At a Planned Parenthood Action Fund membership event in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Hillary Clinton sketched out an unapologetic vision of the future of reproductive rights under her presidential leadership. If any future political historians need a reminder of the different tones Clinton and Bernie Sanders have struck on reproductive justice during their campaigns, this speech will do well to represent the Clinton campaign’s firm grasp on the complex, intersectional barriers to health care that women face, and its all-in approach to winning progressive women voters.
Planned Parenthood made its first-ever presidential primary endorsement when it threw its lot behind Clinton in January, and Clinton’s Friday address more than justifies that decision. Clinton opened her speech with a tribute to Planned Parenthood, which kept its health care facilities open in the face of rising harassment and last fall’s lethal terrorist attack. “Thank you for being there for women, no matter their race, sexual orientation, or immigration status … [and] the transgender teens who come for an appointment and find the first place where they can truly be themselves,” Clinton said, commending the organization for handing out clean water to the residents of Flint, Michigan, and providing some of the most reliable, affordable contraception services in the country. “I’ve been proud to stand with Planned Parenthood for a long time, and as president, I will always have your back.”
Clinton remarked on the progress reproductive rights advocates have made in the century since Planned Parenthood’s founding. When she was a law professor teaching Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court decision that made birth control legal for married couples in the U.S., Clinton said, “a look of total bewilderment would come across my students’ faces.” She explained that the country’s maternal mortality rate “dropped dramatically” after Roe v. Wade, and that it played an important role in women’s capacity to pursue an education and career. What’s more, accurate sex education and affordable contraception have contributed to an all-time low rate of teen births.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said the organization trusts Clinton to quash the Hyde Amendment—the longtime ban on Medicaid funding for abortions, which Clinton condemned earlier this year—and Clinton nodded to the importance of breaking down systemic racism and keeping immigrant families together as part of the fight for reproductive justice. This is a small but significant pivot from the “choice” framework, which limited the scope of reproductive rights advocacy to abortion and contraception while ignoring forced sterilization of women of color and significant cultural and socioeconomic barriers to health care access.
Clinton is banking on her nuanced understanding of these issues to carry her to victory over perhaps the most openly misogynist candidate in modern history. “When Donald Trump says ‘let’s make America great again,’ that is code for let’s take America backward,” Clinton said in her address. “Back to a time when opportunity and dignity were reserved for some, not all. Back to the days when abortion was illegal, women had far fewer options, and life for too many women and girls was limited. Well, Donald, those days are over.”