In the winter line-up of Republican presidential candidates, a moderate pro-choice Republican woman has no choice. She might feel as if she were so, well, last century.
It is not news that the Republican Party has moved further right on social issues over the past few decades, but the 2012 campaign is a clear marker showing that the party has left legal abortion behind. All the contenders, past and present, adamantly oppose legal abortion, even the libertarian obstetrician-gynecologist, Ron Paul. Overturning legal abortion may in fact be the one thing they all agree on — so it doesn’t come up much in debates, speeches or interviews. But it is on their agenda.
On the Republican campaign trail, all candidates ever talk about when they talk about women is abortion – and to some extent, marriage and motherhood. That reduces Republican women primary voters down to a simple equation. This silence — or absence of political dialogue — on women takes a while to notice, but it is plainly there. With abortion a hot topic that Republicans prefer to avoid in front of large national audiences, women seem scarce and even invisible. Yet they are a majority of the American electorate.
Early in the campaign, workplace issues like sexual harassment flickered only when allegations of improper sexual conduct toward women colleagues caused Herman Cain’s downfall.
Out of five Republican women in the Senate, Snowe and Collins may be the last of the moderates. Seen as period pieces from a lost Republicanism, they are vulnerable to challenges from their right. Snowe, up for re-election this fall, is a target of the Tea Party movement. If she loses, Republican women will have even less choice.