The topic of my reading of Dean Kotlowski's Nixon's Civil Rights has now turned to women's rights. Essentially, at least so far, Kotlowski argues that President Richard Nixon and many of the male members of his staff were sexist, and Nixon had to be prodded by Republican women to do something for women's rights. But Kotlowski states on page 223 that Nixon "supplanted vigorous support of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) with specific programs to help females attain professional careers." Nixon also admired certain women politicians, such as Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, and he told a group of Girls' Nation delegates that perhaps one of them will become President some day.
On page 223, Kotlowski states that Nixon opposed abortion. This stood out to me because I was wondering when exactly being pro-life on the abortion issue became a Republican cause. According to Lou Cannon's Governor Reagan, when Ronald Reagan was Governor of California, prominent conservative Republicans were largely pro-choice, whereas Catholic Democrats were pro-life. Wikipedia's article on the Human Life Amendment, however, documents that Republican politicians were proposing to overturn Roe vs. Wade since 1973, the year of the decision. And Frank Schaeffer has stated that C. Everett Koop's work with Francis Schaeffer on the 1979 piece, Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, brought a number of evangelicals to the pro-life cause.
Why did Nixon oppose abortion? The New York Times stated regarding Nixon's comments on abortion on a tape:
"Nixon worried that greater access to abortions would foster 'permissiveness,' and said that 'it breaks the family.' But he also saw a need for abortion in some cases — like interracial pregnancies, he said. 'There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,' he told an aide, before adding, 'Or a rape.'"
Shocking, to say the least. But, as readers of Kotlowski know, Nixon had some bigoted ideas. But he still acted to advance the cause of minorities.