Donald Trump’s latest (or maybe not actually the latest, as it’s become virtually impossible to keep track) unforced gaffe, this week on the issue of abortion, led Chuck Todd this morning to ask Hillary Clinton on “Meet the Press” to elaborate on her position on the issue. Conservative pro-lifers, who constantly see their stances tarred as “extremist” by a complicit media all too eager to let progressive pro-choicers slide as to their own abortion extremism, can actually take some degree of solace in Clinton’s answer as to whether the unborn presently possess any legal protection under our current Roe v. Wade/Planned Parenthood v. Casey federal abortion jurisprudence:
‘Well, under our laws currently, that is not something that exists,’ Clinton said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’
‘The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights. 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.’ (Emphasis added.)
Descriptively, this is pretty accurate. Gonzales v. Carhart notwithstanding, “mental health” exceptions in Casey lurk in the background of most state attempts to curtail abortion. The actual judicial interpretation of Casey‘s “undue burden” standard is mixed across the federal circuits — and a major U.S. Supreme Court case interpreting the standard in the context of Texas’s 2013 pro-life law is currently pending — but as a purely descriptive matter, it is not at all inaccurate to say that the unborn currently lack basic constitutional rights.
However, Clinton’s comments can actually be seen as a win for pro-lifers. Focus on her language: Hillary Clinton, lifelong pro-choice stalwart, actually used the term “unborn person” to refer to…well, the unborn child. This is a notable incremental victory for those of us who oppose the abortion industry’s cleverly deceitful euphemisms as to what is actually does. Language and framing matter. As Rich Lowry wrote on the subject nearly three years ago:
The unwritten rule is that when the left discusses abortion it is never called ‘abortion,’ but always referred to as ‘health’ or, more specifically ‘reproductive health’ — although abortion is the opposite of reproduction and for one party involved, the opposite of health. The former National Abortion Rights Action League, and then the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, finally settled on the name NARAL Pro-Choice America, effacing all reference to the procedure that it holds in such high esteem.
Clinton’s (probably inadvertent, to be clear) intellectual honesty, then, as to the humanity of the unborn child, is a positive development for the pro-life movement.
‘In both law and politics, I think the essential battle is the meta-battle of framing the narrative,’ Cruz told me. ‘As Sun Tzu said, every battle is won before it’s fought. It’s won by choosing the terrain on which it will be fought.’
Today, the meta-battle of framing the narrative was decisively won by intellectual honesty, and consequently by the pro-life movement.