I am going to start with a bold statement: There are pro-choice Republicans in Montana. As the director of the only organization in Montana dedicated solely to reproductive freedom, I should know. Pro-choice Republicans are all over the state—in urban centers, college campuses, on ranches and in the oil fields. But one place they are increasingly absent from is the state legislature. Each legislative session we track choice-related bills and score every legislator on their votes. We make this information available publicly because we believe that an informed citizenry is essential to the advancement of social justice. A quick look at these legislative scorecards, however, reveal a partisan pattern when it comes to issues of not only abortion, but also contraceptives and sex education alike. I realize that this comes as no surprise to you, the reader—but, I argue that it should.
When it comes to reproductive healthcare, voters who identify with a party have widely varying opinions and stances. There are pro-choice Republicans who invoke a libertarian philosophy—believing that government should not be practicing medicine and that the "less government" mantra must also be applied to the body. There are pro-choice Republicans who personally, even morally, disagree with abortion, but who believe they do not have the authority to make that decision for anyone else. Other mixed-choice Republicans will support abortion to a certain stage of viability, in cases of rape or incest and some not at all—but they do support common sense preventative measures like contraceptives and sex education. Of course, it should be noted that, supporting preventative measures is the fiscally conservative thing to do.
Why then—if the citizenry has such varying ideas about abortion, contraceptives and sex education—do our scorecards reveal such stark partisan polarization? By the looks of it—pro-choice Republicans are simply not welcome in the legislative process. We have created a system where a candidate's stance on one issue can call her party loyalty into question. This is a system where moderates have been all but extinguished.
NARAL Pro-Choice Montana's role is to support and encourage pro-choice leaders. We do not work for any political party. That said, the reality of the political environment is such that we rarely have the honor of endorsing pro-choice Republicans. Although our values—privacy, freedom, autonomy and self-determination—are bipartisan, it takes a strong and committed Republican candidate to be outwardly pro-choice.
Don't we want a system where we choose to elect those candidates we believe will make the "right choices" at the legislature? If there is no moderate ground between partisan extremes, there are huge swaths of Montanans that are simply not being represented. I believe that the environment is such that candidates, today, fear retribution from within so badly, that they feel as though they must (at best) avoid the issue as much as possible or (at worst) take a stance against their better judgment.
We need more legislators who are willing to stand up to party doctrine and genuinely put the interests of Montanans first. .
NARAL Pro-Choice Montana