Abortion has long been a polarizing issue in American politics, even before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, but candidates in the 2016 election have taken more extreme views than in recent memory. While George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney opposed abortion, they all favored exemptions in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother's life is at risk. Out of the 17 GOP candidates running, only Donald Trump, John Kasich, and Chris Christie have publicly supported such exemptions for abortion, as the other contenders want to outlaw it completely and continue to compare abortion to slavery and ISIS. Such conservative beliefs may turn off young women who identify as Republican, but lean more towards the middle when it comes to abortion, so this change begs the question: How do Republican women feel about the GOP's extreme abortion stances — are they glad candidates are getting tougher on abortion, or are they turned off by it?
Mike Huckabee, who has the strongest anti-abortion views, believes the Fifth and 14th Amendments deem abortion and Roe v. Wade unconstitutional, and he said in July that he would use federal troops or the FBI to prevent abortions if elected president. He even went as far as to compare abortion to ISIS — during an August campaign stop in Iowa, he discussed ISIS's possible threat to the U.S. and then said: "Let us not be too smug in this country. Because we have sins to answer for. Since 1973, 60 million unborn children have died in their mother's womb."
Ben Carson, who's currently polling in second place in Iowa, said at an anti-abortion rally in July that the abolition of slavery is precedent for completely outlawing abortion. He said: "We are capable of changing. You know there was a time in this country where there were people who thought it was OK to own other people... We fortunately as a society matured." In 2014, he also said legal abortion is similar to human sacrifice on DoveTV, the network of the The Redeemed Christian Church of God.
Huckabee and Carson aren't the only Republicans waging a war on abortion, though — most GOP candidates have taken extreme stances on the issue, wanting to make abortion illegal in all cases, including rape, incest, and when the mother's life is in danger. Not even supporting exceptions for special cases has pushed most Republican presidential contenders much further to the right, which some staunch pro-lifers appreciate. However, it is alienating Republican voters that are more moderate or pro-choice (yes, pro-choice Republicans do exist).
I asked ten young Republican women across the country: How do you feel about all the GOP candidates' extremely conservative stances on abortion — are you glad their views have gotten more extreme than in past elections or are you turned off by it? Here's what they had to say.
I am very much turned off by their extreme stances. Its [sic] concerning that some candidates are even opposed to abortion in cases of rape, incest, and in situations where a mother's life threatened. I in no way support abortion, and think other options should always be explored, but I think that every situation is unique and that a woman should be able to have that choice to a certain extent. I believe these stances are moving the party in the wrong direction. It's disregarding an issue that women find important, and the numbers will show that when election time comes.
There are some things that, from an early age, you hold to be true. As I grew up, I clung tightly to my pro-life morals and beliefs. There were and are many things that I constantly question in terms of my political beliefs — my opinions constantly change and evolve based on what I learn in the classroom and what I see in the world around me. The simple kindergarten logic, however, of “we don't kill babies” always stuck and advanced in reasoning and argumentation as I grew up. There are many things that as a predominantly two party system we can and should compromise on — whether it being gay rights, the United States' role in foreign affairs, entitlement policy, etc. But it is our duty, as citizens and human beings, to hold strong to the things we know to be true — and I not only appreciate, but support the GOP candidates for the true and whole recognition that we all, as U.S. citizens, possess many inherent rights and one of those is the right to live.
I'm registered independent, but more often agree with conservatives. I am thankful for anyone's strong, conservative stance on abortion. Life is valuable, and we have to stand up for precious innocents who cannot speak for themselves.
As a moderate conservative woman I consider myself just right of center. When I arrived on my conservative campus as a freshman, I was predominantly pro-choice. But after two years of listening to the news and being exposed to different views, I have come to appreciate the increasingly more conservative views of our politicians. I am a woman and I support the right to my body. But I also support the rights of the bodies that grow inside pregnant woman. In light of recent accounts, I believe if a human organ is being harvested for research, then the fetus is a human. I support the right of choice for those victims of rape, but besides that exception, I have solidified my views as pro-life, and appreciate the GOP candidates who promote this rationale as well.
Anyone who is strictly pro-life I don't feel has the best interests of women in general in mind. It removes the ideology of her being a person that can make decisions about her own body. Granted that is a sweeping statement, but at the same time removing rights to make those decisions is not something the government should be trying to enforce. So yes, as soon as it is mentioned, I usually tune the candidate out.
I actually am excited to see that it is becoming more of a "hot topic" and that most of the candidates have stuck to their guns as far as abortion not being a common-place practice. I think that abortion is the biggest/most important issue for me. It's super hard for me to want to listen to any other rights or privileges that people are fighting for when I feel like the most important right is the right to life and it isn't even being protected here in America.
As far as 2016 goes, the GOP candidates' views have had a polarizing effect on women across all party lines. Personally, a candidate having strong convictions is admirable, but if it goes as far as to alienate one's own constituency or restrict the rights of any one person, it's too extreme. Look at the way female lawmakers in the Republican Party recently affected an anti-abortion bill earlier in January. Amid their concerns of the constraining language of the document, it was dropped. Going into this next election, women, as always, are an important part of the vote, and restrictive legislation is not a way to broaden GOP appeal.
I honestly don't think whether abortion is legal or not is going to solve the actual problem of babies being unwanted and murdered. That's going to take individual love and care for each situation where abortion is considered an option by people who will personally coach and mentor women through their unwanted pregnancies. But I will always go with the side that favors life over death, life over the so-called right to choose death, life over a false sense of control and responsibility.
As someone who considers herself a feminist (and a more moderate Republican at that), I definitely believe that by having an extremely conservative view on abortion, many candidates are hurting their campaign. At the same time, though, I have to consider other issues that I tend to prioritize over social concerns like abortion — issues such as keeping our country safe from terrorism and keeping the economy afloat. I find it unfortunate that many Republican candidates are looked over because of their stance on social issues, but I also don't think if they were elected they could have the power to back track the progress we've made in the past few years. There is plenty of history to support the legalization of abortions (like Roe v. Wade), and I have faith that our justice system would never allow such rights to be overturned. Although I am highly invested in women's rights (and human rights, for that matter), I can't say that I am entirely turned off by the Republican candidates' approach on social issues, seeing as their capabilities are much stronger in another sectors — sectors I am much more concerned about.
I am a registered Republican, and I'm thankful that the candidates are more willing to boldly stand on truth this time around. I believe that abortion is wrong in every circumstance. God alone creates life, and He alone should be able to take it away. I cannot vote for a candidate that condones the murder of children.