Kevin Curtis of Cazenovia, N.Y., a lifelong conservative and an elder in the Presbyterian church, describes himself as a "personal responsibility, personal freedom and personal decision-type Republican." He served as the co-chair of his local Republican party, read virtually all the same Ayn Rand novels as GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, and is now living off investments and paying for his family's health care -- the "take care of yourself" lifestyle people expect from conservatives, he says.
He's also on the board of the Rochester/Syracuse Planned Parenthood affiliate, and has financially supported the organization for nearly three decades.
"I feel sometimes like we're an endangered species," he told The Huffington Post in an interview. "There used to be more of us. It's interesting how the pendulum has swung in the direction of uber-conservative on social issues -- I don't think it reflects a big chunk of the party at all."
Curtis said he has remained relatively quiet about his involvement with Planned Parenthood, but Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) remark Sunday that victims of "legitimate rape" are unlikely to get pregnant inspired him to step out and speak his mind.
"I've written [the Republican National Committee] and expressed my utter disapproval of the platform being drafted," he said. "For them to include any kind of a personhood amendment -- a zygote is not a human being any more than a chestnut's a tree. And defunding Planned Parenthood is very bad economics -- it actually saves taxpayers money in future medical costs."
Randy Moody, national co-chair of Republicans for Planned Parenthood, echoed Curtis' sentiment. He was elected Republican County Chairman of Lancaster County, Pa, as a pro-choice Republican, but given the party's continued shift to the right, he doesn't think he'd have the same result today.
"Supporting abortion rights and reproductive health care is a traditional conservative philosophy, because it represents individual liberty and freedom of choice," he said. "But it's pretty hard now for anyone supportive of women's health and reproductive rights to hold a leadership position within the party. We have some officeholders who support reproductive rights, like [Rep.] Richard Hanna and [Sen.] Olympia Snowe, but I have to be candid and say that number has dwindled considerably."
Indeed, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), one of a handful of pro-choice Republicans in Congress, wrote a letter to RNC chairman Reince Priebus on Tuesday lamenting the fact that the personhood amendment in the GOP platform alienates members like himself. "You can be pro-choice and still be a good Republican," he complained.
Back in the 1970s and 80s, pro-choice Republicans and Republican supporters of Planned Parenthood were not so scarce. President Richard Nixon was so enthusiastic about a federal family planning initiative for low-income women that he declared it a "national goal" in 1969, just before signing Title X into law. President George H.W. Bush earned the nickname "Rubbers" as a congressman for his passion for family planning. Even presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, as recently as 2002, attended Planned Parenthood fundraisers and sought the organization's endorsement.
Supporting Planned Parenthood as a Republican is not nearly as acceptable in 2012. Ten Republican-controlled state legislatures have voted to defund the family planning provider since 2010, numerous members of Congress have tried to zero out Title X funding for family planning, and Romney has pledged to "get rid of" federal Planned Parenthood funding as president.
Moody said Republicans for Planned Parenthood is heading to the Republican National Convention to try to moderate the policies in the party's platform. The group wants abortion taken out of the platform entirely, and public funding for family planning to be added in. It also wants the abstinence-only education plank replaced with one supporting comprehensive sex education.
So far, he said, "no one has tried to spit on me or throw me down the stairs" at the convention, but he expects attendees to be less friendly to the policies he's advocating this year than they were a decade ago.
"I'm hoping there will be a change in attitude," he said. "Some of the comments by the presidential nominee-to-be have not been helpful. What we're trying to do here is send another message that maybe they ought to reconsider, not only as public policy but also as a political statement, because women vote."
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99 Problems (JAY-Z)
Eric Fehrnstrom, senior campaign adviser for Mitt Romney, <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2012/06/03/494238/fehrnstrom-shiny-objects-women/" target="_hplink">said on Sunday</a> that issues pertaining to women's reproductive rights, such as abortion and birth control, were "shiny objects" meant to distract voters from the real issues. "Mitt Romney is pro-life," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "He'll govern as a pro-life president, but you're going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people's attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election."
The Senate will vote Thursday on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would expand and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and make it illegal for employers to punish women for bringing up pay disparity issues. Dana Perino, a Fox News contributor and former press secretary for President George W. Bush, <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/04/30/perino-equal-pay-issue-is-a-distraction-for-just-48-hours/" target="_hplink">called the equal pay issue</a> "a distraction" from the country's real financial problems last week. "Well, it's just yet another distraction of dealing with the major financial issues that the country should be dealing with," Perino said. "This is not a job creator."
Just My Imagination (The Temptations)
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose home state's legislature recently defunded Planned Parenthood and voted to pass a bill that would allow employers to deny women birth control coverage, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/john-mccain-war-on-women_n_1455591.html" target="_hplink">delivered a floor speech</a> in which he insisted that the war on women is something imaginary for Democrats to "sputter about." "My friends, this supposed 'War on Women' or the use of similarly outlandish rhetoric by partisan operatives has two purposes, and both are purely political in their purpose and effect: The first is to distract citizens from real issues that really matter and the second is to give talking heads something to sputter about when they appear on cable television," he said.
Butterfly Fly Away (Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus)
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tried to trivialize concerns about the legislative "war on women" by comparing it to a "war on caterpillars." "If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we'd have problems with caterpillars," Priebus <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-05/priebus-says-gender-battle-as-fictonal-as-caterpillar-war.html" target="_hplink">said in an April interview</a> on Bloomberg Television. "It's a fiction."
Distraction (Angels And Airwaves)
Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman (R) took heat from her opponents in May when she contended that Democratic lawmakers' focus on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was "a distraction" from the issues they should be dealing with instead. "I think it's unfortunate that the Democrats have made a political football out of this thing, which I think is what they keep doing to distract from real problems that are facing our nation," she said in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio.
We Don't Care (Kanye West)
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) defended the Republican Party in April for going after insurance coverage for contraception by arguing that women don't actually care about contraception. "Women don't care about contraception," she said on ABC's The View. "They care about jobs and the economy and raising their families and all those other things."