Barry Goldwater Was a Champion of Reproductive Rights

Texas demonstration

In Texas and numerous other states middle-aged white men who claim to want to get government off people’s backs are climbing onto women’s backs and causing great unnecessary suffering. What did some of the great Republicans of the past think?

BARRY GOLDWATER said, “A lot of so-called conservatives think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to a pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders on the religious right.”

BARRY GOLDWATER’S WIFE PEGGY was co-founder of Arizona Planned Parenthood in 1937. “We knew family planning could relieve a great deal of human suffering,” wrote Peggy in a local magazine piece. Today their granddaughter is a clinic volunteer and Planned Parenthood Board Member

First Lady BETTY FORD said, “Any woman should have the right to a safe and legal abortion.”

GERALD FORD declared “In this Land of the Free, it is right, and by nature it ought to be, that all men and all women are equal before the law.”

In 1964 DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER whom I consider to have no close competition as the best Republican president of the 20th Century) and Harry Truman served together as bipartisan honorary co-chairs of Planned Parenthood.

BUT THEN Ronald Reagan became an errand-boy for the Vatican. “American policy was changed as a result of the Vatican’s not agreeing with our policy,” explains [Reagan’s Vatican ambassador] William Wilson. “AID sent people from [the Department of State] to Rome, and I’d accompany them to meet the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, and in long discussions they finally got the message.” (Democrat Jimmy Carter was not a lot better. He named anti-family planning zealot John H. Sullivan to head USAID.) If current Republicans truly believe in getting government off people’s backs, they will go back to following Barry Goldwater’s intelligent principle of leaving women to make their own decisions about their own bodies.

The American Women’s Freedom Movement Declaration offers one possible path to a solution:

“WOMEN OF AMERICA, UNITE! Any law, rule, or custom that limits women’s rights or freedoms more than men’s is exploitive, unacceptable gender discrimination. We will not vote for, and will actively work against any candidate who supports such a law, rule, or custom. We will withhold all financial support from any political party or religious organization that supports such discrimination. We will consider permanently leaving any such party or other organization to join with sisters and brothers who actively oppose such restrictions. In whatever ways we find appropriate (which may go so far as to include days of fasting and prayer during which no work may be performed and no items will be bought) we actively commit to achieving full freedom for all women to live their lives and control their bodies as they choose, without gender-related discrimination, domination, or oppression of any kind. We invite all men who support women’s self-determination to join us.”