Carly Fiorina is one of several pro-life women who have had success in politics recently. Their advances could signal significant changes in Congress this year, a development that may be welcomed by pro-lifers as the Obama administration seems to become more entrenched in a pro-abortion and pro-human embryonic stem-cell research stance. Former chairwoman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Fiorina will take on pro-abortion Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in the November election.
Fiorina, 55, is a board member of Freedom House, a non-governmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world. She holds a bachelor’s in philosophy and medieval history from Stanford University and a master’s degree in management from MIT. In 1998, Fortune magazine named her the most powerful woman in business.
She served as part of Arizona Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign. Last November, she announced her candidacy for the Senate, and on June 8, she prevailed over Tom Campbell in the Republican primary. She opposes abortion and voted for Prop. 8, the California citizens’ initiative defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
During the campaign leading up to the Senate primary, you received endorsements from the Susan B. Anthony List and the National Right to Life Committee. However, you are still a newcomer to the political process. If elected, what will be your pro-life priorities in the Senate?
I am running against someone who has extreme views. Boxer is a person with a 0% rating from the National Right to Life Committee. This is a woman who believes abortion is a form of birth control: Abortion anytime, anywhere is fine, and taxpayer funding is okay. That includes partial-birth abortion. She is a woman of extreme views.
I plan to look for opportunities to establish common ground, not with extremists like Boxer, but with many people who share our views on the sanctity of life. We can limit the number of abortions by making sure women have access to counseling — so they know what their choices are. We can work together to ensure there are reasonable restrictions on abortion. Parents need to be informed and their consent obtained.
On domestic-policy issues, I will vote consistent with my beliefs — always.
There are many aspects of the health-care reform bill that are unacceptable. The bill should be repealed and replaced with a viable and moral set of alternatives.
This health-care bill doesn’t start with the core principle of the sanctity of life in the womb or the end of life. It provides taxpayer funding for a whole set of procedures that those of us in the pro-life community find immoral.
What about judicial appointments?
We know that elections have consequences and that President Obama’s election would have consequences for the bench.
I do not support litmus tests for nominees to the Supreme Court. Each nominee should be examined carefully, individually. In particular, we should examine whether they will bring their own ideological leanings or personal beliefs to the Constitution and legislate from the bench instead of presiding over the law.
Abortion promotion has become a foreign-policy goal for the Obama administration, which argues that legal abortion could sharply curb high maternal death rates in the developing world.
Taxpayers should not be asked to support policies that promote abortion as a tool of family planning. To say that an abortion is the only way to deal with maternal death in the developing world is the ultimate in cynicism.
Why are more GOP women candidates pro-life right now? Do broader cultural factors play a role?
Science has contributed to this shift. Science is helping us because people see how at such an early stage the fetus can survive outside the womb. When people learn there are in utero treatments for the first trimester fetus, they begin to ask, “If we can treat them for disease, aren’t they alive?” Many polls suggest that young people have a higher propensity to be pro-life, and science has a lot to do with that.
Has the feminist movement, which anchored women’s social and economic advancement to legal abortion, lost its credibility?
I came of age during the first feminist movement, and that movement had a particular political ideology associated with it. The times were different, but a lot of women grew up with the point of view that you were only a feminist if you accepted certain political platforms.
People’s personal experiences have a huge impact on their beliefs. In my own case, I wasn’t able to have children of my own. So, for me, life is a precious gift that can’t be thrown away.
Also, my husband’s mother was told to abort him for reasons of personal health. She refused to do that, and after his birth, she was in a hospital for a year. My husband was the joy of her life, and he is the joy of my life. Any time someone has that experience it shapes you.
Sometimes something happens to you that strikes you to the core. When I was a young woman and accompanied a friend, at her insistence, to have an abortion, I remember being struck by the fact that no one there gave her an option. There was no discussion about her choices. Frankly, they minimized the whole experience and described the abortion as a “procedure.” Yet, I watched my friend go through the deepest possible anguish after she made that decision. I often wondered how her life might have been different if there had been someone talking to her.
You are a pro-life Republican Senate nominee in California, where the party has been divided on this issue.
Certainly the majority of primary voters I came across, as reflected in the polls, are strongly pro-life. Even if you look at polls conducted in California recently, across the political spectrum, there are more pro-life folks than you would imagine. There is surprising agreement about some of the extreme procedures — a majority does not support partial-birth abortion. In California we have a large and growing Hispanic community. The majority may be Democrats, but are strongly pro-file.
In the past, Democrats have suggested that pro-life positions on issues like embryonic stem-cell research are “anti-science.”
It is a cynical political calculation to pit science against the pro-life movement or to try and pit science against morality. One great challenge for the 21st century is how to integrate the incredible scientific advances of which we are capable with a strong moral compass.
That integration is clearly possible. I know a lot of scientists who have a strong moral compass. At the same time, as I mentioned earlier, scientific advances in embryology, to take one example, are maturing our moral perspective on the sanctity of human life: We’re learning that the fetus is viable at a very early stage.
We need to make our moral compass as sophisticated as our capacity for scientific progress. It’s false to suggest that people who are scientifically oriented must be pro-embryonic stem-cell research and pro-choice. Adult stem-cell research is a perfect example of how science is helping to mature our moral compass. It’s probably more viable, more cost-effective and may even have better results — though I’m no expert on this.
The state of California, which had established its own embryonic stem-cell research fund after the Bush administration imposed limits on federal funding for this research, recently announced plans to increase its funding of adult stem-cell research.
Scientists will go where they get the best results, absent the moral constraint. In California, they are heading towards adult stem-cell research because it’s yielding better results. But just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it. We learn this truth as individual people and as a civilization.
If you win the election, you could be among a new crop of pro-life women. What kind of impact will that have?
When people see women prepared to stand up and run for office on a strong pro-life platform, that position will become less scary. People will realize that women should be able to speak out against these policies and procedures. We should be able to do that without fear of our political future and without being branded as extremists.
Joan Frawley Desmond writes from Washington.