Bill Clinton on Abortion

President of the U.S., 1993-2001; Former Democratic Governor (AR)


Allow medical research that uses tissue from aborted fetuses

The Trump administration announced that the federal government would sharply curtail federal spending on medical research that uses tissue from aborted fetuses, mainly by ending fetal-tissue research within the NIH.

But scientists say the tissue is crucial for studies that benefit millions of patients. Critics say it also fit a pattern by the administration of diminishing the role of science and research in policymaking, including on climate change and tariffs.

Shortly after he took office, President Bill Clinton lifted a five-year ban on fetal tissue research imposed by Presidents Reagan and Bush. The fight flared again in 2015, after anti-abortion activists released doctored videos they secretly took, purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing plans to illegally sell aborted fetal tissue for research. House Republicans began an investigation of the fetal-tissue market; a number of states also investigated but found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood.

Source: New York Times on 2019-2020 Trump Administration , Jun 5, 2019

1993: Rescind Mexico City Policy: fund abortion abroad

Trump signed an executive order to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, a policy regarding non-governmental organization (NGO) funding and abortion named after the city in which it was announced. The Mexico City Policy--called the "Global Gag Rule" by political opponents--was introduced by President Ronald Reagan (R) in 1984 and makes "neither performing nor actively promoting abortion as a method of family planning in other nations" conditions of receiving federal funding for any NGO. Rescinding or reinstating this policy has become a tradition when party control of the White House changes. After being instituted in 1984 by Reagan, President Bill Clinton (D) rescinded the policy on January 22, 1993. Exactly nine years later, President George W. Bush (R) reinstated the policy, only to have in rescinded by President Barack Obama (D) on January 23, 2009.
Source: Ballotpedia.org coverage of 2017 Trump transition , Jan 27, 2017

1980s: pro-choice since Bible defines life starting at birth

Bill Clinton was struggling over the definition of human life. He asked his pastor, Vaught, whether he could provide some insight.

Vaught was one of the leading abortion opponents among Little Rock clergy, but he said he shared some of Clinton’s ambivalence, having personally witnessed “some extremely difficult” pregnancies. He was not convinced that the Bible forbade abortion in all circumstances.

The minister went to his Bible to reconsider, after which Vaught determined that in the original Hebrew, “personhood” stemmed from words translated as “to breathe life into.” Thus, he averred, the Bible would define a person’s life as beginning at birth, with the first intake of breath. He reportedly told the governor that this did not mean that abortion was right, but he felt one could not say definitively, based on Scripture, that it was murder.

In all of his discussions about abortion thereafter, Clinton relied on his minister’s interpretation to bolster his pro-choice position.

Source: God and Hillary Clinton, by Paul Kengor, p. 68-69 , Jul 18, 2007

1993: Undid draconian family planning policies

On the 4th day of the Clinton presidency, Jan. 23, the 20th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Bill Clinton signed, in a televised Oval Office ceremony, a series of executive orders undoing the draconian policies of the Reagan-Bush era relating to abortion, contraception, and family planning.

Hillary had pushed unequivocally for the orders, but Bill’s pollster argued that she was dead wrong on the timing of such a hot-button issue; by acting on abortion policy as one of the administration’s first pieces of business, the president and, worse, Hillary, would be perceived as governing from the left. But Hillary regarded the prohibitions in question as a powerful symbol of Reagan-era policies, and an opportunity to declare boldly that the Clinton era had begun. There was an additional appeal: it was fiscally neutral, monetarily cost-free, and not subject to a drawn-out legislative process.

Source: A Woman in Charge, by Carl Bernstein, p.256 , Jun 5, 2007

Roe v. Wade was the right decision

Everyone knows life begins biologically at conception. No one knows when biology turns into humanity. Most abortions that don’t involve the life or health of the mother are chosen by scared young women and girls who don’t know what else to do. It’s hard to apply the criminal law to acts that a substantial portion of the citizenry doesn’t believe should be labeled crimes, (as with Prohibition). I thought then [in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision] and still believe that the Court reached the right conclusion.
Source: My Life, by Bill Clinton, p.229 , Jun 21, 2004

Vetoed partial birth abortion ban for having no exceptions

Opponents of a ban on partial birth abortions claimed that it was used only when necessary to protect the mother's life. Unfortunately for that argument, the physician who is the best-known practitioner of these abortions stated in 1993 that 80% of them are "purely elective," not necessary to save the mother's life or health. Partial birth understates the matter. The baby is outside the mother except for its head, which is kept in the mother only to avoid a charge of infanticide. Full birth is inches away and could easily be accomplished.

President Clinton did, in fact, veto the bill banning partial birth abortion, demanding a vague exception for health that would have amounted to a ratification of almost all such abortions. His veto and the feminist demand for what is, in truth, infanticide underscore the casual brutality born of nihilism that is an ever more prominent feature of our culture.

Source: Slouching Towards Gomorrah, by Robert Bork, p.182-183 , Dec 16, 2003

Reversed global gag order on family planning

In Kazakhstan, I visited a small women's-wellness center funded through US foreign aid. Because of the unavailability of contraception, abortion had become a common form of family planning under communism. The Clinton Administration's policy was to make abortion "safe, legal and rare." We worked to discourage abortion and minimize the spread of sexually transmitted diseases by providing aid for family planning and improved maternal health. This policy contradicted the global gag rule that had been imposed by President Reagan, continued by Bush and rescinded by Bill on the second day of his Presidency (later reinstated by George W. Bush). The doctors at the Almaty clinic told me that the rates of both abortion and maternal deaths were decreasing, further proof that our practical policy was more effective at making abortion rare than the Republicans' more visceral anticontraception approach.
Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p.431 , Nov 1, 2003

1993: allowed abortions on overseas U.S. military bases

Bill Clinton’s feminist cheerleaders and the abortion lobby had to wait only two days into the Clinton presidency before a memorandum was issued allowing abortions on U.S. military bases overseas, another reversal of Reagan and Bush policy.
Source: The Final Days, by Barbara Olson, p. 79 , Sep 25, 2003

Require Medicaid to pay for abortions for poor women

Promise: to overturn laws prohibiting federal abortion funding.

Status: During the Reagan and Bush Administrations, these services had been banned by the Hyde Amendment. Now, federal law requires Medicaid to pay for abortions for poor women in cases of rape or incest.

Source: State of the Union, by T.Blood & B.Henderson, p.101 , Aug 1, 1996

Revoke Mexico City Policy: family planning ok in foreign aid

Promise: To allow US funds to support international family planning and population control efforts.

Status: The Mexico City Policy which banned funding to worldwide family planning groups was revoked by Presidential Memorandum on January 22, 1993. Roughly $40 million--the first funding since 1985--was in the budget for FY94. The Administration announced that by the year 2000 comprehensive family planning services would be available to "every woman in the world who wants them."

Source: State of the Union, by T.Blood & B.Henderson, p.134 , Aug 1, 1996

Let women decide with their doctor and their God

Americans believe deeply in the need to keep government out of private, personal matters. That is one reason why I am pro-choice. I believe we should all work to reduce the number of abortions. That is why I have worked to reduce teen pregnancy, remove barriers to cross-racial adoption, and provide tax credits to families willing to adopt. Still, I believe the ultimate choice should remain a matter for a woman to decide in consultation with her conscience, her doctor, and her God.
Source: Between Hope and History, by Bill Clinton, p.137 , Jan 1, 1996

  • Click here for definitions & background information on Abortion.
  • Click here for VoteMatch responses by Bill Clinton.
  • Click here for AmericansElect.org quiz by Bill Clinton.
Other past presidents on Abortion: Bill Clinton on other issues:
Former Presidents:
Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Past Vice Presidents:
V.P.Joseph Biden
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole

Political Parties:
Republican Party
Democratic Party
Libertarian Party
Green Party
Reform Party
Natural Law Party
Tea Party
Constitution Party
Civil Rights
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Social Security
Tax Reform

Page last updated: Feb 21, 2022