Democratic primary front-runner Hillary Clinton ran afoul of both the pro-life and pro-choice sides of the abortion debate Sunday when she said constitutional rights do not apply to an “unborn person” or “child.”
“The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights,” Mrs. Clinton said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Now 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.”
Mrs. Clinton also said “there is room for reasonable kinds of restrictions” on abortion during the third trimester of pregnancy.
Diana Arellano, manager of community engagement for Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, said Sunday that Mrs. Clinton’s comments undermined the cause for abortion rights.
The comment “further stigmatizes #abortion,” Ms. Arellano said in a tweet. “She calls a fetus an ‘unborn child’ & calls for later term restrictions.”
Describing the fetus as a “person” or “child” has long been anathema to the pro-choice movement, which argues the terms misleadingly imply a sense of humanity.
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In addition, the specific term “person” is a legal concept that includes rights and statuses that the law protects, including protection of a person’s life under the laws against homicide. Pro-choice intellectuals have long said that even if an unborn child is a “life,” it is not yet a “person.”
Guidelines issued by the International Planned Parenthood Federation discourage pro-choice advocates from using terms such as “abort a child,” instead recommending “more accurate/appropriate” alternatives such as “end a pregnancy” or “have an abortion.”
“‘Abort a child’ is medically inaccurate, as the fetus is not yet a child,” the guide reads. “‘Terminate’ a pregnancy is commonly used, however some people prefer to avoid this as terminate may have negative connotations (e.g., ‘terminator or assassinate’) for some people.”
The guidebook also advises against the terms “baby,” “dead fetus,” “unborn baby” or “unborn child” when discussing what it is that’s being aborted. Instead, it recommends the terms “embryo,” “fetus” and “the pregnancy.”
“The alternatives are medically accurate terms, as the embryo or fetus is not a baby,” it explains.
The exchange with NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday came after Mrs. Clinton blasted Republican front-runner Donald Trump last week for saying that women should face “some form of punishment” for having abortions if they were illegal. He later reversed his statement, multiple times, after an outcry from both pro-life and pro-choice groups.
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Conservatives also caught Mrs. Clinton’s words and drew implications. Commentary Editor John Podhoretz said the gaffe is comparable to those of Mr. Trump.
“This is Trump-level gaffery,” Mr. Podhoretz said in a tweet. “If you acknowledge personhood, then the unborn has every Constitutional right.”
Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro also said that Mrs. Clinton’s statement “demonstrates just how incoherent and evil the left’s abortion position is.”
Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, policy adviser for the Catholic Association, said Mrs. Clinton’s slip reveals the difficulty of rationalizing abortion.
“Although Hillary Clinton is first and foremost a politician striving furiously for the highest office in the land, she is also a rational human being and an affectionate grandmother,” Dr. Christie said in a statement.
“Of course, no one, not even Clinton, can close their eyes to the scientific fact that a fetus is anything but a young human person, and abortion is the end of his or her short life,” she said.
Mrs. Clinton’s comments come after she implied that primary rival Bernard Sanders is insufficiently pro-choice.
“Look, I know Sen. Sanders supports a woman’s right to choose, but I also know Planned Parenthood and NARAL endorsed me because I have led on this issue,” Ms. Clinton said on Thursday.
“We need a president who is passionate about this, seeing it as a top priority because women’s health is under assault,” she continued.
On Friday, Mr. Sanders dismissed that claim, saying that he’s spent his “entire political life fighting for the right of a woman to control her own body.”
“What Secretary Clinton did is taking things out of context,” he said.