Pro-life advocates have fought to end legalized abortion in America for forty years. Every state claims at least one Right to Life group. There are over 4,000 pregnancy centers. Ministries and retreats have taken place for men and women affected by abortion. Prayer vigils and sidewalk counseling teams have successfully saved many lives, one at a time. Pro-life advocates have been effectively engaging the culture with the goal of “changing hearts and minds” through debate, film, literature, billboards, demonstrations and countless other creative ways with great success. Former abortion workers have had high profile conversions and are now outspoken pro-life activists. The annual March for Life in Washington D.C. and in state capitals continue to be the largest annual demonstrations on any issue. Advances in science and technology have contributed to a widespread recognition of the humanity of the unborn child. In recent years, pollsters have acknowledged a shift in public opinion and a majority of Americans consider themselves to be “pro-life” when it comes to abortion.
The pro-life movement is winning when it comes to public opinion. So why has there been no change in policy to restore the right to life to all persons? There are multiple factors involved, but one of the biggest is the battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. Since the Democrat Party outright advocates abortion as a “right” and the Republican Party since Roe vs. Wade has always had a pro-life plank in their platform, there is a fierce battle to make the Republican Party ineffective in ending legalized abortion.
In 2004, I attended a pro-life conference in Seattle hosted by the Susan B. Anthony List, where there were several workshops. One of those workshops was on the topic of how money influences the issue. We examined the long list of pro-abortion lobbying groups. The usual suspects appeared at the top of that list in order of how much money they throw into their electoral and lobbying efforts: Planned Parenthood, NARAL, EMILY’s List, etc. Further down the list, however were the Republicans for Choice (RFC). Up until then, I had only ever heard of one “Republican for Choice” when I saw this woman interviewed on one of the cable news stations and I thought at the time, the media must have really had to dig to find a woman desperate enough for her cause to call herself a “Republican” just to get attention. Why would anyone who is “pro-choice” on abortion be involved in the Republican Party? I was skeptical. I later learned that woman was none other than Ann E. Stone, Chair of Republicans for Choice. After this conference, I had to find out just how much influence this group has.
The entire purpose of the Republicans for Choice is to neuter the Republican Party’s position on the issue of abortion. To that end, they work on two means:
1) Remove the Life Section of the platform as well as any mention of the issue and its peripheral impacts on conscience rights (for instance in the section on Health Care). They would like to have the issue disappear from Republican platforms at the national and local level, but short of that, they work to insert language that essentially nullifies any strongly worded pro-life plank.
2) Ensure that the Republican candidates supported by the establishment Republican Party are pro-choice on abortion, or short of that, only nominally “pro-life.” In other words, keep the party and the officials it elects from doing anything legislatively to end abortion.
At a cursory glance, it would seem the group has no influence at all. Their website appears to be dated and very few Republicans at the local level seem to be aware they exist. But indeed they do. We’re further led to believe that their influence is limited when we look at their financial expenditures. In 2010, it was reported by The Center for Public Integrity that since the PAC’s formation in 1990, documents show that Republicans for Choice has raised and spent more than $5.5 million. Lots of controversy surrounded the fact that Republicans for Choice spent a remarkably low percentage of their funds on supporting candidates.
The Center for Public Integrity reports:
In recent years, most of the PAC’s payments have gone to one of three recipients: Capstone Lists (a direct-marketing company owned by Stone), The Stone Group (a political consulting firm owned by Stone), and Ann Stone directly.
But Ann Stone – as RFC’s founder, chairman, treasurer, and sole registered officer – runs RFC PAC through the political process a little differently than most PACs are run. She is a full time lobbyist and political consultant who lives inside the beltway and spends a great deal of time influencing the party wherever she can. She is present at every national convention in the platform committee, attempting each time to remove the life plank or at least weaken it.
The first goal of the group, she said, is “not the election of federal candidates, but the election of pro-choice delegates” to the Republican national convention. Every four years, during the Republican convention, Stone hits the airwaves to make the case for a pro-abortion-rights GOP.
Thankfully, due to the organized efforts of Republican National Coalition for Life, her efforts to actually remove the plank have been defeated. RNC for Life was founded in the 1990s to fight against her efforts on platform and on candidates. Life of the Party was inspired by the work of RNC for Life, and founded in 2006 to do the same at the state and local level.
But at the Republicans for Choice front page she boasts of her success in “nullifying” the life plank of the platform by adding in the disclaimer she proposed. Of course, it’s debatable whether or not the disclaimer effectively achieves that, but many Republican activists have heard an increasing mantra of how “nobody ever reads the platform anyway and it doesn’t really matter.” Look around at many of the Republican candidates and you can see that’s true.
It’s hard to know just how much credit to give her, but it would seem Ann Stone’s real influence has been on the semantics of how candidates handle the issue of abortion. For pro-life and pro-choice Republicans alike, the advice that seems to be universally given by Republican political consultants is: don’t talk about it at all. And that is exactly the way Republicans for Choice would prefer it. By following this advice, candidates lead pro-life voters to assume that all Republican candidates are pro-life, but then, the candidates are never really bound to do anything about abortion once elected.
It is clear Stone has a strategy that she seems to stick to. Some of that strategy is obvious from reading their website and her opposition’s (the RNC for Life), but not all of it is available for us to know. As Stone explained in 2007:
“We have a very detailed strategic plan. But because our covert efforts are the ones that are the most successful, we dare not share everything here on the net.”
I could go on further about the semantics and tactics of Republicans for Choice, but the other important element to know in all of this is who Republicans for Choice consider allies in the Republican Party. Here they are, taken right from their links page:
Pro-Choice Favorable Republican Organizations:
My Party Too [Editor’s note: this was Christine Todd Whitman’s organization. The website seems to no longer exist.)]
The WISH List
Republican Main Street Partnership
[Editor’s note: Mainstream Republicans of Washington is similar in name and purpose to this national organization.]
Republican Youth Majority
The Ripon Society
The Log Cabin Republicans
I familiarized myself with this list years ago and kept a close eye on where they might be influencing the party at the local level, but I must admit that I hadn’t looked at it in years. The Republican Liberty Caucus at the time seemed to not have anything going in Washington and I had forgotten they were on this list. So, as reported here, I unwittingly became involved in an organization that not only is considered an “ally” of Republicans for Choice, but one where Ann Stone sits on their board of advisors! It appears she’s had sway on their national Statement of Principles (platform) too. How Ironic! Mea Culpa!
If you share Life of the Party’s goal in ending legalized abortion, help insure the pro-life movement is no longer neutered from real political action in restoring the right to life. We’ll be reporting further on how to do that, but the first step is: Don’t join with allies of Republicans for Choice. If you’re already a member of any of these groups, just think of how your name is boosting their numbers and bolstering their credibility within the Republican Party. If you’re serious about ending abortion, why would you want to do that?