Tuesday, February 5

:: The Answers

A comparative view of the answers from Sens. Clinton and Obama to RH Reality Check's sexual and reproductive health and rights questionnaire.

Its easier to compare the answers from the Obama and Clinton campaign side by side, so I've pasted the answers from both questionnaires into one document. I left the footnotes and links behind and made several small formatting changes, such as numbering the questions.

A number of differences between the candidates are evident. But if you are looking for a smoking gun that shows Obama is a risky bet when it comes to choice, go directly to #8: Does (the candidate) support any restrictions on abortion, or does s/he believe it should be entirely up to women?

The Obama campaigns answer is simply this:

Obama supports those restrictions that are consistent with the legal framework outlined by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.

This might fool a newbie, but the rest of us know this means only one of two things. Either the person who filled out the questionnaire is completely ignorant of the topic of the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade, or the campaign has given the most conservative answer it thinks it can get away it and still call Obama a Democrat.

Just to make it perfectly clear, all the restrictions on reproductive choice and the right to privacy that we have right now, including Gonzalez, have been interpreted by the Supreme Court to be compatible with Roe v. Wade. In fact, it was the court's finding in Webster, and then Casey, that a host of restrictions were allowable under Roe that got us into our current mess. To say you support restrictions consistent with Roe is to say you could be in favor of any and all restrictions except spousal consent (knocked down in Webster, I believe, or was it Casey?) and bans with an exception to save the life (but not health) of the woman. Even the choice of phrasing - "Obama supports restrictions that are compatable" rather than "Obama opposes those restrictions that incompatible" - points to a conservative message strategy.

It is terrible that several old guard so-called pro-choice leaders have chosen to overlook the obvious clues that Obama is shaky on choice. Did Kate Michelman, Karen Mulhauser and other candidates know about this answer, and endorse Obama anyway? And what could justify giving a kick in the teeth to a candidate with such a strong feminist background and profound commitment to fighting for women's rights in the U.S. and around the world?

To be perfectly frank, I am baffled and ashamed.


1. Why do you consider Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton to be the strongest candidate on reproductive health and rights?


Throughout his career, Senator Obama has consistently championed a woman's right to choose, earning him 100% ratings from pro-choice groups during his tenure in the Illinois State Senate and the United States Senate. In 2005, he was the honorary chair of Planned Parenthood of Chicago Area's Roe v. Wade celebration. And he has not shied away from tough battles. In the Illinois State Senate, Obama worked hand-in-hand with advocacy groups to protect women's reproductive health.

And just last year, Obama was the only U.S. Senator who supported a fundraising initiative to defeat a proposed abortion ban in South Dakota. And Senator Obama was the only presidential candidate to weigh in on the controversy surrounding the opening of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Aurora.


When it comes to each woman's ability to make the most personal of life decisions, Hillary Clinton is a leader. She has stood firm as an advocate for a woman's right to choose and has worked to expand access to family planning services. As First Lady, she went to Beijing and declared that "human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights," and as Senator, she has consistently stood up for women's reproductive health and rights.

Throughout her time in the Senate, she has consistently spoken out against relentless efforts by the right wing to rollback women's access to the full range of reproductive health care services. She opposed the nominations of Justices Alito and Roberts, declaring that they represented the gravest threat to Roe v. Wade in history, and she condemned the Supreme Court's April 2007 decision to allow the government to dictate to women what they can and cannot do about their own health.

Senator Clinton has supported every pro-choice bill introduced and voted on since she came into the Senate. She opposed the so-called "partial birth abortion" bill; the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which was designed to define a fetus as a person in order to lay the groundwork for overturning Roe v. Wade; the Child Custody Protection Act, which would have made it a crime to accompany young woman across state lines for abortion care; and the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which would impose a new, complex, national patchwork of parental notice mandates on doctors and young women. She has also co-sponsored legislation to repeal the global gag rule imposed by President Bush, which has resulted in the closure of multiple health clinics in the developing world, reductions in the number of community health workers providing outreach in rural areas, and contraceptive shortages in the countries most in need of family planning services.

Senator Clinton has been a strong leader in advancing women's health and well-being. As First Lady, she helped found the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which has helped achieve a one-third reduction in teen pregnancy between 1996 and 2005. Working with Senator Patty Murray, she helped lead a three-year effort to make "Plan B" emergency contraception, also known as the "morning after" pill, available over the counter. She also sponsored the Prevention First Act, which expands access to family planning services for low-income women, requires health insurance companies to cover contraception, and provides a dedicated funding stream for age-appropriate, medically accurate, comprehensive sex education. Senator Clinton introduced the Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies (CARE) Act, which would ensure that survivors of sexual assault and rape receive necessary medical care, including emergency contraception such as Plan B, and the Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act, which would ensure that servicewomen have access to Plan B at military health care facilities. She also co-sponsored legislation to establish an Emergency Contraception Public Education Campaign through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

She has also supported legislation to restore access to privately funded abortion services for U.S. servicewomen and military dependents in overseas military health facilities; lift the ban on international non-governmental organizations that provide to women information on family planning services; prohibit violent protestors, such as anti-abortion activists, from escaping court-ordered fines or judgments by filing for bankruptcy protection; and prohibit funding for federal employee health plans that refuse to provide contraceptive coverage.

In short, Senator Clinton has fought for women's rights for her entire career. She has been a leader on reproductive health care issues in the Senate, and she will remain committed to them when she is President.

2. What sets Sen. Obama’s / Clinton's platform apart from the other contenders on issues of reproductive health and rights?


Senator Obama has demonstrated an ability to engage diverse audiences in talking about these issues in an effort to forge consensus. For instance, in December 2006, Obama went to "the political equivalent of the lion's den" when he told a conservative Christian audience in Southern California that abstinence-only education was not enough and that he "respectfully but unequivocally" disagrees with those who oppose condom distribution to fight the AIDS pandemic." Obama drew a standing ovation from the 2,072 pastors and others who came from 39 states and 18 nations.

Similarly, this year at a Planned Parenthood conference, Obama emphasized the need for pro-choice groups to align themselves with religious and community groups that are also working on reducing unintended pregnancy. Obama has also focused on the high teen pregnancy rate. In addition to co-sponsoring the Prevention First Act, Obama has introduced a bill that would devote resources to combating the high teen pregnancy rate in communities of color.


Senator Clinton has been a consistent advocate for women's reproductive health and rights, and she will carry this commitment to the White House as a leader on behalf of all women. When she is President, she will nominate Supreme Court Justices and other federal court judges who believe that the Constitution protects a woman's right to privacy. Senator Clinton knows that reproductive health care is an important part of any woman's overall health, which is why she will ensure that reproductive health care will be part of her plan to provide health care to every single American. As a part of her plan to fight cancer, Senator Clinton has committed to increasing access to screening tools and she has said she will fully fund the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. When she is President, she will continue to strongly support increased funding for Medicaid and Title X, which provide federal funding for family planning and reproductive health care services. She will also work to sign into law the Prevention First Act, which provides federal funding for comprehensive, medically accurate sex education; provides for equitable coverage of contraception among private plans; and expands access to information about emergency contraception. Senator Clinton has been a leading advocate for women throughout her life, and her policy proposals and platform reflect that dedication.

3. How does Sen. Obama’s / Sen. Clinton's health care plan specifically address sexual and reproductive health, family planning, pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and other STDs?


Senator Obama believes that reproductive health care is basic health care. His health care plan will create a new public plan, which will provide coverage of all essential medical services. Reproductive health care is an essential service - just like mental health care and disease management and other preventive services under his plan. And private insurers that want to participate will have to treat reproductive care in the same way.


Senator Clinton's health care plan provides guaranteed, affordable, high-quality health care for every single American. It allows those who like their current plans to keep them and provides a new menu of quality health insurance options, including a public plan modeled after Medicare, for those who are dissatisfied with their coverage or don't have any. This Health Choices Menu would include the high-quality plans offered to Members of Congress through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Her health care plan will ensure that all Americans living with HIV/AIDS have access to care and will end insurance discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, such as HIV/AIDS. Senator Clinton's plan to fight HIV/AIDS includes doubling the HIV/AIDS research budget within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to $5.2 billion annually, including the U.S. contribution toward finding a vaccine. To address the disproportionate burden of HIV/AIDS on minority communities, Senator Clinton will increase funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative and support the prevention and treatment efforts of minority-run community based organizations.

Her plan also increases federal funding for substance abuse treatment. She has also committed to providing at least $50 billion over five years to combat HIV/AIDS around the world. This commitment will establish the United States as a leader in galvanizing the global community around meeting the Millennium Development Goal of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV and other diseases by 2015. She will lead the world in achieving universal access to treatment by doubling the number of people that the United States supports with treatment. The Clinton plan will increase the number of healthworkers in training or in place in Africa by at least one million over a decade and ensure access to medications for all.

4. Does Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton support comprehensive sexuality education? Does s/he believe that the federal government should continue to fund abstinence-only-until marriage programs, despite evidence that they are ineffective at preventing unintended pregnancy and STDs?


Yes, Senator Obama supports comprehensive sex education. He believes that we should not continue to fund abstinence-only programs. Over the last decade, the federal government has spent $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars on "abstinence-only" programs that have not been successful.

While abstinence is one approach to reducing unintended pregnancies and STDs, Obama believes we should also support comprehensive and age-appropriate sex education.

Obama is an original co-sponsor of the Prevention First Act, which will ensure that all taxpayer-funded federal programs are medically accurate and include information about contraception.


Senator Clinton introduced legislation to provide federal funding for comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate sex education. She believes that abstinence-only programs have not been shown to be effective, and, as President, she would support programs that send a strong message to young people that they should delay sexual activity while giving them the information they need to make responsible decisions and protect themselves.

5. Does Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton support adolescents' access to confidential family planning and reproductive health services, without having to seek permission from their parents? Why or why not?


Yes. As the father of two daughters, Senator Obama understands that parents do not want to imagine their teenage child might need to seek counsel on reproductive health. He believes, first and foremost, that parents should be the first and primary source of support. But Obama also recognizes that not every child is in a loving home with a parent or trusted adult to turn to in such a situation. For young women in such circumstances, Obama wants to be sure that there is access to a trained health care provider that can provide needed services or help them make good decisions.


Yes. Senator Clinton supports access to confidential health care for all Americans. She believes families should be involved in any life decision involving their daughter, but recognizes that in some cases, that type of involvement is neither healthy nor appropriate.

6. Does Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton believe that contraception should be covered by private insurance plans and under insurance plans for federal employees? Why or why not?




Senator Clinton has been a strong supporter of the Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act, which would require private health plans to cover FDA-approved prescription contraceptives and related medical services to the same extent that they cover prescription drugs and other outpatient medical services. This bill seeks to establish parity for prescription contraception. She has also co-sponsored legislation to prohibit funding for federal employee health plans that refuse to provide contraceptive coverage. And she cosponsored the Prevention Through Affordable Access Act to correct a provision included in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2006 that cuts off every college and university health clinic and hundreds of safety net providers from being able to offer affordable contraceptives to students and lower income women.

7. Does Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton agree with the FDA's decision to make emergency contraception over the counter for people 18 and over? Does s/he think adolescents should be able to access emergency contraception over the counter as well? Why or why not?


Senator Obama supports the FDA's decision to make emergency contraception available over the counter for people 18 and over. Obama recognizes that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other medical experts have reported that EC use is safe for women of all reproductive age and have called for improved access to EC. Although Obama strongly believes that parents or other trusted adults should be engaged in all reproductive health decisions involving teenagers and adolescents, he also recognizes that not every young women has access to such support. As such, he does believe that teenagers should be able to access EC over the counter. As noted above, he supports the right of adolescents to seek confidential family planning services.


Senator Clinton led a three-year fight to pressure the FDA to make a decision on Barr Pharmaceutical's application to sell Plan B over the counter, and she was pleased when the decision was made to approve the application, in line with the overwhelming consensus of the research community that the drug was safe and effective for over the counter use and the recommendation of every major health care organization. At the time of the decision, she urged the FDA to revisit placing age restrictions on the sale of Plan B, and still believes that it is the path we ought to take. She agrees with the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation that emergency contraception is safe and effective, can help to prevent unintended pregnancy among teenagers, and should not be confused with mifepristone.

8. Does Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton support any restrictions on abortion, or does she believe it should be entirely up to women?


Obama supports those restrictions that are consistent with the legal framework outlined by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.


Senator Clinton believes abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. She has worked throughout her career to accomplish that goal by working to reduce the teen pregnancy rate and providing greater access to family planning. She strongly opposed the so-called "partial birth abortion" bill when it was considered by the Senate. She supported an alternative bill that, consistent with Roe v. Wade, would have prohibited post-viability abortions except when, in the medical judgment of an attending physician, abortion is necessary to preserve the life or health of the woman.

9. Does Sen. Obama / Clinton support the Hyde amendment? Under what circumstances does s/he believe that Medicaid should cover abortions (all pregnancies, life- or health- threatening pregnancies, pregnancies that are a result of rape or incest, extreme fetal malformation)?


Obama does not support the Hyde amendment. He believes that the federal government should not use its dollars to intrude on a poor woman's decision whether to carry to term or to terminate her pregnancy and selectively withhold benefits because she seeks to exercise her right of reproductive choice in a manner the government disfavors.


No. Senator Clinton does not support the Hyde amendment. She believes low-income women should have access to the full range of reproductive health care services.

10. Does Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton believe adolescents should have the right to choose abortion, or should they be required to seek their parents' consent? Why or why not? Are there any circumstances that might make a compelling case for waiving the parental consent requirement?


As a parent, Obama believes that young women, if they become pregnant, should talk to their parents before considering an abortion. But he realizes not all girls can turn to their mother or father in times of trouble, and in those instances, we should want these girls to seek the advice of trusted adults - an aunt, a grandmother, a pastor.

Unfortunately, instead of encouraging pregnant teens to seek the advice of adults, most parental consent bills that come before Congress or state legislatures criminalize adults who attempt to help a young woman in need and lack judicial bypass and other provisions that would permit exceptions in compelling cases.


Senator Clinton believes families should be involved in any life decision involving their daughter, but recognizes that in some cases that type of involvement is neither healthy nor appropriate. She does not believe the federal government can dictate healthy families. That is why she supports New York State law that does not require parental consent for minors. In states where that is not attainable, she supports judicial bypass provisions.

11. Does Sen. Obana / Sen. Clinton support continuing federal funding for crisis pregnancy centers? Why or why not?




No. She does not support federal funding for programs that misrepresent facts in order to further a political agenda.

12. If elected president, what specific measures would Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton support for women who choose to become mothers (prenatal care, maternity leave, childcare, healthcare for children)?


Under Obama's health care plan, women will be able to receive coverage of prenatal care under the new public health plan. And participating private insurers will be required to provide the same coverage. Obama has proposed a $1.5 billion fund to encourage all fifty states to adopt paid leave programs. Under these programs, women would be entitled to take paid maternity leave.


Ensuring guaranteed, affordable, high-quality health care for all Americans will be Senator Clinton's top domestic priority. She was instrumental in creating the Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides health care for six million children today, and she has fought for 15 years to expand access to quality care. Her health care plan will provide access to critical services like prenatal care. She has put forth a bold plan to provide paid leave for new parents and caregivers by 2016, expand the Family and Medical Leave Act to include 13 million new workers, and end pregnancy discrimination. She is also the lead sponsor of legislation to ensure equal pay for women. (Please visit [here] and [here] for more information about Senator Clinton's plans.)

13. Does Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton believe that gay and lesbian couples should be able to adopt children?

Obama: Yes.

Clinton: Yes.

14. If elected president, would Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton overturn the Global Gag Rule or reinstate funding for UNFPA?


Yes, Senator Obama would overturn the global gag rule and reinstate funding for UNFPA.


Yes. Overturning the Global Gag Rule and reinstating funding for UNFPA would be among her highest priorities. Senator Clinton has said overturning the gag rule would be one of her first acts as President.


Anonymous said...

Barak's responses aren't wrong (except for the PBA question) but they lack specifics. Hillary's response show her (and her staff) deep knowledge of the issues and the things the activists care about.
In addition, Hillary has proposed one the largest expansion's to FMLA in history. She understands (as a good feminist should) that we need to support women in all thier choices. And raising children is as important as giving birth to them.

Nina Miller said...

I disagree. I think the response to the restrictions question is VERY wrong. To say you support restrictions compatible with Roe is to say you support basically every restriction out there. In the questionnaire, he says he opposes the Hyde amendment and parental consent without a bypass, but since he never actually voted on these issues, we really have no idea what he would do. More importantly, we don't know (though I could guess) why it was important to provide an answer that so obviously signals he wants wiggle room.

If they wanted to give a "standard" answer, they could have written "Obama supports a woman's right to choose whether and when to have a child; that all children should be wanted and loved, etc. etc." They didn't. They chose to write "Obama supports those restrictions..."

A pretty clear sign that he's preparing to throw us overboard. Kate etc. might as well climb up on the gangplank right now.

ladybec said...

I'm with Ciccina on this, especially because he taught con law - he has to know what that answer means and how far the Supreme Court has stretched the legal framework of Roe. It's a very wishy-washy answer and does not inspire my confidence that he would do the right thing on the hard issues.

Nice job on the putting this together, too, Ciccina. The side-by-side really gives a clear picture of who I want to trust with my vote, my rights, and my body. Hillary has such clear details in her answers and she can point to her record, at being there for the tough votes and actually owning them. Barack can't point to any of his votes in the state legislature, for example, because of all the present votes, I'm guessing. And while I appreciate that he spoke up about the Aurora clinic, it is in his hometown. I'm not sure that it would have been all that appropriate for Hillary to have been involved.

All of this just further demonstrates the point that you can certainly have other reasons for supporting Barack, but I don't think you can make a good argument that he's the stronger candidate on choice and women's issues when you really look at the facts. I'm proud to be a woman for Hillary and to have a candidate that I feel like I can support wholeheartedly because she gets the issues that are nearest and dearest to my heart. I can't wait to go vote for her in 6 days!

Kirsten said...

I'd just like to point out one issue that RH Reality Check didn't ask about is the Helms Amendment, which prevents any foreign aid from supporting abortion-related activities. Sure, you say, that's ridiculous -- how could they even ask that question? It's too politically sensitive to comment on. But since unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal death in Africa -- one that we carefully ignore because it's politically distasteful -- I don't see how we can't deal with the issue head on. And no -- I don't think talking about the gag rule counts, because the gag rule in many ways is a heavy blunt object, compared to the Hyde Amendment.

Also, did y'all see Robin Morgan's blogpost on electoral misogyny? I admit to often being skeptical of my feminist foremothers, but this is awfully good.


Nina Miller said...

Zippy! Yay!

RS said...

Senator Clinton has *specifically* (you gotta love her for that, no?) pointed out that she supported an alternative to the partial birth abortion bill that prohibited non-endangering post-viability abortions, and was consistent with Roe v. Wade.

Senator Obama supports restrictions on abortion that are consistent with Roe v. Wade.

How are the two responses different, except that Clinton gives an example and Obama does not? Senators Clinton and Obama could vote the same way on each such piece of legislation and be completely consistent with these answers.

You could believe that Senator Obama wants to be able to compete in conservative states, and so wants some wiggle room. OK. But that also means that Senator Clinton has given up on those same states. And look where that approach got John "we don't need to win the south/conservative states" Kerry.

That pragmatism could well be why the pro-choice leaders you mention back Senator Obama - better to have someone who could help us, than end up with someone who most definitely will not.

Nina Miller said...

My understanding of the legislation Senator Clinton supported - called the Late Term Abortion Restriction Act (LTARA) - was that it was specifically written to cover only post-viability abortions, and included life and health exemptions. It differed from the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act" because the latter was written in such a way that it could be used to ban first and second trimester abortions using a number of procedures, and did not have a health exception. LTARA was crafted to make a point - if Senators supported the PBA ban really wanted to protect "infants" on the "verge of being born" they could have supported the legislation that would specifically do that instead of the vaguer language that would undermine Roe. So it had that purpose; plus it gave pro-choice Senators something positive to point to when their opponents charged that they "supported abortion for any reason in all nine months, right up to birth" (which nobody in their right mind does and which Roe does not allow).

The problem with Obama's answer is that he knows that a host of restrictions have been permitted by the SCOTUS under Roe v. Wade. This is the thinking that Justice Roberts referred to during his confirmation hearings - the Court could approve enough restrictions on abortion to make it practically unavailable while not overturning the precedents upholding Roe that were set by the Webster, Casey, Carhardt etc. decisions.

I'm not saying Obama is another Roberts. What I do think is that he has to appeal to Af-American religious leaders, who are very shaky on reproducive choice (and gay rights). Bush's "faith based" strategy to recruit black voters (which totally fell apart) was based on the notion that he could connect Af-Americans to white evangelicals over social issues. I think Obama's vaguery is specifically meant to appeal to these folks, and the problem is that it assuages the stigma they place on reproductive health services - he abets it, rather than acting as a leader to educate about it. And it is entirely possible that Obama will go further and suggest he won't oppose specific restrictions (waiting periods, mandatory lectures, etc) or tell them he is pro-choice but won't "make a big deal out of it."

Obama can beat Clinton in states with a big percentage of Af-American primary voters. Obama can't beat a Republican in those states, however, no matter what anybody promises now. The red states have been red for two elections, and those Republicans - who are very concerned about national security - are not going to hand the country over to some guy who looks like a kid, never served in the military, has no foreign policy experience and who made the "no preconditions" statement about meeting with foreign baddies. Those states will stay red.

Hillary or Barack only need to win the blue / purple states that Kerry won, plus either Florida or Ohio. Everyone understands Kerry ran a miserable campaign, and HRC or BO only need to do as well as Kerry plus get one more. (Surely either would do better than Kerry, I think). Barack has set himself up for a serious problem: if he opposes the seating of the Florida delegates, he basically forfeits that state in the general election (hard to imagine Floridians Dems going all out for him after he tells them he doesn't want their votes to count). But if he assuages the Floridians by supporting their delegates, he won't win the nomination. Its a catch 22.

If he becomes the nominee by forfeiting Florida, he will have to win Ohio. Ohio is a tough state with a lot of white ethnics (Reagan Dem) voters.

Hillary, by contrast, can pull Florida (latinos and old people).

Furthermore, Hillary can and will pull independent and Republican women because she is fully pro-choice. That is one issue that has demonstrably pulled these women to vote Dem. "Hope" and "inspiration" - I doubt it will resonate that much with those voters. By contrast, Obama has signalled that he is not going to highlight choice (or any women's issues) in his campaign. He has no pitch to those women.

Good to hear from you RS. Cheers.