I am a pro-choice Republican. We are not an endangered species.
Since the Republican Party declared itself pro-life, most of us have been in the closet.
I appreciate that both viewpoints are sincerely held: Pro-choicers believe that the government should not intrude in such a private decision; pro-lifers believe that life begins at conception.
I have supported each.
Raised Catholic, I accepted the church's doctrine that abortion was morally wrong. This was before Roe v. Wade, so in many states abortion was also illegal.
A personal experience changed my view.
At 28, pregnant with my third child, I discussed tubal ligation with my OB-GYN.
He said I was fortunate. Only because it would be my third Caesarean section would Texas law permit the procedure.
Otherwise, I was told, a woman had to attain a mathematical formula of 120, calculated by multiplying her age and number of children.
In other words, a woman who had her children without C-sections was required to have four children and be 30 years old before the law permitted a doctor to perform a procedure preventing pregnancy.
"Why?" I inquired. My doctor explained that legislators, assuming that women "often change their minds," set an age of maturity linked to a sufficient number of children.
I left his office thinking that government had no business dictating my childbearing decisions.
Since then I have been an active advocate of a woman's right to choose. I was a founding board member of Women in the Senate and House (WISH), an organization created to elect pro-choice Republican women.
In that capacity, and having worked for pro-choice conservative Barry Goldwater, I have spoken with numerous Republican senators about abortion.
One Southern conservative told me to tell him if we ever needed a crucial vote. But because his publicly stated view was pro-life, he cautioned, he could go only so far.
A senator from the Northeast told me he had not thought about the issue before seeking office in 1980. When he had to take a position, he followed Ronald Reagan's lead.
A decade later, he told me, he realized that government had no business telling pregnant women what to do but, politically, he could not reverse his stand.
I never believed that Mitt Romney rejected his pro-choice position because of one meeting with doctors and learning what was done to stem cells. Rather, I thought he had one meeting with political consultants who told him he could never get the Republican nomination unless he was pro-life.
Romney made a major mistake declaring that he would defund Planned Parenthood. He should have said that, since he is pro-life, he would donate $10,000 to any organization that helps women plan their pregnancies.