Two Women Leave GOP Over Policy GOP Has Espoused 38 Years

A Republican organization dedicated to abortion rights is shutting down after 30 years, eight fewer than the Party has opposed them.

When I came across the NYT op-ed titled, “Why We Are Leaving the G.O.P.” by Susan Bevan and Susan Cullman, my natural question was, Who the hell are Susan Bevan and Susan Cullman? It turns out that they are leaders of something called “Republican Majority for Choice,” an abortion-rights organization of which I’d never heard. Skeptical that they had anything non-surprising to say, I read on:

When the obituary for the Republican Party is written, the year 1980 will be cited as the beginning of the end. Reaganism was in full flower, but the big tent was already folding. Republican leaders endorsed a constitutional ban on abortion at the convention that summer, ending the party’s historic commitment to women’s rights and personal freedom.

“We are about to bury the rights of over 100 million American women under a heap of platitudes,” protested Mary Dent Crisp, the co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. Her colleagues assured her that the platform was nonbinding and that reproductive health services were not in danger.

But she was prescient. As pro-choice Republicans, we refuse to support a party that has rightly earned the labels anti-woman and anti-common sense. Our organization, the Republican Majority for Choice, the organization founded by Ms. Crisp in 1988, is shutting its doors. The big tent has collapsed for good.

As Republicans, we spent four decades working inside the party to produce effective policies helping women and families. Despite growing malice from an anti-choice faction, we kept our disagreements within the family. We redoubled our efforts to find common ground, rather than simply walk away.

That’s some dogged determination right there. As someone who has been gradually alienated from the Republican Party over the last decade or so, I sympathize. But I’m also confused. I’m not a single-issue voter, let alone one on which the GOP platform has taken the opposite position for nearly four decades.

Anywho, what’s changed to finally drive our Susans away?

At its peak in the 1990s, our group had an annual budget of as much as $1 million and a political action committee that gave away about $200,000 per year. Close to 20 state chapters provided support to candidates and lobbied state legislatures. The committee supported Republicans who believed freedom from government intervention extended to a person’s bedroom and doctor’s office: senators like Alan Simpson of Wyoming, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine; House members like Connie Morella of Maryland, Mike Castle of Delaware, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania; and governors including William Weld of Massachusetts, Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey and George Pataki of New York. In Congress and the courts we pushed for teen pregnancy prevention, stem cell research, emergency contraception and clinic access.

But these successes were dismissed by party leaders who became increasingly beholden to the social extremists who were winning primaries in our broken, gerrymandered electoral system.

Our argument was simple: True fiscal conservatives should embrace family planning because it reduces poverty, increases educational attainment and work force competitiveness, improves health and provides people the opportunity to make educated moral choices. We incorrectly assumed that our fellow fiscal conservatives would join us in applauding the reduction in the number of unintended pregnancies, which saved taxpayers billions of dollars spent on the welfare state.

Instead, the policies and programs that led to these outcomes came under constant fire. The far right was more interested in conflating abortion and birth control for political purposes. It is fiscally disingenuous to deny birth control coverage and then bemoan unintended pregnancies and abortion.

So, nothing has changed? The party has continued to stick to what was always advertised as a moral, not pragmatic, policy stance.

Lifelong Republicans were booed out of state and local committee meetings for just raising abortion rights and family planning ideas. The nastiness escalated to personal attacks on men and women who had dedicated countless hours and dollars to the party.

We don’t have the space to outline President Trump’s transgressions, but it is important to understand that his rise is an inevitable result of the hostility to women within the Republican culture. Women’s reproductive freedom has shifted with the wind: Remember that Ronald Reagan once supported abortion rights, as did George H. W. Bush, Mitt Romney and Mr. Trump himself.

We can no longer support a Republican Party that is shutting down low-cost health care clinics offering cancer screenings, basic health services and much-needed family planning services. It has become a party that wants to punish pregnant women by limiting their economic choices, that wants to reduce access to sex education programs that prevent unintended pregnancy and disease.

So, okay, this is something like change. Because thirty-eight years is a really long time, the older generation of Republican leaders who supported abortion rights have largely left the scene. And, since there are passing few Northeastern Republicans left in office, they’re no longer counterbalancing the Southern and Midwestern Republicans who are more dogmatic on the issue.

It is no wonder that women are voting with their feet. According to a recent analysis by the Pew Research Center, 56 percent of women identify as or lean toward Democrats. The gap is even wider among college graduates and minority voters. The party should take note that 70 percent of millennial women have either registered as Democrats or lean Democratic. We will no longer be available to help the Republicans appeal to these changing demographic realities.

But the gender gap has literally existed since the days of Ronald Reagan, if not longer.

For years we have debated whether to close our doors. Our founding principle had been that proponents of abortion rights should be comfortable in both major parties. But we have to face reality: There probably will not be a single pro-choice Republican member of the House after the fall election, and only two in the Senate — Ms. Collins and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

It has become taboo within the party to even say “pro-choice.” Most of our supporters gave up on the party as it moved to the extremes not just on abortion but also on other social and fiscal issues.

This Republican Party is no family of ours. And so we say goodbye.

Well, okay. And, again, I’m sympathetic to the notion that the Republican Party is no longer representative of my views. But it’s odd to build that case on a single issue where the party’s view has been rock solid for more than a generation.

Given the competition for precious NYT op-ed space, a complaint that water is still wet seems like a bizarre choice.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. The fact that the group was able to survive as long as it did was, at the very least, a sign that there was at least some segment of the GOP that did not support the strict anti-abortion stance of the party.

    In today’s GOP, though, dissent is basically forbidden. That may work for the party in the short term but long-term it’s a recipe for disaster.

    12
  2. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    In today’s GOP, though, dissent is basically forbidden. That may work for the party in the short term but long-term it’s a recipe for disaster.

    Reagan had the adage, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.” The modern GOP doesn’t think that way.

    23
  3. @James Joyner:

    Reagan had the adage, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.” The modern GOP doesn’t think that way.

    Yep. One wonders what today’s GOP would say about the rather different views on immigration that both Reagan and George H. W Bush had when they debated the matter during the course of the 1980 Presidential Election.

    4
  4. John Peabody says:

    C’mon! You can’t beat the headline! What percentage read headlines and nothing else?

    1
  5. MarkedMan says:

    James, you are a bit younger than me, and I’m younger than these two women. But even I remember when a Pro-Choice Republican was not an oxymoron. Even in the early oughts you could find such critters in NYS, with state level officials even attending planned parenthood fundraisers.

    It seems these women were taken in by the type of thing that had started happening a decade earlier with race and the appeal to racist Democrats. They were able to convince themselves that it was just a temporary alliance and that the true core of their party supported choice.

    3
  6. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: Yeah, could be. I don’t know how old these two are. I don’t like that the GOP tent has effectively gotten smaller. (Although, in fairness, the Democrats have been at least as hostile to anti-abortion activists in their ranks.) The party is going to be a regional party, at best, soon if it doesn’t adapt to changing demographics. The Baby Boomers and Silents aren’t going to be around forever.

    3
  7. @MarkedMan:

    Indeed, I remember those days well.

    And one can note that the Democratic Party, while officially pro-choice, has not treated pro-life Democrats the same way. Just ask Senator Bob Casey.

    7
  8. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    And one can note that the Democratic Party, while officially pro-choice, has not treated pro-life Democrats the same way. Just ask Senator Bob Casey.

    Then again, it was long a topic of GOP lore that Casey was disinvited from speaking at the 1992 Democratic National Convention because he was anti-abortion.

  9. Scott says:

    The women are the equivalent of the Log Cabin Republicans who keep trying to get accepted and n the Republican Party. They, however, have history flowing in their direction.

    Minor fun fact: Roger and former wife Ann Stone were founders of Republicans for Choice in 1989.

    4
  10. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    Although, in fairness, the Democrats have been at least as hostile to anti-abortion activists in their ranks.

    I agree

    1
  11. MarkedMan says:

    FWIW, this is from an article by Bill Moyers

    When Roe was first decided, most of the Southern evangelicals who today make up the backbone of the anti-abortion movement believed that abortion was a deeply personal issue in which government shouldn’t play a role. Some were hesitant to take a position on abortion because they saw it as a “Catholic issue,” and worried about the influence of Catholic teachings on American religious observance.

    Shortly after the decision was handed down, The Baptist Press, a wire service run by the Southern Baptist Convention — the biggest Evangelical organization in the US — ran an op-ed praising the ruling. “Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision,” read the January 31, 1973, piece by W. Barry Garrett, The Baptist Press’s Washington bureau chief.

    10
  12. Kit says:

    While I always welcome allies, I have to admit that I’ve been stunned at the trickle of Republican defections we’ve seen ever since Bush the Younger’s march on Bagdad. It seems that every six months another Republican just can no longer stand the stench. We’ve gone from Bush the Elder to Trump and picked up a dozen high-profile votes. I wish that I could linger over just what percentage of the country is to be found in the basket of deplorables, but I always come back to marvel over just how hollow and craven the intellectual Right has been. Had anyone prophesied this back in 1980, even Hollywood would have laughed him out of town.

    3
  13. teve tory says:

    Reagan had the adage, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.” The modern GOP doesn’t think that way.

    I saw on the internets yesterday a bizarre figure like 75% of arizona republicans had an unfavorable view of John McCain, and 20% of AZ democrats do. McCain has a lifetime rating of 81% from the american conservative union.

    It’s almost like the modern GOP is a buncha intolerant nutjobs.

    10
  14. teve tory says:

    @MarkedMan: The Religious Right began in the 50’s and 60’s to oppose desegregation. When they figured out which way the wind was blowing they beat a hasty (partial) retreat and regrouped around abortion in the 70’s.

    6
  15. teve tory says:

    @Kit:

    Had anyone prophesied this back in 1980, even Hollywood would have laughed him out of town.

    A screenwriter who suggested the Melania’s Wordy Jacket subplot would have produced eye-rolling in the Writer’s Room.

    2
  16. grumpy realist says:

    As I keep nagging over at TAC whenever Rod Dreher posts on the topic (he rarely bothers to post my comments)—why don’t the pro-lifers start pushing for the development of uterine replicators? That would neatly avoid the moral hassle altogether.

    (I want uterine replicators to be developed because a) I’m a fan of Lois McMaster Bujold, b) it would force a huge wedge between those who really are pro-life and those who are simply pro-forced-pregnancy, and c) it would open the floodgates to a lot of scientific development.)

    7
  17. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I’m pretty sure the fact that Roman Catholics were opposed to abortion was the biggest, as well as the deciding, factor for Baptists to be pro-abortion back then. God forbid they adopt the dictates of the Scarlet Monster of Rome.

    There’ a very brief passage in Gone with the Wind, in which Scarlett O’Hara reads a newspaper. Margaret Mitchell notes casually that the front page of the paper was all advertisements, including advertisements for abortafacients. So clearly it wasn’t a big deal then. Maybe not something you bosted about, but something that was accepted.

    6
  18. MarkedMan says:

    @teve tory:

    When they figured out which way the wind was blowing they beat a hasty (partial) retreat and regrouped around abortion in the 70’s.

    It is just more evidence that this huge “moral” issue of abortion, that everyone involved thinks was settle back before ol’ Moses, is a very recent phenomenon. What anti-abortion sentiment that existed back then was primarily linked with anti-birth control and was more about the moral hazards of sparing sluts from their actions. Most religions and cultures did not view a fetus as a fully formed human, certainly not before the quickening.

    And for the record, the phrase “Life begins at conception”, which is often blatted about as some incontrovertible smackdown by pro-lifers, is just a meaningless slogan devoid of any rationale or scientific value.

    11
  19. Kylopod says:

    Back in the Bush years there were a number of pro-choice Republicans with national stature within the party: Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger. That has largely gone away, and the number of elected pro-choice Republicans has dwindled (the same is true of pro-life Dems). Of course there are still many conservative elites and donors who are pro-choice, but typically it isn’t the issue they care most about: if it were, they’d have left a long time ago.

    One event that may have been formative was the epic crash of Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign in 2008, which happened at least in part because of his failure to appeal to social conservatives in the party. It helped dispel the notion that a pro-choicer could ever win the GOP nomination–at least, not without flip-flopping on the issue, as Romney and Trump would go on to do.

    2
  20. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    Interestingly, Trump’s final position (yes, I know that no position with Trump is ever final) on abortion, as far as I know, is that the laws should be left the way they are. In the course of one afternoon, he went from “women should be punished,” to “providers should be punished,” to “leave the laws the way they are.” AFAIK, he hasn’t said much of anything on the subject since then.

    The fundamentalists have totally abdicated their right to be taken seriously on any subject, especially on morality. They’ve decided to support a pimp in Nevada because he claims to be a Trumpkin.

    8
  21. Joe says:

    The far right was more interested in conflating abortion and birth control for political purposes. It is fiscally disingenuous to deny birth control coverage and then bemoan unintended pregnancies and abortion.

    What I read here is a subtext saying they could keep fighting for abortion rights in a party that opposes abortion rights, but they can’t keep fighting this in a party that actively promotes policies that demonstrably increase the demand for abortion by cutting off educational and medical alternatives that reduce the demand. That seems to me to be their bridge too far.

    5
  22. teve tory says:

    Speaking of ‘Bortins:

    Ally Maynard

    Verified account

    @missmayn
    Follow Follow @missmayn

    If I can’t go to Planned Parenthood for a routine pap smear without being screamed at and harassed by Christian protestors then Stephen Miller shouldn’t be able to eat his fucking salad without being called an asshole.

    11:43 AM – 25 Jun 2018

    13
  23. teve tory says:

    @CSK:

    The fundamentalists have totally abdicated their right to be taken seriously on any subject, especially on morality. They’ve decided to support a pimp in Nevada because he claims to be a Trumpkin.

    And Hof specifically credited Trump for making his run possible.

    “This is the new breed of politicians because of what Donald Trump has done. He’s opened that door. Before this, who would have ever elected somebody who said, on tape, ‘Grab ’em by the pussy’? Nobody ever would do that,”

    https://wgno.com/2018/06/25/im-riding-the-trump-wave-hes-christopher-columbus-says-nevada-pimp-running-for-office/

    6
  24. CSK says:

    @teve tory:

    Yeah. I love the rationales they’re producing: “A man may go to church, and abide by the law, and be a good family man, but he may have evil in his heart. Hof may do evil, but he has good in his heart.”

    4
  25. Kylopod says:

    @CSK:

    Interestingly, Trump’s final position (yes, I know that no position with Trump is ever final) on abortion, as far as I know, is that the laws should be left the way they are. In the course of one afternoon, he went from “women should be punished,” to “providers should be punished,” to “leave the laws the way they are.” AFAIK, he hasn’t said much of anything on the subject since then.

    He said all that during primary season. In the general election–particularly in the third debate–he took a more hardline position.

    The fundamentalists have totally abdicated their right to be taken seriously on any subject, especially on morality.

    He gave them Gorsuch. He may very well end up being responsible for the demise of Roe. (Whether that happens before or after the demise of liberal democracy as we know it is an open question.)

    1
  26. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Reagan could not get elected today. Period. End of story.

    6
  27. gVOR08 says:

    The Broidy case is still hanging out there with the possibility that the woman was paid on behalf of Trump for having an abortion. Unfortunately, Trump could perform an abortion on Ivanka in the middle of Fifth Avenue and the fundies wouldn’t care.

    9
  28. Warren Peese says:

    I think they’re wrong about when the party turned for the worse. Abortion is a 50-50 issue. What’s really changed is that Pat Buchanan has taken over Trump’s body, pushing this paleo-conservative ideology into the GOP mainstream. If there was a turning point, it was 2006 when a GOP-led Congress rejected GW Bush’s immigration reform. I left the GOP in May 2013 because I saw where it was all going.

    3
  29. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    And for the record, the phrase “Life begins at conception”, which is often blatted about as some incontrovertible smackdown by pro-lifers, is just a meaningless slogan devoid of any rationale or scientific value.

    Oh, yes. If you define life as metabolic activity, then life begins well before conception. That is, all sperm cells are alive, as are all ova (though all but one or two are immature and remain ensconced in the ovaries).

    Curiously most of these very living cells never get to meet and produce an embryo. Also, curiously again, many fertilized ova which begin to make an embryo fail to attach to the uterine wall, and are flushed out along with the menses. Finally, and most curiously, even when everything works as intended, only one sperm out of millions, sometimes two, manage to fuse with an ovum. The rest eventually just die.

    Add miscarriages of fetuses that managed to attach to the uterus, and you can’t help but think if there is a god that designed human beings, they didn’t do a good job when it comes to procreation.

    7
  30. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy: Every now and again one of them slips and admits what they mean by “life” is implantation of the soul. Which makes the issue clearly a matter of religious belief, on the wrong side of church/state. Catholics have long believed the soul is planted at conception, which gives me more respect for their position, but raises the question of why god allows so many miscarriages. Protestants mostly believed it occurred at birth, but some of them changed their theology when they saw how much money Catholics were raising on the issue. Another of those constant, inviolable conservative beliefs, updated as convenient.

    5
  31. gVOR08 says:

    Given how many people are still hanging on as Republicans expecting fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets, it’s hard to fault these two ladies as diehards.

    3
  32. An Interested Party says:

    Given how many people are still hanging on as Republicans expecting fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets…

    Good grief, at this point, any Republican who actually thinks his/her party is fiscally responsible and that its leaders actually want a balanced budget is either stupid or delusional or both…

    1
  33. Kathy says:

    @gVOR08:

    Every now and again one of them slips and admits what they mean by “life” is implantation of the soul.

    Good. That’s very specific and precise.

    Now all they have to do is 1) prove the existence and nature of souls, and 2) prove it’s implanted at the moment of conception.

    Oh, and what if they find the soul resides in every ovum? After all, that’d be far more efficient use of a deity’s resources and time. But there would be all sorts of adverse consequences.

    2
  34. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Kathy:

    Oh, yes. If you define life as metabolic activity, then life begins well before conception. That is, all sperm cells are alive, as are all ova…

    Queue up Monty Python: Every sperm is sacred

    1
  35. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: They’d pay to watch. He could make it a campaign fund raiser.

    2
  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: Male masturbation is genocide.

    2
  37. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Male masturbation is genocide.

    And what’s this about blasting living cancer cells with radiation, or poisoning them with chemicals? Sacrilege! Those are living human cells.

    1