By Ralph Z. Hallow

The Washington Times

August 30, 2008

Pro-choice Republican women, including one of their movement’s best-known leaders, have embraced the strongly pro-life Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as Sen. John McCain’s choice for running mate.  Somewhat surprisingly, Mrs. Palin has elicited enthusiasm not only from pro-choice Republican groups, but from many rank-and-file pro-choice Republican women.

Ann Stone, who founded Republicans for Choice in 1989 and has led it ever since, told The Washington Times that in picking Mrs. Palin, Mr. McCain did what he needed to do to make the Republican National Convention a success because Mrs. Palin will help the GOP ticket with pro-choice women.  “He did it on Friday. He picked a non-Washington fresh face, a woman who is totally out of the box,” Mrs. Stone said. “She breaks all kinds of stereotypes – if Republicans can overcome the lies that the Democrats are already spreading about her.”  “Do you think I have lost my mind to be excited over someone so anti-choice?” Mrs. Stone said. “Well, if Sarah Palin breaks through, it is great for all women. And the Democrats in the Senate will have to protect Roe vs. Wade, in spite of it all.”  She was referring to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide and that abortion-rights advocates fear will be overturned by a more pro-life Supreme Court.

But the Palin pick is not a guaranteed winner for Mr. McCain.  “Palin is either an extraordinary political play or absolute suicide,” said pro-choice Republican Wendeen Eolis, former first assistant to George E. Pataki when he was New York governor and top adviser to Rudolph W. Giuliani when he was New York mayor.  One downside, she said, is that the Palin nomination will give Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton more reason to campaign seriously and sincerely for Democratic nominee Barack Obama, lest a McCain victory make Mrs. Palin the presumptive Republican nominee in 2012 or 2016 and jeopardize Mrs. Clinton’s position as the top female presidential prospect.  “Palin means that Hillary [Rodham Clinton] will be motivated and mobilized to campaign for Obama as she would not have been otherwise,” Ms. Eolis said. “The Clintons feel completely snubbed and insulted by the idea that anyone other that Hillary could go to the head of the class.”

Another pro-choice GOP organization expressed concern about the Palin pick, but did not dismiss her outright.  “As a mother with daughters in or entering the work force, I share the goal of promoting women to the highest levels of our government,” said Jennifer Blei Stockman, national chairwoman of the Republican Majority for Choice. “At the same time, we caution that the majority of voters are pro-choice and will be looking for signs that a McCain-Palin administration will put common sense ahead of politics.”

The 2008 Republican platform, expected to be formally adopted by the full convention meeting in St. Paul, Minn. on Monday, preserves the call for a constitutional ban on abortion that has been in the platform since 1980, to the consternation of groups like those headed by Mrs. Stone and Mrs. Stockman. They would rather have seen a pro-choice Republican, such as former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge or Mr. Giuliani, as Mr. McCain’s running mate.  “Recent polling confirms that a pro-choice vice president would have brought broader support to a GOP ticket. The GOP is not a single-issue party and is not monolithic on the issue of choice,” Mrs. Stockman said. “Even millions of pro-life Republicans believe strongly that reproductive choices must be left to women and families, not controlled by the government.”

“We hope that Senator McCain and Governor Palin take advantage of the opportunity before them to demonstrate to disaffected voters within our party and across the mainstream spectrum of independent and Democratic voters that the GOP is returning to the common-sense principles on which it was founded: belief in strong national security, fiscal responsibility, and individual freedom,” Mrs. Stockman said.

Susan Johnson, a Republican-leaning businesswoman in Winter Park, Fla., told The Washington Times that even though hers is a pro-choice Republican family, she was “brought to tears” watching Mrs. Palin give her first nationally televised speech in Dayton, Ohio, on Friday when Mr. McCain announced her as his choice for running mate.  “My husband and I were so touched and inspired by seeing and hearing this eloquent woman who opposes abortion and is on the ticket – you have to keep in mind I am a pro-choice Republican woman,” she said. “I find myself surprised that I am willing to compromise on something I feel so profoundly about.”  Noting that Mrs. Palin chose to carry to term and gave birth in April to a child in she knew beforehand had Down syndrome, Mrs. Johnson said, “I have a profoundly disabled child myself, and I am not sure I could make the decision she made to have that child and put her money where her mouth is as a pro-life woman.”