"It's About Free Will": 3 Conservative Women On Why They're Pro-Choice

Photographed by Olivia Locher.
Since 1973's Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision giving women the right to access safe abortions, Republicans have worked to incrementally suppress abortion rights. The recent abortion bans in Alabama and Georgia are just the latest pieces of legislation seeking to limit, if not completely ban, access to the procedure.
However, the Alabama bill, which bans abortion at any stage of gestation, except in cases in which the woman's life is in danger, making no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, was too much even for conservative commentators like Tomi Lahren. After Gov. Kay Ivey signed the extreme House Bill 314 into law, a number of prominent Republicans spoke out against it, and some conservatives took to social media to “come out” as pro-choice and conservative. Refinery29 spoke with several pro-choice women on the right, who gave us their perspectives on how it feels to have their personal views clash against the ideologies of their political party’s crusade against Roe.
While the Republican Party’s public stance on abortion appears to be solidly against, there have been many historical outliers — from former first lady Betty Ford, to Ann Stone, Roger Stone’s ex-wife who founded the Republicans for Choice political action committee (PAC). Among the public, the opposition is not as entrenched as it seems: According to recent polling by Pew Research Center, over one-third of Republican adults believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
“I don’t think all conservatives are pro-life,” Julia Tekansik, a 21-year-old student from Aurora, CO, who identifies as both conservative and pro-choice, told Refinery29. “A lot [of the conservatives] I know don’t believe a woman should be forced to have a child.” Tekansik said that her Christianity and conservatism have informed her personal stance on the matter. “God gives us free will to make decisions in this life,” she said. “I personally wouldn’t get an abortion, because I know I have resources to take care of a baby financially and socially, but I try to see that not everyone has those resources.” Tekansik voted for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election and holds many traditionally Republican views, but also breaks from the party with her support for LGBTQ+ rights.
Karen Colville, 55, registered as a Republican at 19 and has historically almost exclusively voted for Republican candidates in national elections (she did vote for former President Bill Clinton in 1992). The Buffalo, NY, resident said that while she was never explicitly anti-abortion, her pro-choice stance has solidified as she has gotten older and since she became a mother. “Having two daughters, I feel like it’s their body,” Colville told Refinery29, “and if they’re not in the right position to be a mother at the time, I think they should have the right to an abortion. I just feel like my daughters should have a choice, and I don’t want anyone taking that choice away from them.”
While the broader public narrative has equated the political right with anti-abortion sentiment, there has been a lineage of pro-choice advocacy within the GOP. In 1975, first lady Ford gave an interview on 60 Minutes, in which she called Roe v. Wade “the best thing in the world…a great, great decision.” In 1989, Stone founded Republicans for Choice, composed of Republican Party members who support abortion rights, in response to the Supreme Court decision on Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, a ruling that allowed the state of Missouri to legislate in opposition to Roe. In 2000, the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition (later renamed Republican Majority for Choice) joined Republicans for Choice to advocate for the removal of the Republican platform’s anti-abortion plank ahead of the presidential election — George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were on the party’s ticket that year.
Stone, who still organizes with Republicans for Choice, said that her advocacy has been met with mixed responses from members of the party. She said that many people came up to her and whispered “thank you” when she founded the organization, “since they felt the same [way] but were afraid to say so in public." However, taking a public pro-choice stance as a conservative woman wasn’t always welcomed with open arms. “In 1992, I had to have an armed guard with me at the [Republican] Convention because of death threats,” Stone told Refinery29. “As time went on, though, they saw we were not out to destroy the party, but to hold it accountable to its roots.” Stone argues that being pro-choice is actually “the more consistent conservative position,” citing the commonly misattributed quote, “The best government is that which governs least.”
Tekansik echoed this belief. “I don’t feel the government has the right to be so involved in our lives,” she said. “The more involved they become, the messier it gets.”
“Traditional conservatives believe individuals should have maximum control over their lives,” Stone said. “Also, those so-called conservatives who would limit women's choices — even to deny victims of rape and incest a choice — are not typical in the conservative movement.” Stone has been a noted ardent supporter of Trump and has voted for mostly Republican candidates (and a few Libertarians). She said she aligns with the right on fiscal issues and national defense and security, but breaks with the party when it comes to, as she calls them, “sex-related issues,” such as abortion and LGBTQ+ rights. "I have always been for gay rights — again, leaving individuals alone. If the GOP wants the government out of the boardroom, then I say let's keep them out of the bedroom, too!"

If the GOP wants the government out of the boardroom, then I say let's keep them out of the bedroom, too!

Ann Stone, founder of Republicans For Choice
While it's clear that there are many conservatives out there who break from the party line on abortion, the current pro-choice minority (36% for to 59% against) within the Republican Party has actually decreased since 1995 — when 49% of the party supported legal abortion, according to Pew Research Center. The GOP faction of Congress is also looking less and less pro-choice. Currently, Republican senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia all identify as pro-choice, although all three have voting records that have been criticized for not matching that title, but all 200 House Republicans are against abortion.
As Republican-led states across the country continue to push anti-abortion legislation, political commentators have suggested that their attacks on Roe will have negative backlash when it comes to the 2020 elections. Colville wondered if she was actually straying further away from conservatism, given her distaste for Fox News and Trump, whom she voted for but has felt disappointed by. “I believe in being kind, you know? Why is everybody being so mean to each other?” she asked. “Am I really a Republican? I might become an Independent.”

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