A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 21, 2019
“Safe, legal and rare” (abortion saying)

When American politician Bill Clinton was successfully running for president in 1991 and 1992, he famously said that abortions should be “safe, legal and rare.” However, that popular term has slightly different origins.

“Legal and safe—and rare” was printed in the Los Angeles (CA) Times on November 21, 1989 and credited to California politician Lucy Killea (1922-2017). “The winning position is that abortion should be legal, safe and rare” was printed in the San Diego (CA) Tribune on February 16, 1990.

“I believe it (abortions—ed.) should be legal, safe and rare” was said by Bill Clinton and printed in the Orlando (FL) Sentinel on November 22, 1991. “I think abortions should be legal, safe and rare” was a Bill Clinton quote printed in the Las Vegas (NV) Review-Journal on December 9, 1991.

However, leading with “legal” is contentious, so the phrase was changed to lead with “safe.” “I believe it should be safe, legal and rare” was a Bill Clinton quote printed in the Orlando (FL) Sentinel on December 15, 1991.

Comedian Louis C. K. (see the stand-up monologue on YouTube on January 4, 2019) and others have said that the key word is “legal.” If it’s legal, government has no authority to make it rare.


Newspapers.com
21 November 1989, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Killea Remains Low-Key on TV Talk-Show Circuit” by Barry M. Horstman, pg. B4, col. 2:
“Abortion is a tragedy,” (Assemblyperson Lucy—ed.) Killea said on the Donahue show. However, even as government works to expand family-planning programs that could curtail the number of abortions, she said, it also must ensure that abortions “are legal and safe—and rare.”

16 February 1990, San Diego (CA) Tribune, Neil Morgan column, pg. B01:
“The winning position is that abortion should be legal, safe and rare.”
(The rest of the text is not available.—ed.)

Newspapers.com
22 November 1991, Orlando (FL) Sentinel, “Frederick puts in word for Clinton” by Peter Mitchell, pg. A-4, col. 1:
“I believe it (abortions—ed.) should be legal, safe and rare,” (Bill—ed.) Clinton said, backing the protections offered under the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision. “I don’t think abortion is a good thing. I just don’t think it should be turned into a crime.”

9 December 1991, Las Vegas (NV) Review-Journal, “Candidate leaves good impression” by Jane Ann Morrison, pg. 1B, col. 2:
(Bill - ed.) Clinton enjoyed the loudest applause when he said it would be “a terrible mistake to repeal Roe vs. Wade,” the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortions. “I think abortions should be legal, safe and rare.”

Newspapers.com
15 December 1991, Orlando (FL) Sentinel, “Clinton wows many delegates with looks, views” by John C. Van Gieson, pg. A-14, col. 5:
Asked repeatedly about abortion (Bill—ed.) Clinton said: “I believe it should be safe, legal and rare. My personal opinion is it’s not any of my business what decision you make.”

Newspapers.com
14 January 1992, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Clinton: Healer or Waffler?” by David Lauter, pg. A15, col. 3:
On abortion, Clinton opposed a bill to require parental consent for minors to have abortions but signed one to require notification of parents or a judge. His declaration that he would like to see the procedure be “safe, legal and rare”—a stance that probably corresponds well with the gut feelings of most voters—discomforts activists on both sides.

Newspapers.com
8 August 1999, Des Moines (IA) Sunday Register, “Bradley more open than Gore to abortion funding” by Lynn Okamoto, pg. 2B, col. 3:
(Al—ed.) Gore said he will continue to fight to make abortions safe, legal and rare.

OCLC WorldCat record
Safe, legal, and unavailable? : abortion politics in the United States
Author: Melody Rose
Publisher: Washington, D.C. : CQ Press, ©2007.
Edition/Format: eBook : Document : English
Summary:
Finding that her students readily defend various positions on the abortion controversy, but rarely know what the actual status of abortion policy is, Rose (political science, Portland State U., Oregon) sets out the current policy--arguing that abortion is neither illegal nor available on demand--then places the partisan maneuverings of abortion debate within that context. Each chapter contains discussion questions and suggested readings.

YouTube
Safe, Legal, and Rare?
Mar 10, 2008
Bob Morrison
Hillary says she wants abortion to be “safe, legal, and rare.” I think she would be satisfied with legal.  She certainly doesn’t want it to be safe for the baby.  And I doubt she wants it to be rare.

Washington (DC) Times
Safe, legal and not so rare
Hawaii wants to make abortion a protected rite of passage

By THE WASHINGTON TIMES - - Monday, March 27, 2017
ANALYSIS/OPINION:
Bill Clinton famously said he didn’t like abortion, and only wanted to make it “safe, legal and rare.” The abortion lobby picked it up as a nice slogan, and used it often. But that was then and this is now. The abortion lobby is proposing now in Hawaii that “pro-life counselors” be required to recruit young women for abortions.

Harvard Political Review
Safe, Legal, and Rare: The Democrats’ Evolving Stance on Abortion
By Lainey Newman | January 11, 2018
In 1996, Bill Clinton coined the term “safe, legal, and rare” to describe the Democrats’ policy outlook on abortion. The phrase was meant to appease those with moral uncertainty regarding abortions and to communicate that Democrats were not necessarily proponents of the procedure. Rather, the party believed that abortion should be a lawful and safe procedure in the cases in which it was required. Today, the political pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, as Democrats brand themselves as the party of choice, and make abortion support an entrenched party position. While this position goes a long way toward embracing the experiences of many women, it alienates many voters and carries no clear electoral advantage.

YouTube
Louis C K on ‘Safe, Legal, and Rare’ Abortions
Jan 4, 2019
Truthspeak
Louis C.K. jokes about the morality of abortion, and questions whether it should be ‘rare’ if it doesn’t involve killing a baby.

Vox
How the abortion debate moved away from “safe, legal, and rare”
Democratic politicians used to say abortions should be rare. Here’s how that changed.

By Anna North Oct 18, 2019, 6:50am EDT
“I agree with Hillary Clinton on one thing,” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said at the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday night. “Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.”

Clinton used this language in her 2008 presidential campaign; Bill Clinton, meanwhile, had introduced it into Democratic politics back in 1992. The language was likely meant to appeal to people who supported the right to an abortion in principle but still felt morally conflicted about the procedure — a large group, according to some polling. But many abortion rights advocates argued that calling for the procedure to be “rare” placed stigma on people who seek it.

Daily Caller
The Clintons Coined The Phrase ‘Safe, Legal And Rare,’ But Abortion Activists Say This Is Stigmatizing
MARY MARGARET OLOHAN
SOCIAL ISSUES REPORTER
October 20, 2019 2:03 PM ET
. Abortion activists lashed out after presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard said abortions should be “safe, legal and rare.”
. Former Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen tweeted her support for Gabbard and was also met with strong backlash.
. The Clintons coined the phrase “safe, legal and rare” in the ’90s, but the Democratic stances on abortion have moved much farther left since then.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Monday, October 21, 2019 • Permalink