WSJ's Kirkpatrick baselessly claimed Clinton "moved right" on abortion, health care

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

On the February 17 edition of Fox News' The Journal Editorial Report, Wall Street Journal editorial page deputy editor Melanie Kirkpatrick declared that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) has "moved to the right on abortion" and "also moved right on health care," but she offered no evidence to support these assertions. In fact, as Media Matters for America has documented, Clinton has been a consistent supporter of abortion rights throughout her political career. The Chicago Tribune also noted recently that Clinton "has made health care coverage for all a central theme" of her campaign for the Democratic nomination for president.

Critics often cite Clinton's views on reproductive choice as an example of her repositioning. For instance, CBS News contributor Gloria Borger* has described Clinton as purportedly shifting her rhetoric about abortion in a "transparent" effort to recover the so-called "values vote." And MSNBC host Chris Matthews accused Clinton of "trying to play it safe" on the issue by taking a "poll-tested path." Matthews pointed to her assertion in a July 25, 2006, speech that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare" as an example of her purportedly changing position on the issue. But far from representing a point of departure from earlier statements, Clinton's 2006 remarks were consistent with those she made in a January 22, 1999, speech. While first lady, she said: "But all too often, generally because of the loudest voices, the American people don't hear explained the efforts that we're engaged in to continue to work with people from all different walks of life to make abortion safe, legal, and rare."

Other media figures, such as Fox News congressional correspondent Major Garrett, have claimed that in a January 24, 2005, speech, Clinton "appeared to soften her historically hard-line defense of current abortion law by praising the role that religious faith has played in promoting teen abstinence." But while Clinton did praise religion and teen abstinence in the speech and described abortion as "a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women," she at no point backed away from her defense of abortion rights and reiterated her support for keeping abortion legal. Referring to the Putting Prevention First Act (H.R. 4192), Clinton said: "It provides a roadmap to the destination of fewer unwanted pregnancies -- to the day when abortion is truly safe, legal, and rare." Moreover, as Media Matters noted, in her 1996 book, It Takes a Village (Simon & Schuster), Clinton wrote, "I think we need to do everything in our power to discourage sexual activity and encourage abstinence."

Further, on January 27, the Tribune quoted Clinton stating that universal health care would be a central theme to her presidential bid:

"One of the goals that I will be presenting ... is health insurance for every child and universal health care for every American," Clinton said on Sunday. "That's a very major part of my campaign."

From the February 17 edition of Fox News' The Journal Editorial Report:

GIGOT: So assuming that she needs to do this -- that is, move left on the war to win the Democratic presidential nomination -- it's going to hurt her in the general election potentially, if she gets it?

KIRKPATRICK: Oh -- yeah, absolutely. It's just another example, as [Journal editorial page deputy editor] Dan [Henninger] is suggesting, of her lacking the courage of her convictions. She's moved to the right on abortion, she's -- to the extent that no one less than Kate Michelman is supporting John Edwards instead of the female candidate.

GIGOT: Former head of the National Abortion Rights [Action] League [now NARAL Pro-Choice America].

KIRKPATRICK: Yes. And she's also moved right on health care and so, the question has to arise among the voters' minds: What does she stand for?

GIGOT: All right, thanks, Melanie.

Correction: 

This item previously asserted that Chris Matthews had stated that Clinton had purportedly shifted her stance in a "transparent" effort to recover the so-called "values vote." In fact, it was Gloria Borger who said a statement by Clinton was a "transparent" effort to recover the "values vote" during a discussion with Matthews on The Chris Matthews Show. Borger was referring to Clinton's statement that "[w]e can support a woman's right to choose that makes abortion safe, legal, and rare, and reduces the number of abortions." Media Matters for America regrets the error.

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Fox News Channel, Wall Street Journal
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Journal Editorial Report
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2008 Elections
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