© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
TECHNOTE: 90.5 FM and AM870 reception

Republican Abortion Rights Activist Reacts To Kennedy Retirement


We're going to take a moment now to consider some of the tensions playing out within the Republican Party. And one of the big questions in the wake of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's decision to retire concerns the future of abortion rights. Opponents of abortion rights see this as perhaps the best opportunity in decades to reverse the 1973 Supreme Court decision making access to abortion the law of the land, and one of the reasons they think that is that what used to be a philosophical or ideological divide has become a partisan one, with Democrats overwhelmingly lining up in favor of abortion rights and Republicans overwhelmingly lining up in favor of more restrictions or even an outright ban.

And that's one reason that Susan Bevan, the national co-chair of The Republican Majority for Choice, announced that she and her co-chair Susan Cullman would be shuttering the organization after some 30 years of operations. Last week, they wrote an op-ed in The New York Times entitled "Why We Are Leaving The G.O.P.," and Susan Bevan is with us now from her home in Washington state to tell us more.

Susan Bevan, thanks so much for speaking with us.

SUSAN BEVAN: You're welcome. Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: You make the point in your piece that - I don't know that this was ever a, say, 50-50 voting issue for Republicans, but there was a time when there were many prominent Republicans who identified with access to abortion as a right. Why do you think it got to be that way?

BEVAN: There's a number of issues, I think, that we have as a country that have affected the party, that have affected this issue. We have primaries where the most passionate single-issue voters basically pick who will be the nominee for your party for whatever race they're running and whether it's president, senator or representative. And then, of course, we have the gerrymandering of the districts, which augments the ability of those single-issue voters to vote and then the lack of term limits.

And so these elected representatives just have to keep going back to the same well over and over again on the same issues that make the single-issue voters happy, and they don't have to vote their conscience or what the vast majority of their electorate would want.

MARTIN: I think some might say that if you believe that access to abortion is an important issue, why not just become a Democrat?

BEVAN: (Laughter) That's a good question, I guess, because I have never been a Democrat. I've been a Republican since the time I was a teenager. I would say that the party left me - I didn't leave it. And I still haven't really given up on that.

I am fiscally conservative, and I do not see the Democratic Party respecting my positions on fiscal issues. The Republican Party, by the way, used to be just much more like me. That's why we called ourselves The Republican Majority for Choice - because, really, the government was supposed to stay out of our business, in our view. And that meant (laughter) - I always say our money business and our monkey business. I mean they don't belong in our bedroom anymore they belong in our boardroom. I don't want the government there. I don't think it should be there.

And that's why I've been a Republican - because I believe in limited government. And that's supposed to be what Republicans believe in.

MARTIN: I was going to ask you that because you have identified as a Republican for your entire adult life. What are you going to do going forward?

BEVAN: Well, last summer, I said, for the first time in my life, I will vote for a Democrat for president because the current president scares the heck out of me. Going forward, I'll probably do the same thing - look for third parties that I can support. I will continue to support pro-choice fiscal conservatives wherever I find them. I've supported Charlie Djou in Hawaii. I've supported Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and Lisa Murkowski and Charlie Dent and Bob Dole, and they don't live in my state. My representatives that were pro-choice Republicans - all of them are no longer in office.

MARTIN: That's Susan Bevan. She's a former corporate lawyer and the national co-chair of The Republican Majority for Choice, which is closing its doors after 30 years. She was kind enough to speak to us from her home in Washington state.

Susan Bevan, thanks so much for talking to us.

BEVAN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF KOLOTO'S "FOX TALES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

To help strengthen our local reporting as WKAR's fiscal year ends, we need 75 new or upgraded sustainers by June 30th. Become a new monthly donor or increase your donation to support the trustworthy journalism you'll rely on before Election Day. Donate now.