No Such Thing as Moderate GOP Women
By Alicia Colon
July 3, 2002
Originally published in the New York Sun
Emily Pataki, daughter of the Governor, is a charming and capable spokeswoman for her father's Grassroots Campaign. A reception held in her honor on June 18th at the Women's National Republican Club was co-sponsored by the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition and The Wish List. I was curious to see if the issue of abortion rights would be raised during the reception for the pro-choice Pataki.
My Payless shoes and K-Mart handbag were in stark contrast to the designer-clad women I encountered on the club's second floor ballroom and after paying $2 for a glass of seltzer, I sat down at an empty table, observed the crowd and wondered why expensive designer handbags are so darn ugly.
At first, the GOP women were very gracious and eager to welcome someone representing Richmond County. When one woman started gushing about the Wish List and its goal to elect pro-choice women to the House and the Senate, I informed her that I was pro-life but she waved her hand dismissively as if it didn't matter. " As long as they're all Republican, right?"
Really? I would soon learn if the Republican's big tent was indeed as inclusive as the moderate wing of the party likes to claim. Were they more tolerant of dissenting views than the Democrats who banned the pro-life Governor of Pennsylvania Robert Casey from speaking at the 1992 Democratic convention?
After Ms. Pataki finished explaining the purpose of the grassroots campaign to enlist volunteers and supporters for The Pataki campaign, she was asked to remain for a Q&A session. One of the first questioners was a pro-lifer who told Ms. Pataki that she did not feel welcome in the New York party, which has a pro-choice platform unlike that of the National GOP. Why, she asked, is the New York party ignoring pro-lifers?
Ms. Pataki demurred from answering the question. Instead, Candy Straight, a founder of The Wish List and herself, a candidate for public office in New Jersey gave the usual spiel about the Republicans being all-inclusive and accepting all points of view. The woman who had been so congenial to me earlier became agitated by the question and while I didn't catch every word she said, I did hear her say that she had been a Democrat. She also made it quite clear that she believed we should not be a one-issue party. Heads nodded all over the room in assent.
But I still had a question that I thought was important and I raised my hand and asked Ms. Pataki what her father's position was on third trimester abortions. She really didn't know, she answered, and then the formerly nice lady said sharply, "We've already discussed abortion." The Q&A session ended abruptly and so did the reception. I doubt I'll be invited back.
As I was leaving, one club member remarked to me that the organizers should have answered my question. I asked her how she herself felt about late term abortions and she told me that she could not accept them. However, she explained, if a 13-year-old girl is in early pregnancy and the pregnancy will endanger her future ability to have children, then an abortion is the only answer. But, I argued, it's still the mother's choice, isn't it? It's still inside her body, right? It's still the same fetus, only older, so why can't she abort it if you believe in her right to choose?
"Well, I guess, at that point, I'm pro-life but in the beginning I'm pro-choice. You know, I'm not pro-abortion. I'm just pro-choice."
Of course, this doesn't make for a cogent argument but it's about as far as I ever get debating this issue with choice advocates who stop the discussion if I get too close to the truth. For if that woman had ever seen the long stainless steel instruments that would be inserted into the uterus of that pregnant 13 year-old, she might not think abortion was the best option for the teen's reproductive future.
I believe that censorship of certain historical facts about abortion has led to the ambivalence displayed by this Republican woman and others who consider themselves pro-choice.
For instance, the Women's National Republican Club was founded by an early suffragette, yet how many women know that the early pioneers of women's rights regarded abortion as evil? This information is ignored by many feminist organizations and was conveniently omitted in the 1999 Ken Burns' PBS mini-series "Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony."
Would pro-choice advocates of color be shocked to learn that Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, was a eugenicist who was a keynote speaker at a KKK rally and a Nazi sympathizer? Her birth control project was not intended to ease the suffering of women but to create, as she wrote, a "New Race - A Race of Thoroughbreds." This meant the elimination of what she considered "inferior races."
But I wasn't about to get into an in-depth discussion with women who are obviously not interested in candor and I came away from that reception with two impressions. The first is that moderate Republican women are really just wealthy liberal Democrats who do not want their taxes raised. The second is that they have no concept of the core principles guiding the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.
In his essay, "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation", Reagan wrote: "We cannot survive as a free nation when some men decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion or infanticide."
One would think that since 9/11, New Yorkers would be most keenly aware of what happens when those with no respect for life have the ability to decide our future.
Copyright 2002 by Alicia Colon. Not to be reproduced in any fashion, in whole or in part, without written consent from the author. All rights reserved.