the center of his initiative for the G8 meeting in Ottawa in June, but which denies that contraception or abortion play a role in ensuring maternal health.   I wish Lady Clinton would feel free to make the same point inside U.S. borders, especially to members of her own political party.  If women are so important to U.S. foreign policy, shouldn’t we (as Voltaire suggested) tend our own garden, too?

17 Comments »

17 Responses to “Hillary Clinton on maternal health and abortion services”

  1. Indyanna on 02 Apr 2010 at 9:31 am #

    Good for her! I think she’s hitting her stride as an articulator of broader issues as matters or definers of the national interest than the usual gray array of diplomatic fodder. And she managed to say her piece and not get her diplomatic credentials revoked by the host state, unlike DeGaulle back in the Trudeau era. Zut, alors!

  2. Perpetua on 02 Apr 2010 at 9:34 am #

    I think you call tell immediately that there’s something creepy and troubling about Harper’s initiative merely from the fact that it emphasizes “maternal health,” which suggest to me that *mothers* deserve better health care and treatment, whereas other women perhaps do not. This agenda is underscored by their attempt to separate out contraception and abortion from “maternal health.” We all know this means that real women – ie mothers – deserve attention, whereas those sluts who use birth control and abortion to *not* become mothers do not. But in the real world of real women’s health and experiences, those things are inseparable, since reproductive health in specific can have a profound effect on women’s lives without being tied to maternity/childbirth.

  3. Historiann on 02 Apr 2010 at 9:56 am #

    Right on, Perpetua–and even women who desperately want to become mothers have spontaneous abortions (colloquially known as “miscarriages”) which need to be followed up by a D & C (the procedure that is a surgical abortion) to ensure that all fetal tissue has been removed. Contraception, D & Cs, abortions, and motherhood–the majority straight women deal with all of these at some point. But, it’s easier to pretend that it’s only the slutty slutty slut-sluts who use contraception and D & C to avoid motherhood.

    I appreciate Lady Clinton’s advocacy on behalf of Canadian women. I just wish she’d bring it back home, too.

  4. RKMK on 02 Apr 2010 at 9:59 am #

    Oh, you know if she did, there would be instantaneous screeching about how she’s trying to undermine Obama’s health care plan because SHE’S AN EVIL AMBITIOUS TWO-FACED MONSTER, blahblahblah.

  5. LadyProf on 02 Apr 2010 at 10:24 am #

    Definitely, RKMK. It’s a real shame because domestic policy is much more her strength than foreign policy, but if she plays to her strengths, she’s being disloyal to Team Obama by making herself look good. She has to choose between neutered silence and warmongering.

  6. Emma on 02 Apr 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    I appreciate Lady Clinton’s advocacy on behalf of Canadian women. I just wish she’d bring it back home, too.

    I wish, too. Maybe once she’s out of the Obama administration, her voice on domestic matters will come back.

  7. Emma on 02 Apr 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    She has to choose between neutered silence and warmongering.

    I think it’s very possible that she’s doing her job: as Sec’y of State foreign affairs are her job, not domestic affairs. And, in that context, it’s a strong statement on women’s rights — which is strikingly different than the policy the rest of the Obama administration is pursuing (though not different than the actual Dem platform).

    So, I don’t see her in either “neutered silence” or “warmongering”, really. I see her acting independently in her area of responsibility.

  8. Adrienne in CA on 02 Apr 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    Lady Clinton? What’s that supposed to mean? Rather than wishing that she openly challenge her boss’s anti-woman cop out, which would instantly marginalize her and likely cost her her position as SOS, thereby costing us an articulate and effective champion for women’s rights worldwide, I say Thank You, Hillary Clinton! for having the wisdom and subtlety to deliver this clever message that makes her core principles clear and can’t help but rattle some cages back home.

    That’s what I call smart power!

  9. Desiree on 02 Apr 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    Hillary Clinton is an ok politician in my book, but still just a politician. How come she didn’t speak out recently and earlier about women’s reproductive rights, before our domestic healthcare bill passed, whether her official position is domestic or foreign? We see folks all over the political job spectrum speaking out about all kinds of issues all the time, when it is politically advantageous for them to do so.

    My position is that by speaking out now, after the fact of our health bill, she distances herself from how the bill has let down women on reproductive health issues. As far as I heard or saw, she didn’t speak out much about reproductive choice and health coverage as it connected to our health bill, (not speaking is usual for our politicians- we as a nation encourage, accept, and demand this: no stand = job security) and she didn’t cause waves that would put her position in jeopardy. Now she can appear as the anti-bad guy for women. Like it’s all Obama’s fault that this healthcare bill is not all great. It’s an atmosphere of “no one else, neither Republican nor Democrat, is to blame for this bill’s shortcomings, only Obama.”

  10. Historiann on 02 Apr 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    Re: Lady Clinton–I used the term here because we in the U.S. are bereft of honorary terms like those bestowed on senior statesmen and women (i.e. Lady Thatcher.) I mean no disrespect by using the term–in fact, quite the contrary. And, I like the term because it distinguishes her from Lord Clinton, as it were.

    As Emma suggests, I think she can say things like this in and about Canada because she’s Secretary of State, and foreign policy is her balliwick. I don’t know what role she’ll take on after her term as Secretary of State–if recent past presidents are any guide, it’s unlikely that she’ll stay on for a second Obama term, if he’s re-elected.

  11. Susan on 02 Apr 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    Yes, US abortion policy sucks, and so does the weasel in the Health Care Bill. But to be fair to Obama et al., the places they could change policy without dealing with Congress they have changed, so at least we now will support family planning overseas. I didn’t notice that when Clinton was in the Senate that she spearheaded the repeal of the Hyde amendment: like all politicians, she works within the range of the possible.

    My question is this: how do we change the discussion so that it ISN’T political suicide in large parts of the country to suggest that abortion is a normal part of women’s reproductive health care? How do we provide an alternative to “murdering babies”?

  12. Emma on 02 Apr 2010 at 6:16 pm #

    But to be fair to Obama et al., the places they could change policy without dealing with Congress they have changed,

    No “they” haven’t. The conscience clause is still in place and cemented even more firmly now into the health bill and given the presidential imprimatur with the Executive order.

    My question is this: how do we change the discussion …? How do we provide an alternative to “murdering babies”?

    We first start by refusing to make excuses for Obama. A guy who gives the weight of the president to Hyde as “middle ground,” and who repeatedly adjures women to talk to men before getting abortions, isn’t pro-choice.

    I’m not so interested in protecting politicians and I’m very irritated that, with Obama’s presidency, we’re being urged to somehow become responsible for his success or take on the burden of making policy work or something like that. I’ve got news for you: compared to the guy sitting in the oval office, the rest of us got bupkus, even if we get together in earnest little groups and talk policy until we’re blue in the face. What you want us to do — that’s their job and I’m not going to do it for them.

    They do what I want, or I don’t vote for them. If they want my vote, they’ll figure out how to sell what I want them to do. They’re damn good at selling what the churces want, after all.

  13. Emma on 02 Apr 2010 at 6:18 pm #

    It’s an atmosphere of “no one else, neither Republican nor Democrat, is to blame for this bill’s shortcomings, only Obama.”

    He’s gd leader of the gd Dem party and the gd president. And his gd dem party controls both houses of the gd Congress. Who the f*** else WOULD be responsible? Kee-rist, where’s Harry Truman when you f’ing need him. WHERE does the buck stop again? It ain’t Harry frickin’ Reid or Nancy gd Pelosi, I’ll tell you what.

  14. Adrienne in CA on 02 Apr 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    {{{{{Emma}}}}}

  15. anniethena on 04 Apr 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    Hi Historiann – I’ve been reading your site for a while now but this is my first time to comment.
    I saw this story at the Confluence a couple of days ago and unfortunately they linked to some site where the comments were quite nasty.The sole Canadian commenter said s/he’d supported HRC in the primaries but was angry at her – said something like how dare she, doesn’t she know that in Canada abortions are legal and covered by our UHC?
    I tend to focus on news/politics in the US and the world and sometimes miss what happens in my own country. My question was “what is Harper up to? He better not be trying to mess with the status quo on abortion…”.
    I went to the CBC home page and couldn’t see a headline about it anywhere – checked under politics too and nada. (I used to watch CBC’s The National regularly but now get most of my news online). I know Harper is a semi-closeted evangelical but didn’t think he’d try to change our laws. Thanks for posting this – I’ll be paying closer attention to this issue now that I’ve got the background scenario. Interesting also that the NYT seems to have completely ignored this. I had to look closely in its “World” section to even find just one of the issues the reporter mentioned of the two previous “beefs”. I think it might have been about the Afghan troops/Canada’s withdrawal plans.
    Great post – I really like your site too – but just one quibble: the capital of Canada is Ottawa, not Ottowa. I think JM at Talk Left made the same mistake.
    (not just national pride – I grew up there and my parents and 3 siblings still live there!)

  16. Historiann on 05 Apr 2010 at 4:01 am #

    Sorry about the misspelling–how embarassing! But, that’s the world-wide non-peer-reviewed internets for you. I’ll make the correction immediately.

  17. Janice on 05 Apr 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    Harper’s a tool but Clinton’s not impressing me overmuch for, as you say, the beam in her eye regarding U.S. domestic policy? It’s pretty darned massive.

    In related and interesting news, 52% of Canadians identify themselves as pro-choice — only about half as much identify as anti-abortion: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/majority-backs-abortion-rights/article1519823/

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