ALBANY, N.Y. – Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (search) complained the Bush administration was shortchanging family planning efforts and said that may be causing abortion rates to go up.
In a speech to about 1,000 fellow abortion rights (search) supporters Monday, the New York Democrat said all sides on the issue should work together to reduce the number of abortions.
"Yes, we do have deeply held differences of opinion about the issue of abortion, and I for one respect those who believe with all their hearts and minds that there are no circumstances under which any abortion should ever be available," the former first lady said.
"There is an opportunity for people of good faith to find common ground in this debate. We should be able to agree that we want every child born in this country to be wanted, cherished and loved," she added.
"We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women," Clinton said. "The fact is that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place."
Clinton, considered a front-runner for the Democratic White House nomination in 2008, spoke to the 28th annual conference of the Family Planning Advocates (search) of New York State. Monday was two days after the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
She appeared to be adopting a strategy espoused by some in the party that candidates must adopt a less-confrontational approach when dealing with abortion and other "moral" issues.
But she also was stressing the notion that the Bush administration may not have matched its anti-abortion rhetoric with its actions.
Family planning funding was a priority during her husband's administration and "we saw the rate of abortion consistently fall," she said.
"The abortion rate fell by one-quarter between 1990 and 1995, the steepest decline since Roe was decided in 1973," Clinton said. "The rate fell another 11 percent between 1994 and 2000."
Asked about the Clinton criticism, White House spokesman Ken Lasaius said, "The president believes we ought to work together to promote a culture of life.
"He's made it very clear that whether we agree or disagree on the issue of abortion, that we can all work together to take practical steps to reduce the number of abortions that occur," Lasaius added.
For her part, Clinton said there should be more money for family planning services and contraception, and more emphasis on promoting teen abstinence (search) as a means of bringing about "a day when abortion is truly safe, legal and rare."
The president, speaking by telephone to an anti-abortion rally in Washington, said Monday that "we need most of all to change hearts and that is what we're doing.
"You know, we come from many different backgrounds, but what unites us is our understanding that the essence of civilization is this: The strong have a duty to protect the weak," Bush said.
Bush said he would continue "seeking common ground where possible and persuading increasing numbers of our fellow citizens of the rightness of our cause. This is the path of the culture of life that we seek for our country."