I want to thank the 20 or so Republican women who took the time to respond to last week’s column.
I had posed the question of how they justify support for a party that often shows a lack of appreciation for what seem like core women’s issues.
Their responses were at times enlightening, infuriating, humbling and encouraging, and I emerged — as I had hoped — with a clearer understanding of the value system that anchors their diversity of beliefs.
They do not all think alike, but almost to a person led off their responses by addressing the topic of abortion, which serves as a bellwether for their overall level of engagement with their party’s social platform.
I probably should have seen that coming, even though I’d say Republicans have taken plenty of other shots at women’s issues beyond just that one. But it remains the hot button.
From that starting point, those who responded took one of three positions.
First, there were the “pro-life” women — those who are passionately against abortion and see the practice as nothing less than the taking of human life, regardless of potentially mitigating circumstances.
For these women, voting Republican is easy and natural, as it is the party that truly reflects their beliefs.
Any idea of a “war on women” simply doesn’t exist. In fact, the party is defending their cause.
Some of these women drew on extensive life experiences — through their work or faiths — that exposed them to other women coping personally with the question of abortion.
While they recognize it is unfortunate that pregnancies result from rape or incest, the damage from the crime does not supersede the value of the life created.
They also were quick to note that I shouldn’t condemn the party based on the comments of one stupid person, and they did pretty much concede that GOP Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri is a bona fide stupid person. (At least we agree on that!)
Members of the second group described themselves as “pro-life” but left room for those mitigating circumstances.
They are a pragmatic bunch who made a point to say they didn’t pick a party based on any one issue.
So while they may disagree with a GOP platform that would force a rape victim to give birth or even deny a woman an abortion in a life-threatening situation, they did not weigh this issue as their top concern when picking a candidate. This position aligns with that of Mitt Romney, so it makes sense that they would support his candidacy.
The third group is made up of disillusioned and/or independent Republican women who have a decidedly “pro-choice” bent to them, to the extent that they almost sound more like Democrats.
Some made a point that they are irritated by the extremist right within the GOP and have no desire to see a blending of politics and religion. When it comes to the voting booth, they’re kind of up for grabs, don’t follow the party line verbatim and pick and choose the candidates who best reflect their overall views.
On the edge of this group was a couple who sounded outright fed up, including one who recently changed her party registration.
As a whole, this was an educational exercise, though fewer Republican women are jumping ship than I would have hoped. (Drat!)
For the most part, they have good reasons for doing what they’re doing, and many can defend their beliefs with passion and eloquence. While I still don’t agree with many of their fundamental positions on women’s issues, I can see how they come to their conclusions.
Finally, I appreciate that nearly all of the writers were polite and reasonable in their responses. In fact, by far the nastier replies came from the few men who answered!
So yes, we may disagree, but we can still have a friendly conversation. And we all can benefit from that.
Joe Tarica is the presentation editor for The Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.