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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

The Role of Women in the Republican Party

Ann Stone, National Chairman of Republicans for Choice
Tampa, Florida
August 29, 2012

 3:00 P.M. EDT


MS. STONE: Good afternoon. I’m going to keep my remarks brief so you have time to ask questions. And let me just say I’m here as the head of the Todd Akin fan club – that’s a joke. I don’t know if you all have heard not only the thing about the legitimate rape comment, but he now believes that breast milk would cure homosexuality.

So you might ask yourself, Ann you look like a sane person, why are you still in the Republican Party? Because it’s my party, not his. I am the consistent Republican. I’m the one that believes in getting government out of the board room and the bedroom, because it’s none of their business. And we’re suffering now from decades of junk science that the other side on the choice issue has been peddling, tuff that you have to wonder, where do they get this? And they keep peddling it and claiming it and it becomes part of the mythology and these people start to believe it, and you have people like Todd Akin who’s on the Science Committee in Congress believing this stuff. And believe me, I’ll be talking to the Republican leadership about perhaps maybe we ought to vet members of Congress before they’re put on the Science Committee to make sure they have a concept of what is real science and what is clearly mythology.

So anyway, beyond that, clearly our party still has a problem with gender gap and certainly Akin’s comments show why – show part of why. My issue is one of the issues that does discourage women, and I’ll tell you, when I came out on the issue it was a big deal because I come from the conservative wing of the Republican Party. I mean, I’ve worked for some of the biggest conservative icons that have ever been in the United States, and yet I’m prochoice. Because I believe choice is not an issue that’s Republican or Democrat; it’s not an issue that’s liberal or conservative. It is an issue between those who trust and respect women and those who don’t. That’s really what it boils down to. And that’s how I market it to my fellow Republicans.

And I’ll tell you, we are the majority of the party. We’re just a silent majority. We’re a majority that doesn’t stand up. We’re a majority that, as they tell me all the time when we try to get them out to rallies or to conventions, that they have a life outside of politics. They have children that play soccer and children that play tennis and they have other kinds of family outings, whereas the other side on the issue makes it a family outing to go to a convention, to go to a rally, they really involve the whole family in the advocacy. And that’s a problem that we faced a real uphill battle in the intensity factor between the two sides. And it’s part of why they win, because they work really hard at it. So for that I give them kudos, and we continue to try to inspire our side to do so.

But instead, a lot of times our side just either pays them back at the ballot box by not voting for them or actually leaves the party. We’ve been able to keep a lot more in the party because I make the point that you leave, you concede ground to them, they only get stronger, and in fact we are the party where the fight is for women’s rights. If you really believe in women’s rights, you need to come into the Republican Party to help us dislodge some of these outliers that have joined us over the past couple of decades and reassert Republicans as party – a party truly that believes in individual rights and reclaim our heritage since we were the party also that pushed for the women’s right to vote.

With that, I actually am going to stop and let you ask me questions. Polls on the gender gap range anywhere from a high of 33 points. I heard a poll that they were trying to convince me was correct that showed that the gender gap had shrunk to 3 points. I – in at least some battleground states I find that hard to believe, but we’ll see.


QUESTION: So you’re saying that the prochoice is the majority of the party? The platform, as you know, has no exceptions for any kind of abortion. Same thing with immigration. The platform is really hard line on immigration. But I keep hearing that there’s a majority of the Republican Party who wants – who likes immigrants and all that. Why is this minority consistently winning all of these battles, besides taking the whole family to the convention? I mean, obviously, there’s an appeal to the extreme right issues at this point.

MS. STONE: Well, they work harder, they have tons of money. I mean, Pat Robertson, the LaHayes, some of the people that fund the Right to Life movement have made millions and millions and millions of dollars over the past 30 years, and they spend it on advocacy. They really put their money where their mouth is. So that’s part of where they get an advantage.

The other part is the party leadership concedes this ground to them and lets them do things like the platform thinking, well, if you let them have the platform, they’ll leave us alone. We have shown, we’ve demonstrated, we’ve let them have their say, so that’s enough. The lesson they have to learn every four years is that side, nothing’s ever enough. So they concede a little ground, and what happens? They’ll come back and want more. But you will hear the Romney folks say to them again and again, you have the platform. We’ve agreed to let you have that part.

Now this platform, depends on how you measure, is not as extreme. It’s shorter, it is more to the point, but there’s less inflammatory language. The human life amendment – so called human life amendment that they reference – is in concept only. In the past, we’ve had specific bills they’ve referenced. And it stays silent on the issue of exceptions. And they would tell you that they’re not saying that there aren’t exceptions. They’re telling you the bill is not defined yet.

But let me say this: This human life amendment concept has been in our platform since 1976. In the old days they could get away with saying well, we don’t control the Congress so we can’t set up a vote; we can’t go forward with a bill, because we don’t control the schedule because we don’t control Congress. Well, in ’95 we took control – ’96 we took control of the Congress. So we went back to Henry Hyde, who then was leading the platform in ’96, and we said, “Well, you control the Congress now, how ‘bout this? If you’re going to put the concept or a bill back into the platform, let’s have a vote on it. Because you say it’s the right thing to do, the winning strategy for the party. Let’s have a vote on it.” “Oh, we can’t do that.” “Well, why not?” “Well, we wouldn’t win.” And I said, “We have votes all the time on things we know we can’t win because we want to have the debate, and we want to put people on the record.” And they wouldn’t do it because they know it’s a loser.

They keep the language in there, it’s a sop to the right wing. They could never pass this amendment. It would take two-thirds of the Congress, three-quarters of the states. It’s not going to happen, period. In fact, since 1973, every time there’s been a state-wide vote – this is not state legislators – when it’s been put in referendum to the people, the prochoice side has always won, including in November, Mississippi. The prochoice side won in Mississippi. If they can’t win in Mississippi, where are they going to win?

So it is a sop. It is something they put in there that’s a bunch of bologna that keeps the right to lifers happy. It keeps them in the tent. And they figure that’s the price they have to pay. The problem is the tone that it sets in the world, the tone that it sets in the United States to convince people that no, we really do trust and respect women. It makes it more of an uphill battle.


QUESTION: Is there any politician nationally well known, close to your position? It can’t be Ron Paul because it’s exactly the point where he forgets his libertarianism. The only exception is abortion. Is there anyone you could mention?

MS. STONE: I know. Actually, the most pure person on our position is Gary Johnson, who’s the pro-choice [former] Republican governor in New Mexico who left the party because of the way he was treated. Now he’s running as a Libertarian. He absolutely represents – and he was one of our endorsed candidates. But we’ve got Scott Brown. We have Lisa Murkowski, Olympia Snowe who’s retiring, Susan Collins, Mark Kirk, those are all senators. We’ve got a couple of others in there. Congress, we have Congresswoman Mary Bono, Judy Biggert. Let’s see, who else? Chip Dent, lots of – we probably have about 22 to 25 congressman and congresswomen we can count on. And there’s – I think we’re up to seven senators. And we have a lot of great candidates running this time that will win that will add to those numbers.


QUESTION: Raf Sanchez from the Daily Telegraph. Thanks very much for coming and speaking to us.

MS. STONE: Sure.

QUESTION: I was wondering: How can you urge women to vote for Mitt Romney giving that he signed up for appointing judges to the Supreme Court and to the federal bench that potentially overturn Roe versus Wade and –

MS. STONE: Ronald Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor. George Bush appointed David Souter. It’s happened before where they don’t appoint the people that their supporters thought they were going to. But there’s something deeper. I don’t know if any of you know this, but Mitt Romney’s cousin died of an illegal abortion at age 21. This is a cousin he grew up with. He has a personal family experience. So I believe in my heart of hearts he would never let it go back to a time when women would lose their lives that way. Now, understand the other people on the issue, on the other side of the issue think that back-alley abortions are a myth. I’ve actually had people on television shows and radio shows with me argue, “Oh, you’re lying. That never happened.” Mitt Romney knows it’s true. He knows from personal experience.

QUESTION: But surely much safer to vote for Barack Obama who’s committed to keeping --

MS. STONE: True, but there’s a little thing called the economy. Women also want their husbands to have jobs, for them to have jobs, for them to have groceries they can afford, for them to have a future for themselves and their children that’s positive. So that balances out, and people who are prochoice would probably rather – in fact, I know because I hear from my members – I have – a certain percentage of our members that are calling and yelling and saying, “That’s it. I’m leaving the party. I hate them.” Or they’ll say, “That’s it. I’m leaving. I’m going to vote for Johnson or whatever.” But virtually none of them say they’re going to vote for Barack Obama. They’re either not going to vote, or they’re going to vote for Johnson.

Any others? Ah, we have a question here. Yeah.

QUESTION: Thomas Gorguissian at Tahrir Newspaper, Egyptian daily newspaper. I’ve seen you over different conventions and, you believe in being pro-choice. It’s 2012 and still people are discussing this issue of procreation. I mean, from your perspective, I mean, I understand why you are fighting, and I believe that you have to fight. But from your point of view, why the other side don’t give up?

MS. STONE: Well, why doesn’t the other side give up? There’s money to be made. They talk about Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry. The pro-life, anti-choice side has an industry, too. They keep the issue alive because they make a lot of money doing so. I think a lot of them are true believers, but I think a lot of them also make a nice living by keeping the issue going, and it’s a very effective wedge issue at moving certain portions of the population to vote the way they want. So it’s a matter of control, it’s a matter of people making money, and there’s a bigger issue. They have won some battles. They’ve gotten very creative, and they understood a frontal assault on the issue was not working. So they’ve gotten very creative at chipping around the issue trying to make it so the right itself is virtually meaningless by putting limits on it. The good news is a lot of what they’ve tried to do has been overturned.

QUESTION: A follow-up question. It’s not always – as you know, it’s not always black and white.

MS. STONE: Right.

QUESTION: It’s always gray areas. Do you try, within your party, to work with those people or we just, like, everybody’s all in his front and doing the fight?

MS. STONE: We, in fact, are the only group on the prochoice side that does try to work with the other side. We’ve tried initiatives like Search for Common Ground. You may be familiar with their work around the world on other issues. We’ve worked in the United States with them and brought very ardent pro-lifers in the room with us and worked on things that would make abortion unnecessary by reducing the amount of unintended pregnancies. We’ve done that.

Further, I can give you a personal experience just recently. When we were working with the platform committee on the draft, and we actually did have some language put in, some of which stayed in, some of which didn’t. But we went to the, quote, “listening session,” and I was the only group that was near moderate, near centrist, along with about seven other right to life groups that were very heavily religious. And in fact, most of the people in the room I had worked with, but there were a couple of new people. And when the introductions were made around the table and they found out who I was, this one guy stood up and goes, “What is she doing here? She’s pro-abortion. She has no right to be here. She’s not a Republican. She’s pro-abortion.” And I said, “No, I’m prochoice.” Well, it’s the same thing. Well, no it’s actually not the same thing. And he goes, “Well, you don’t have a right to be here.” I said, “Sir, my Republican credentials are better than yours.” And I basically just laid out some of my background and all that, and it sort of shut him up. And it was interesting. Romney people came to my defense, and later, every other group that I had worked with before came up to me, apologized profusely, said what a jerk the person was, and hoped that I would ignore him, and we’d be able to work together on other things in the future.

QUESTION: I am curious. You mentioned that a lot is about the money, but also, how much is the religion? How much is the religion in this equation, because –

MS. STONE: Yes. Very good point. I’m glad you brought it up. In fact, at this platform hearing, we brought in Catholics for Choice, National Organization of Jewish Women, we had some Latino choice organizations working with us and others as well as the Log Cabin Republicans to talk about how faith should not be used a weapon against people, and in fact, that their faith only represents part of the faith in the world. I’m a Lutheran. I wear a cross every day. In fact, the meeting I talked about earlier with all the religious groups, I’m the only one in the room that had a cross on, which I thought was very ironic. And in fact, my Lutheran religion – I’m ELCA prochoice. My position reflects them exactly. The Methodist church, the Presbyterian church, all sorts of the Protestant churches are prochoice. Catholics, not pro-choice, Catholic membership in the U.S., 60 percent prochoice. So what we’re trying to do with what we talked about during the platform week was if you’re going to talk about faith, you need to represent all faiths in the United States. And actually, the majority of faith in the United States is prochoice.

QUESTION: You have mostly answered the question I wanted to ask, but what is the background – the cultural, philosophical, religious background of your group, just tell me a little bit of the mix of women that are on your side.

MS. STONE: What makes us unique, we have everybody from very conservative to very liberal, and it’s probably the only time they’ve ever worked together. We have people that normally would never speak to each other, and this is the only issue they agree on, which is very weird in the Republican Party. But they do see it as an issue of trust and respect for women and a respect for individual rights. And that is something that our party was founded on. I mean, our party is the party that was the party of suffrage, that grew out of abolition, which was fighting for individual rights to abolish slavery. The direction our party is going in is very antithetical to everything the party was founded for. That’s why I say I’m more of a Republican than they are.

Any others? Thank you.

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