NEW YORK CITY, March 13, 2014 ( – Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is expected to be the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, believes it is a “bedrock truth” that abortion restrictions hamper human progress, and any efforts to improve women’s rights must begin with increased access to contraception and abortion.

Addressing the United Nations for International Women’s Day, Clinton told her audience, “There is one lesson from the past, in particular, that we cannot afford to ignore: You cannot make progress on gender equality or broader human development, without safeguarding women’s reproductive health and rights.  That is a bedrock truth.” 

Expanding access to so-called ‘family planning services’ like contraception and abortion, Clinton said, “must be the starting point for work today” when it comes to women’s rights.


Clinton said that even the United States, which has some of the most lenient abortion laws of any developed Western nation, falls short when it comes to giving women free access to abortion-on-demand.

“This remains the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” Clinton said. “No country in the world, including my own, has achieved full participation.”

Abortion access as a fundamental human right has long been a core principle for Mrs. Clinton.  On the very first day of her husband Bill Clinton’s presidency in 1993, which nearly coincided with the 20th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, she pushed him to sign five executive orders authorizing federal funding for and involvement with abortion – both of which had been banned under Presidents Bush and Reagan. 

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While her husband’s staff thought it was too soon to make such a controversial move, Mrs. Clinton strongly disagreed.  Biographer Carl Bernstein wrote in his 2007 book A Woman in Charge, “The milestone anniversary of Roe v. Wade, in Hillary’s view, was the perfect opportunity to move the new presidency on course unambiguously in terms of women’s rights, signal the religious right that its decade of dominance in regard to such personal questions was over.”

As first lady, Mrs. Clinton chaired the task force overseeing the development of the president’s ultimately disastrous attempt at transitioning the U.S. into a universal health care system.  She promised that under the Clinton plan, abortion “would be widely available,” even promising federal funding for the controversial new abortion drug RU-486 – which she had been instrumental in fast-tracking through the FDA approval process. Mrs. Clinton was also instrumental in making Plan B, the so-called “morning-after pill,” legal in America.

At a 1994 UN conference on population and development in Cairo, the Clintons stacked the U.S. delegation with pro-abortion representatives who pressured world leaders to include access to abortion in their definition of “reproductive health care,” which was about to be declared a fundamental human right.  Ultimately, the push failed, and the Cairo document went forward without abortion enshrined in its definition of basic reproductive health care.  But the following year, Mrs. Clinton made world headlines with her speech at the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing, in which she again spoke strongly in favor of “choice.”

More recently, as Secretary of State, Clinton told the 2012 Rio+20 United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro that she was disappointed they had once again failed to enshrine abortion-on-demand as a basic human right.  “While I am very pleased that this year's outcome document endorses sexual and reproductive health and universal access to family planning, to reach our goals in sustainable development we also have to ensure women's reproductive rights,” Clinton said.

She promised that with or without UN backing, the U.S. would continue to lead the charge to expand access to elective abortion around the world.