HILLARY AT PLANNED PARENTHOOD. It was all about "we" last night as Hillary Clinton took her turn before Planned Parenthood. Elizabeth Edwards listed Bush administration outrages against reproductive health and provided a litany of policy solutions. Barack Obama talked about coming to "compromise" by shifting the debate form divisive abortion politics to broad support for work-family balance and medically informed public health policies. But for Clinton, the event was less an opportunity to shift the terms of the debate or establish her pro-choice bona fides than to reassert her lifetime commitment to women's issues and recall her history of working closely with Planned Parenthood over decades.
The speech was built around a comparison between two experiences Clinton had while first lady: Opposing the one child rule in China, which can lead to forced abortion and sterilization; and meeting with women who had lived under the Communist regime in Romania, where the police forced them to undergo regular gynecological exams in their workplaces in order to monitor all pregnancies and prevent abortion. Romanian women were told it was their duty to the state to bear five children, regardless of their economic or personal circumstances. Clinton used these anecdotes to situate reproductive rights as "human rights," and said President Bush had attacked women across the world through the Global Gag Rule, which withholds American foreign aid from programs that provide abortion or abortion counseling, including the United Nations Population Fund. Clinton got cheers and applause when she promised, "I want you to know that when I am president, I will dedicate my very first few days in office to reversing these policies ... starting with the Global Gag Rule and going from there, I will not rest until we once again protect women’s health”
Clinton hit her wonky stride talking about exactly how to reform Medicaid so it fully covers women's sexual health and recognizes providers like Planned Parenthood. "We have to be very specific about this, we cannot leave anything to the imagination, because we know what happens when we leave any loopholes for people to run through," she said.
Clinton also discussed two pieces of legislation she has introduced, one guaranteeing access to emergency contraception at all hospitals in the United States, and another guaranteeing access for American servicewomen both abroad and within the U.S. The incidence of sexual assault against women in the military increased by almost a quarter last year, to about 3,000 reported incidents.
All three campaigns were pretty damn impressive yesterday. For me, the real test will be whether each candidate does what they promised, which is to continue to situate reproductive health issues within their plans for expanding health coverage broadly.