Clinton Takes on the Antis: This Is What Diplomacy Looks Like

In a speech for the history books, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a clear and uncompromising case for lifesaving role of international reproductive rights and health care access when testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday.

Anti-choice New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith lectured Clinton about Margaret Sanger’s supposed eugenic agenda, about the work of Planned Parenthood and then finally asked whether the adminstration sought to undo restrictive family planning policies in South America and Asia, AFP reports (likely alluding to the reinstatement of funding for UNFPA).  Clinton didn’t mince words:

"Congressman, I deeply respect your passionate concern and views
which you have championed and advocated for over the course of your
public career," Clinton told him.

"We, obviously, have a profound disagreement," the chief US diplomat said.

I’ll include the rest of Clinton’s quote in the AFP in full:

"When I think about the suffering that I have seen of women around
the world, I’ve been in hospitals in Brazil where half the women were
enthusiastically and joyfully greeting new babies and the other half
were fighting for their lives against botched abortions," said Clinton.

been in African countries where 12 and 13-year-old girls are bearing
children. I have been in Asian countries where the denial of family
planning consigns women to lives of oppression and hardship," she added.

is my strongly held view that you are entitled to advocate and everyone
who agrees with you should be free to do so anywhere in the world, and
so are we," she said.

"We happen to think that family planning is
an important part of women’s health and reproductive health includes
access to abortion, that I believe should be safe, legal and rare,"
Clinton added.

"I’ve spent a lot of my time trying to bring down
the rate of abortions and it has been my experience that good family
planning and good medical care brings down the rate of abortion," the
secretary of state said.

"Keeping women and men in ignorance and denied the access to services actually increases the rate of abortion."

Clinton makes clear the connection between safe, legal, accessible abortion and maternal health, between family planning and women’s socioeconomic level, between access to contraception and the need for abortion, and between abortion and the full spectrum of reproductive health care. When put in context, it becomes obvious that abortion is not only, not even primarily, a contested medical procedure but the key to a wholesale paradigm shift in valuing women’s lives.

The AP adds:

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry asked:
"Is forcing U.S. taxpayers to fund abortion in keeping with the highest
values of the United States of America?"

Clinton said she had a "fundamental disagreement" with the Nebraska
Republican. She said it’s the administration’s view that family
planning is an important part of women’s health.

If preventing maternal deaths and ensuring women can live lives of dignity, then, yes, Congressman Fortenberry, funding abortion is in accordance with some of the highest values the United States could ever strive for.

Even CBN’s David Brody had to concede, "It should be noted that the Secretary of State kept her composure and didn’t let the pro-life voices distract from her message."  

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  • invalid-0

    It just brings tears to my eyes to hear a representative of the US speak so beautifully about the benefits of family planning and advancing reproductive health. She just plain rocks!

  • invalid-0

    Rock on Hillary, thank you for advocating for human rights and science for all people!

  • invalid-0

    I still get misty when I hear women centered policy being advocated by my administration.

  • marcela-howell

    Sometimes you just want to cheer. I know the people in the hearing room who clapped knew they were supposed to be quiet – – this was, afterall, Congress.


    But you got to love it when the right words come out at the right time up against the right person. A very nice, very professional "so take that Mr. Smith" from Madame Secretary. Nicely done.


    And thanks Emily for posting it

  • invalid-0

    Go Hillary! Good for you America… it seems that your politicians are FINALLY saying and doing the right things!

  • emily-douglas

    Thank you everyone for sharing in my delight! I got goosebumps watching the video. It’s thrilling to watch Clinton unleash her brilliance and obvious passion for these issues. I’m looking forward to much more from her.

  • progo35


    Regardless of where one stands on abortion, it is dishonest to say that Sanger had a “supposed” eugenic agenda. Despite all the good she did for women in promoting access to contraception, she passionately believed that handicapped people and people of other races should be coerced into sterilization and the use of birth control not in order to ensure their freedom, but to prevent their reproduction. Please do not misrepresent facts to the general populace by belittling a very significant part of US history.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    This is what I’ve been longing to hear.

  • invalid-0


    As there is no significant figure in US history who is without flaw, I’m not sure if this is the argument you want to make.

    Shall we discuss the people and the laws and the social environment that led to Sanger’s crusade for personal reproductive choice?

    Or is that part of the story unimportant?

  • progo35

    I think it’s very important that you understand that I am not opposing Sanger’s mission of making contraception more available, particularly to women who were in situations where poverty and maternal mortality rates endangered women who had no way of controlling whether or not they had children, unless they were completely abstinent.

    But, what I am criticizing is Emily’s insinuation that the existence of Sanger’s eugenic agenda was open to interpretation or debate-there is no doubt that she supported eugenics. Like I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, that doesn’t mean that making contraception available to women was a bad thing or that Sanger did not leave a positive legacy for women. But she was also part of a negative legacy. This is common to all political movements, religions, etc.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    “Like I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, that doesn’t mean that making contraception available to women was a bad thing or that Sanger did not leave a positive legacy for women. But she was also part of a negative legacy.”

    The same can be said of the vast, vast majority of historical figures we honor. And while eugenics has gone the way of the Dodo, women’s reproductive has become a legal and moral imperative. There is no conflict in recognizing and respecting the body of work that has stood the test of time and is spreading across the globe, benefiting untold numbers of women

  • progo35

    Right. I agree-we can appreciate the availability of contraception that was aided by Sanger’s work and acknowledge that Sanger supported eugenics.   



    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    Progo35, everyone knows that Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist. Much as Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner, Andrew Jackson a instigator of genocide, and Walt Disney a racist. We celebrate the positive contributions of these figures, and lament the negative ones, even while recognizing that in their day, their sins were not as reprehensible as today’s standards rightfully make them out to be.

    Most people speaking out nowadays on Sanger’s eugenics efforts, however, do so not to remind us of her darker side (gee, thanks, we hadn’t heard), but to discredit the positive contributions she has made—as if reproductive freedom were inseparable from eugenics. A disingenuous exercise in guilt by association, because the modern-day Planned Parenthood has nothing to do with that regressive agenda. No more than Disney’s Lilo and Stitch has anything to do with Mr. Disney’s racism.

  • invalid-0

    Snerk. Well Gosh, Progo35…who are your historical heroes in terms of women’s reproductive rights?

  • invalid-0

    The Wikipedia entry that states that Margaret Sanger was a “eugenicist” has been thoroughly discredited. What happened there was that some antiabortionists took a quote of hers expressing concern of how to present family planning to Blacks in a way that WOULD NOT make them feel that her organization was trying to decrease the Black population and distorted and twisted it.

    If you people have a single HONEST argument for your position, it’s time to start using it. I’m not holding my breath.

  • invalid-0

    That was amazing

  • invalid-0

    So often, when she states an opinion on an issue, her words reflect my own stance.

    …an important part of women’s health and reproductive health includes access to abortion, that I believe should be safe, legal and rare….

    She is brilliant and balanced. Thank you Hillary, and thanks to Emily, also, for posting this!

  • progo35

    Catseye-don’t worry, I wasn’t referring to wikipedia-I was referring to information contained in my college history textbook(s) and Sanger’s own writings, such as Women and the New Race.