Pro-Life and Pro-Obama
Women who are giving up on the GOP.
Most of the women I talked to who voted for Bush over abortion and are supporting Obama this time didn't want their names used because they didn't want to be thought of as defectors, particularly at church. In some cases, they fear being barred from receiving communion; Doug Kmiec, the conservative pro-life law professor, was denied the sacrament this summer after he announced in Slate that he was for Obama.
Even Turnbach's friend Nancy Gilgannon, a pro-life Pennsylvania Democrat who voted for Bush and is voting for McCain this year, says that abortion has nothing to do with her decision this time around. Two years ago, she told me she blamed her church for Bush's election—and felt she'd been conned into voting for him: "It was the church's fault … I talked to several priests and they all said, 'There's only one issue in this election.' I said, 'What about the poor, and Social Security?' And they said, 'There is only one issue.' Oh, it was hard to push that button for Bush; I think I was just used, and that's what really grinds me."
Now what she says is "I never did like George Bush, and he's turned out to be a disaster I contributed to." Still, she's voting Republican again this year because the lesson she takes from the failures of the Bush presidency is that experience in national politics is everything. And McCain has more of it. "George Bush didn't have enough experience, and look what happened. Obama has two years in the Senate and two years campaigning," and that's not enough, especially given "the mess we're in now." Gilgannon, who is a retired college professor, voted for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, and also influencing her is the feeling that Obama treated Hillary and Bill Clinton poorly: "He made the Clintons out to be racists, and that didn't sit well with me; he really threw her in the garbage can."
Another friend of Gilgannon and Turnbach who voted for Bush twice, Liz Tarone, says the last eight years have convinced her that abortion and other social issues should be off the table for good. She went for Bush last time because she couldn't stomach John Kerry, but she now thinks "Iraq will go down as the worst political decision of the century, worse than Vietnam." She doesn't like either Obama or McCain. So she plans not to vote for president this year (though she will turn out to vote "against every incumbent on the ballot"). These days, just the mention of abortion or gay marriage by a politician makes her want to scream: In the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, she says, "I don't want to hear about questions for which there are no answers."
After 35 years of fighting over Roe, even some of the most convinced combatants are ready for a cease-fire.
Melinda Henneberger is a Slate contributor and the author of If They Only Listened to Us: What Women Voters Want Politicians To Hear.
Photograph of Barack Obama by Jeff Fusco/Getty Images.