Palin Still Finds Fans in Anti-Choice Movement

David Weigel

Anti-abortion activists are ecstatic about the possibility that Palin, freed from the duties and turmoils of office, could become a historic leader and spokeswoman for their cause.

Debbie Joslin wasn’t happy to see Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska)
announce her resignation. “I was disappointed that she wouldn’t be
governor anymore,” Joslin said. “It’s hard to get things done now
because of the 10-10 split between the parties in the State Senate.
What she did was out of the box, and anybody else would be politically

Joslin, the president of the Alaska branch of the conservative Eagle
Forum and a longtime Republican activist, saw the possible good in
Palin’s surprise decision to leave office at the end of July and, in her words, “effect positive change outside government at this point in time on another scale and actually make a difference for our priorities.” Ten years ago, Joslin was informed that her son Isaiah
would be born with Trisomy-13 — in other words, anomalies that would
mean severe retardation and early death. She rejected advice to fly to
George Tiller’s clinic in Kansas to terminate the pregnancy. Her son
died 32 days after he was born. Joslin got a letter from Palin, then
the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, praising her courage. When Palin’s son
Trig was born with Downs Syndrome, Joslin gave her moral support, and
even filled in for Palin to accept an award from the Republican National Coalition for Life.

“After that,” said Joslin, “I said, ‘I’m not just an activist. I’m
an eyewitness.’ You can say the same thing about the governor. She has
talked the talk and walked the walk. She knows that there are folks out
there who wanted her to kill Trig.”

Palin’s surprise decision to leave the governorship of Alaska after
only two years and seven months has been mocked by political foes and
friends alike. Staunch allies such as Bill Kristol argued
that Palin made a savvy, from-the-gut political play, “an enormous
gamble” that “could be a shrewd one.” But many conservatives and fellow
Republicans — some of them standing to benefit from the governor’s
political problems — have labeled Palin an erratic quitter. “I am deeply disappointed,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowki (R-Alaska), “that the Governor has decided to abandon the State and her constituents before her term has concluded.”

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One element of the conservative movement is much more excited.
Anti-abortion activists, who embraced Palin after the birth of Trig and
after the unmarried pregnancy of Palin’s daughter Bristol, are ecstatic
about the possibility that Palin, freed from the duties and turmoils of
office, could become a historic leader and spokeswoman for their cause.

“Sarah Palin is the ultimate speaker on pro-life issues,” said Jane
Abraham, a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party who
co-founded Team Sarah, a project of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony
List that supports anti-abortion female candidates. “We surpassed
70,000 members over the weekend, after her speech. People respond to
her. She’s absolutely the most effective advocate the pro-life movement
could have."

In the eight rocky months since Palin lost the vice presidency, she
declined (sometimes after initially accepting) speaking engagements at
high-profile events such as the Conservative Political Action
Conference and a fundraiser for the National Republican Senatorial and
Campaign Committees. In April, however, Palin flew to Evansville, Ind.,
to headline a fundraiser for the Vanderburgh County Right to Life
Committee, a show of star power that brought the group an overflow
crowd and a bevy of national political reporters. A month later, Palin criticized the University of Notre Dame for giving an honorary degree to President Obama, calling the president “
who contradicts the core values of the Catholic faith by promoting an
anti-life agenda,” and pouring gasoline on a brief but firey abortion

“With some politicians, pro-life politicians, you get sense that
they’re throwing us bones,” said Marc Tuttle, the president of
Indianapolis Right to Life, and an attendee at the April fundraising
dinner. “Sarah Palin seems very sincerely to believe what she claims to
believe. We know that she’s been there.”

Tuttle said that Palin had “shattered” the idea that “women can’t
have children and stay in politics,” adding that “she brings out the
truth, that this is an issue that affects a cross-section of the
public, and not just poor women and minorities.”

According to Gary Bauer, the former president of the Family Research
Council who now leads the conservative American Values, Palin’s gender
and personal experiences would make her a “fantastic” leader in the
anti-abortion movement. “A woman making the argument that this is not
something that should be a right, but rather that it’s a disaster for
women, is a much more powerful voice than somebody like myself, for
example.” Bauer recalled that when he led the FRC, he “set out to find
as many pro-life young women as I could. When there were opportunities
to give them media appearances, I did.”

Some anti-abortion activists, while focusing on the role Palin could
play as a spokesman, pointed out the power that anti-abortion politics
could play in the 2012 presidential primaries. In 2008, former Gov.
Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) surged past Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) with a
campaign that focused less on his ten-year record in the state house
and more on his superior credentials
as an anti-abortion, pro-family “Christian leader.” Twenty years
earlier, the Rev. Pat Robertson was able to ride a sterling social
conservative record and support from anti-abortion and religious right
activists to a second-place showing in the Iowa Caucuses (ahead of
future President George H.W. Bush) and a win in the Washington state
caucuses, with a strong showing in Michigan.
Neither man won his party’s nomination, but neither began his campaign
with the level of credibility and popularity that Palin enjoys with the
Republican base.

“My husband had a career in public service,” said Jane Abraham,
whose husband Spencer was a Republican senator from Michigan from 1995
to 2001. “He could stand up and speak effectively about these issues. I
could stand up and speak about the same issues and be far more
effective because I am a woman. I believe that those who want to take
her out, and have been so good at demeaning her on the national scene,
believe that she’s a true threat.”

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