I was dismayed to see the latest video from the pro-life activist group Live Action, which specializes in investigating what’s going on inside America’s “women’s health clinics.” It highlights a Planned Parenthood educational video and PP employees advising teens about BDSM — a catchall for sexual violence: bondage, discipline and domination, submission and sadism and masochism.
It encapsulates the darkness of “50 Shades of Grey” — which one staffer recommends as a good primer on whips and clamps — and a culture that is bored with sex after having so much of it. It’s a dead end.
I actually thought with some hope about our future, though, when skimming through Hillary Clinton’s new book — universally considered to be a pre-presidential campaign prop — “Hard Choices.” I confess that I have long been intrigued by the prospect of Hillary Clinton as president of the United States.
Maybe it’s the thought that my colleague Ramesh Ponnuru put in my head when he wrote his book “The Party of Death.” He explains a dream he had about the former first lady, secretary of state and senator. “She is at the podium, well into a campaign speech.” It’s definitely a friendly crowd for her.
In Ponnuru’s dream, Clinton talks about prosecuting domestic violence and rape with tremendous sensitivity. And she eventually reaches the point where she speaks with great love for pregnant women and then proclaims: “We should all be able to agree that 1.3 million abortions a year is way too many, and we should work together to bring that number down. The most important thing we can do is to give women more options.” She talks about the need to support families, and the ways the government and Supreme Court can help society do that.
She says in Ponnuru’s dream, “America deserves better than abortion, and America deserves better than this fight we’ve been having for over a generation.”
Ramesh’s point is that we’re not a country that’s comfortable with abortion; we’re a people who want women to have the help they need when facing an unplanned pregnancy. If Hillary Clinton actually gave a speech like this, it could just make her president.
It’s not as crazy as it sounds at first glance. Consider Melinda Gates, a leading philanthropist and the wife of Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates, who recently announced in a blog post: “When I get asked about my views on abortion, I say that, like everyone, I struggle with the issue, but I’ve decided not to engage on it publicly — and the Gates Foundation has decided not to fund abortion.
“I understand that the abortion debate will continue,” Mrs. Gates went on, “but conflating it with the consensus on so many of the things we need to do to keep women healthy is a mistake.”
As Mrs. Gates reassesses what exactly women’s health looks like, what a gift it would be if she led a rethinking of what constitutes good, basic health care. In “Hard Choices,” Mrs. Clinton writes about the importance of seeing women throughout the world “not as victims to be saved but as partners to be embraced.” One fundamental way to achieve this goal is to look at women’s fertility not as a condition to be managed and pregnancy not as a disease to be prevented, but something that is at the core of her identity.
In “Hard Choices,” there’s a photo of Clinton at her daughter’s wedding. She’s radiant in her flowery gown as she and her husband beam with pride and joy. What a credential! She didn’t need to be first lady, senator or secretary of state to be a leader. Embracing who we are as women and men, made uniquely and in a wondrously complementary way, is not a political position so much as an opportunity for a cultural reset. This family thing is quite renewing — literally regenerative. Even with flaws and imperfections, it can bear quite tremendous fruits.
Promoting sadomasochistic primers for teens and “liberated women” isn’t a healthy culture. Women leading the way to an embrace of life, now that’s something that would be a bit like Hillary’s fictional speech: uniting, welcome and much more than a baby step to positive change.
It might just save our political and cultural lives, never mind our souls.
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