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Hillary Clinton in Brazil: Women worldwide have ‘fundamental personal right’ to abortion

Catholic World News - March 15, 2010

In a little-noticed town hall meeting in Brazil earlier this month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that nations with restrictions on abortion deny women a “fundamental personal right.”

“In every country, this is a decision for the people of the country,” she said, “but I think it is something that needs to be carefully thought about because of the great effect it has on the numbers of children that poor women have that they can't educate, feed properly, care for, the great toll that illegal abortions take, and the denial of women being able to exercise such a fundamental personal right.”

85% of the nation’s 189 million people are Catholic, making the nation the world’s most populous Catholic country.

The secretary of state also touted the Obama administration’s commitment to abortion in her exchange with a law student, here reprinted in full.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter). Good night. My name is Medina. I'm a law student from (inaudible). And I also had a great opportunity to go to the United States as a U.S. (inaudible) scholarship holder, and I'm very grateful for that opportunity.

I'm not sure if you are aware that the right of abortion does not exist in Brazil, not only its legal as it - also it's a crime. And many, like, thousands of Brazilian women die every year from illegal abortions, making it the first cause of pregnant women death in this country. The right of abortion is also not accessible to all American women. What are the steps, what are the initiatives now throughout Obama's term to make it - to change this situation in the United States? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, President Obama and I believe in a woman's right to choose. And President Obama has reversed policies from the prior administration that prevented women from making an informed decision. And he has also reversed what's called the gag rule with respect to information going from aid programs to women around the world. And he's also invested greatly in family planning services so that all women have a chance to exercise their own rights.

This is an issue that I think is a social equity and social justice issue because wealthy women have rights in every country and poor women don't. And I've written about this in my book, It Takes A Village. I visited a hospital here in Brazil back in the 1990s, and I'll never forget one of the doctors telling me that this hospital that I visited was a hospital that had the best of feelings and the worst of feelings. And I said, "Well, what do you mean?" He said, "Well, half the hospital are women having babies, and they are so excited. And half the hospital are women who are suffering from illegal abortions, and they are very sad." I'll never forget that.

And so I know that in every country, this is a decision for the people of the country, but I think it is something that needs to be carefully thought about because of the great effect it has on the numbers of children that poor women have that they can't educate, feed properly, care for, the great toll that illegal abortions take, and the denial of women being able to exercise such a fundamental personal right. So President Obama has taken steps since he became President to give the right of choice to women and to do what we can to help avoid women having to make that choice, through better planning and better information and education.

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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: voxfem - Mar. 16, 2010 9:15 AM ET USA

    "Half the women are suffering from illegal abortions, and they are very sad." They'd be sad if the abortion were legal, too. Legalizing it doesn't make a woman feel any better. Clinton and Obama need to listen to the thousands of women in our country who are speaking out about the destructive affect abortion has had in their lives. http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org/articles/article.aspx?articleid=84&owner=0

  • Posted by: gerard9864 - Mar. 15, 2010 6:55 PM ET USA

    They need to make up their minds. If it's a fundamental personal right, then why should it be "rare", as Bill and others have declared? If I have a fundamental personal right I'll exercise it as often as I choose, thank you. But of course the only fundamental right in this business is that of the baby to live, and every international statement of human rights has recognized that, despite the revisionist efforts of international feminism to imply otherwise.

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