Susan Cullman

Pro-choice and a loyal Republican, Susan Cullman will attend her party’s national convention in Philadelphia in July, if for no other reason than to prove that she and the other pro-choice Republicans like her will not go away.

But that is not all. Cullman, cochair of the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition, is not only prepared for a fight over the party’s call for a constitutional amendment banning abortion, she and her sister organizations are also raising large sums of money, creating direct-mail campaigns and organizing on the local and state levels.

1996 Republican Party Platform

The unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life whichcannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and weendorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’sprotections apply to unborn children. Our purpose is to havelegislative and judicial protection of that right against those who perform abortions.We oppose using public revenues for abortion and will not fundorganizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respecttraditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.

Cullman is facing a tough fight in Philadelphia. A majority of the 2,066 convention delegates are pledged to the anti-choice Gov. George W. Bush for President. And a platform fight on choice didn’t go far in 1996. The language calling for a constitutional amendment banning abortion stayed, and some weak, pro-choice language was relegated to an appendix.

And Tanya Melich, a leading Republican political analyst who chronicled the party’s battles over choice in her best-selling book “The Republican War Against Women” says focusing on the platform is a waste of time.

“Energy should go to electing pro-choice representatives at all levels,” says Melich.

But pro-choice Republicans are not deterred by history.

“You’ve got to have both parties be good on this issue, or women will blow in the wind,” Cullman says. A Reagan-era Republican, she believes the anti-choice stance has divided her party, even though it was used to woo new voters, especially in the South. The anti-choice contingent has now succeeded in moving so many adherents into elected office that only 5 of 55 Republican Senators and no more than 30 of 220 Republican Representatives have pro-choice leanings.

However, Cullman says, traditional party donors, fiscally conservative, are moderate on abortion and reject government involvement and, until now, have been held hostage by anti-abortion “viciousness.”

“One of the things that got me angry,” says Cullman, explaining her increasing activism in the last decade, “was when Republican leaders said to me, ‘Don’t say anything; don’t rock the boat.’ They can disagree with me, but don’t tell me to be quiet.”

Cullman thinks she has the poll numbers, the cash and the organization to overcome the anti-choice forces.

She will bring with her to the convention the results of a poll conducted in January, 2000 by American Viewpoint, Inc. indicating that 65 percent of Republican voters want to eliminate all abortion language from the platform, and only 30 percent support keeping the current anti-abortion wording. No gender gap here: 68 percent of the men and 64 percent of the women want abortion out of the platform.

In addition, her committee is circulating bright yellow postcards that state “Take Abortion OUT of Politics,” with a request that they be mailed to Republican governors–expected to guide this year’s platform.

Cullman will joined by Ann E. W. Stone, national chairman of the political action committee Republicans for Choice. Stone, a direct mail political fund-raiser, says, “This time, my hue and cry is ‘Let’s demand to be at the table like Ralph Reed and Phyllis Schafly.'”

Stone has a plan to make sure her hue and cry will be heard. Her committee will air radio ads announcing that former First Lady Barbara Bush said abortion shouldn’t be in the platform, with the quip, “We think George W., and the entire Republican party, should listen to his Mama..”

And others are prepared to argue that the party’s anti-choice position is costing the party big elections.

`Pro-choice women aren’t changing their opinion,” says Darlee Crockett, national cochair of Republicans for Choice of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “They are leaving the party.” Moreover, she adds, “In California, our party suffered one of the most humiliating defeats in 1998 that you can conjure up.” From meetings with Republican leaders, Crockett believes there is more concern about the pro-choice constituency than is revealed publicly. “Abortion has come to represent intolerance within the party,” she says.