Former First Lady Laura Bush: In favor of legal abortion and gay marriage

Via The Advocate:

From what she says, these views of hers are not new, but it was definitely new for me. Pretty incredible to hear her articulate such a big departure from her husband and former President.
Transcript after the jump.

Transcript via
KING: Lose your balance. Gay marriage, you tell us in the book that during the 2004 campaign you talked to George about not making it a significant issue. Do you think we should have it? BUSH: Well, I think we ought to definitely look at it and debate it. I think there are a lot of people who have trouble coming to terms with that because they see marriage as traditionally between a man and a woman. But I also know that, you know, when couples are committed to each other and love each other, that they ought to have I think the same sort of rights that everyone has.
KING: So would that be an area where you disagreed?
BUSH: I guess that would be an area that we disagree. I mean, I understand totally what George thinks and what other people think about marriage being between a man and a woman. And it’s a real, you know, reversal really for that to accept gay marriage.
KING: But you do?
BUSH: But I think we could, yeah. I think it’s also a generational thing.
KING: You think it’s coming?
BUSH: Yeah, that will come, I think.
KING: How about choice?
BUSH: That was the — I write in the book about the very first question I got on the morning of George’s inauguration, from Katie Couric, who asked me two questions about abortion. That was the social issue in 2000 that everyone got asked about. And then I think gay marriage was the social issue in 2004. And I was say probably in the more recent election as well.
She asked me if — she asked two questions about abortion, and then she asked me if I was for the overturn of Roe versus Wade. And sort of everything went through my mind. This was the very morning my husband was about to be inaugurated. And I thought, do I really want to start my husband’s presidency, you know, suggesting that a Supreme Court rule being overturned. And I said no.
And I think it’s important that it remain legal, because I think it’s important for people, for medical reasons and other reasons.
KING: So you — that would be two areas of disagreement.
BUSH: Uh-huh.
KING: But you weren’t so expressive during the White House day.
BUSH: About those issues, you mean?
KING: Yeah.
BUSH: No, not really. I talked about those issues. I was asked about those issues a lot. Not so much about abortion, but in the 2004 election, a lot about gay marriage. That was the social issue that really animated that election, I think. KING: When you discuss it with your husband, is it argumentative?
BUSH: No. Not at all. I mean —
KING: He understands?
BUSH: Yeah, and I understand his viewpoint. I really do. I understand his viewpoint. And he understands mine.

Join the Conversation

  • DeafBrownTrash

    wow!!! I had no idea…
    I wish she would have expressed her views during the Bush II era :-[

  • daveNYC

    “Pretty incredible to hear her articulate such a big departure from her husband and former President.”
    Please, what evidence is there that Bush actually gave a rat’s ass one way or another about those issues, as opposed to being a power hungry asshole who was more than willing to promote hurtful policies in order to get elected?
    Nice of her to speak out on these issues while she was actually in the White House and might have had some pull.

  • Comrade Kevin

    This country still doesn’t want its First Lady to take too strong of a role in government. Hillary Clinton found that out the hard way, and even my mother, who is very much the second-wave Feminist in many ways said, at the time, that “we didn’t elect her and she had no right to take such a public role in shaping policy and stating what she believed”–this all regarding the ill-fated health care reform effort.
    I suppose this doesn’t surprise me too much. I wonder when a woman becomes President if the “First Man” will be held to the same standard/gag order.

  • newyorkred1

    Yeah, this definitely isn’t news. I think it highlights how much Republican leadership feels like it must cater to a small group of extreme anti-choice social conservatives rather than focusing on a regular smaller-govt agenda. And, ok, yay, Laura Bush is pro-choice, but it’s not like she did anything about it.

  • Monty

    Mrs. Bush just earned some major cool points.

  • annaleighclark

    I’m impressed with her. Especially now, it would’ve been easy for her to just keep her views to herself and stay out of the spotlight; nobody was paying any attention to her, nobody was pushing her to speak up. And she has anyway.
    I hope this leads to more of our conservative/Republican friends to realize that abortion and marriage rights are something that fit right into their beliefs in the right to privacy, and government keeping out of personal choices. I’d like to see people from a whole variety of political viewpoints speaking up for these rights.

  • LN80

    Too little, too late. I’m not even sure why this is news.
    Its so self-serving of her to say this now – six years after a RASH of state constitutional amendments were passed as part of her husband’s presidential re-election strategy. Not everyone who professes to be “for gay marriage” is our ally.
    She did nothing when it mattered most and loses nothing now by saying she supports gay marriage. She is beginning to see herself on the wrong side of history and I think that’s the only reason she’s speaking out now.

  • Hypatia

    This is news to me to! And its nice to here this from a conservative, Republican woman, considering that feminist issues tend to get labeled as “liberal” or just “political” in general issues, up for debate, by the media.

  • lovelyliz

    Props, Laura. It’s nice to see a conservative who is pro gays rights and pro-choice. I have somebody to relate to. It’s also nice that she and her husband can agree to disagree, although I don’t know if I could be with someone whose issues were generally so against my own.

  • Marc

    Of all the wonders of the world, the one we’ll never get an answer to is how on earth omeone lile Laura Welch can end up marrying a conservative, drunken frat boy like George W. Bush.

  • MarySophia

    I always really liked Laura Bush. She strikes me as very above the fray and compassion-driven. As easy as it is to get swept up in vilifying those involved in the other side of a political campaign, Bush always seemed to remember that people, especially under pressure, misspeak and say things that can be twisted. Specifically, her responses to Teresa Heinz’s comment in 2004 that (Laura) Bush had never had a “real” job and Michelle Obama’s statement during the 2008 campaign about being proud of her country for the first time in her adult life, showed a lot of understanding and a dismissal of any negative spin. Nice to hear that she also supports political issues I care about.

  • IAmGopherrr

    I’m confused? WHY is she married to that twit?

  • Tabitha

    If I remember correctly, Barbara Bush said that she was pro-choice after George Sr. left office.
    This is a radical proposition but doesn’t this beg the question of whether men should even get to weight in on the abortion issue. Of course this could never happen but, in my perfect world, that’s how it would be!
    It’s incredibly hard for me to take any anti-choice man seriously on the issue. I think the best stance for men is to be pro-choice (even if they’re not)in acknowledgement of their total lack of knowledge on the issue. They don’t have a uterus, they’ve never experienced a period, they’ve never been through labor, and most men don’t even handle a fair share or the child-rearing duties for the children they do have.
    Men are so quick to point out when women lack experience (Kagan anyone?) in areas they deem necessary (y’know normative male standards).
    But, when it comes to abortion, they just talk, talk, talk! Personally, they probably should keep their opinions to their selves due to a mind-numbing lack of knowledge or experience.
    Yeah, I know I’ll get flak about this but don’t care one bit!!!

  • Mighty Ponygirl

    Meh. I mean, first of all, Americans elected him, not her. Second, I’m not sure if you can really have a “Mutual Respect” situation with someone regarding basic civil rights.

  • jellyleelips

    Fascinating. Just like Cindi McCain posed for those anti-Prop 8 ads. Just goes to show that 90% of being a political wife is keeping your mouth shut.

  • Marc

    Oh, my God, Jessica’s dog can type!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Marc

    You’re just not very good at listening, are you? Did you hear it when she talked about being questioned on Roe v. Wade the day George took office, and had to carefully weigh her answers?
    Like it or not, society put pressure on her to be the perfect first wife – as it does every first lady – and that means not going rogue against her husband’s policy.
    Other than creating controversies, and a shit storm in their marriage, what could have possibly been accomplished with her speaking out?
    Don’t blame the errors of the Bush administration on her – she was simply a civilian serving in high-profiled capacity. If anything, as a feminist, you should be analyzing her life and the the roles of women who serve as arm-candies to leading men, and how gender roles played a big part in it.

  • TabloidScully

    I’m not impressed by this at all. If Laura Bush were truly impressive as a First Lady, she would have voiced these during her husband’s time in office. Instead, she chose to remain silent and appear as a unified front.
    I’m not sympathetic to arguments that she needed to show her support for her husband, leader of the so-called free world. There have been numerous of women who came before her, who were not afraid to show their dissent with their husbands, during their time as First Lady, when they weren’t even legally allowed to own property.
    Boo Laura Bush.

  • Marc

    There is something to be said for certain areas men need to stay hands-off when it comes to women’s rights – simply because feminism, more than just a political and personal movement, is also about the lived experiences, which men lack. I agree on this. It’s the same reason men should be called “pro-feminist” rather than feminist.
    However, your comment in itself does nothing to add to the discussion of how to further women’s advances.
    It’s not the proposition for men to shut the hell up about abortions that bothers me – as there’s something to be said for lived experieces — what bothers me is the fact while you claim that when it comes to abortions, it’s just “talk, talk, talk” for men, but you, yourself, have done just that. You’ve offered no solutions, you simply ranted.
    It’s philosophies like yours, and those of Mary Daly, that have hurt the feminist movement, because they offer so viable solutions, and they do nothing to extend the network of feminists that we need to further our cause.
    We don’t live in your version of the perfect world, and seeing as to how the majority of political power is still held by men, do you want to try to propose something that, you know, will work?

  • cattrack2

    “Teh menz should just shut the fuck up.”
    Oh wait, you didn’t say that, but you may as well have. On some issues men certainly owe women a certain amount of deference, in light of different lived experiences. However abortion is an issue which lends itself to more than one lens. One such lens is when life begins. And wrt that lens, lived experience has less to do with it than individual philosophy & religion.

  • Marc

    Name one, who spoke out on any issue, that was actually successful at changing policies.

  • cattrack2

    A lot of people–including a lot of feminists–felt like because we hadn’t elected Hillary she shouldn’t be in a policy making role. I personally didn’t feel that way but, as you got from your mother, I got that from a broad swath of progressives & feminists of all ages. The big issue was accountability: Who was she ultimately answerable too? Her husband???

  • Adormidera

    Jesus, what’s with all this shaming? You guys are acting as if she said “I don’t support gay marriage or abortion,” as opposed to what she actually said, which was a fantastic and bold thing for any public figure to say.
    I’m proud of her for saying what she did. Why should we reject or demean anyone’s support for these issues? I don’t believe in too little too late. We need all the help we can get, and Laura Bush openly supporting these two key issues is a surprising and very beneficial development.
    I know tons of conservatives who adore her, and who knows? They might reconsider their stance on those issues after hearing this from her.

  • TabloidScully

    Abigail Adams. She famously reminded her husband to “Remember the ladies,” when he failed to advocate for equal treatment of them during his presidency, a move which sparked admiration from progressive-minded women (the word ‘Feminism’ hadn’t yet been coined then) that would get the ball rolling towards the original incarnation of what we now know as Feminism.
    She’s long been considered his intellectual equal and had it not been for her, he never would have been in a position to get involved in politics, never mind become so successful.
    Even before then, she played a powerful role in convincing John and a number of Founding Fathers to support the Revolution. This wasn’t something featured in the HBO mini-series, but if you read Cokie Roberts’ book and David McCullough’s, they are incredibly thorough with just how much of a role Abigail played in setting policy that would go on to define the politics of Adams during his long, political career, and later, those of her son. I think it goes without saying how her speaking out on that issue changed a number of previous policies.
    More recently, Hillary Clinton. A lot of people resented her approaching of taking the bull by the horns, but she expanded the office beyond just being a social organizer. She set the precedent for other First Ladies to come to not only be spokespersons of sorts, but to be socially conscientious of well. Also, being the first First Lady to serve in a high political office following her stint in the White House, I’d argue she was pretty successful at changing the typical policy of women fading in the background while their husbands have libraries built in their names and run golf courses.
    Perhaps you meant current event issues, like abortion, or policies as a synonym for laws. Should have stated so, friend. Because the reality is women have been successful at speaking out on issues to change policies for hundreds of years in this country, and doing it globally for thousands.
    That being said, I agree with an earlier comment which described this as self-serving. She loses nothing by coming out now to show her support for the causes her husband systematically sought to squash. Well done on recognizing your role as a pawn on the chessboard, Mrs. B.
    Now, before your bias on the subject becomes any more goading, allow me to use your own words against you: “However, your comment in itself does nothing to add to the discussion of how to further women’s advances.”
    If you have something more enlightened to say, I’m all ears.

  • MLEmac28

    Just wait, it won’t be long until Jessica’s kid is typing blog posts.

  • Marc

    First of, Laura Bush, as much as Hillary Clinton, helped people on multiple levels, not in a matter of policy change, but through many non-profit projects. Their contributions to women of the Global South, AIDS projects and others, are no different from each other. This goes to show that they did not to speak out on controversial issues to change things.
    And, Adams reminding her husband to remember the “ladies” actually propelled feminism? Really, what world do you live in? Never mind the fact that the 19th Amendment was not passed until more than a whole fucking century after his presidency. Let’s not try to extent her contribution to feminism more than it really was.
    That said, the greatest failure in asking Laura Bush to speak out during her husband’s presidency is in not recognizing your own privilege, and the constructions of what it means to be the wife of policians, and how they often how to take on nurturing roles, as Clinton did, rather than leading roles in policymaking. So, you see, a “normal” wife might have had the chance to speak out against her husband, for for Bush, or Clinton or any other first lady to speak out would have meant the death of their husbands’ careers. Not only is this calling for her to have spoken against his policy a failure to understand the positions of women who are married to powerful men, it’s also a failure to understand the very nature of politics. It’s okay, though, most second-wave radicals and those who share their viewpoints don’t care much for the politicking of things anyway. I get it.
    Lastly, how am I contributing to better the lives of women? Because I am actually thinking and talking about these issues from a gendered, feminist perspective, rather than not taking gender into account and simply ranting, like the fringed-left often likes to you. Yeah, let’s change policies, but let’s be smart about it, and most of all, since this is, you know, a feminist website, let’s discuss Laura Bush through a … I don’t know, how about FEMINIST perspective.

  • Sky

    Some women do not have uteruses, and some men do. Please check your transphobia.

  • MandyV

    She did. At least, her pro-choice views have been no secret.

  • RevanW

    You know, it’s one thing to have differing opinions on such polarizing issues when it’s just within the context of your marriage. Her husband was running the United States for 8 years- him wanting Roe vs. Wade overturned is a LOT different than some Average Joe wanting the same thing, and I believe that gives her a very different set of responsibilities. I don’t know how much he defers to her, and I’m not suggesting that it’s her responsibility to make her husband and his party act in line with her world view.
    But seriously? I like Laura Bush, but I’d much rather ask myself “why would she align herself with someone like George W. given the things he did and, apparently, given her own beliefs?” She is not just a civilian, and she is most certainly NOT “arm candy,” those are both such a huge disservice to the important role first ladies play. There’s a difference between holding someone responsible for another’s actions and just holding them responsible for their own beliefs!

  • OKathyS

    Wow. I have new respect for her!

  • LN80

    Marc, why are you being are being so snide and condescending to many women in this thread? It’s when men feel so entitled to talk to women like this, and presume to be some kind of superior feminist, that I give up conversations. I wish a moderator or more commentators would speak out against this…
    And, P.S., I’m not some “second wave radical.” I’m a young, radical dyke.

  • LN80

    Also, wake me up when she comes out against the rendition to torture that her husband initiated and oversaw during his time in office. Now, THAT would be something!

  • joji

    Um, how about Eleanor Roosevelt?

  • mke

    While I agree with the jist of your post, two things…
    -I don’t think we can take a single comment as the sum of this person’s entire philosophy. Ranting here does not mean that this person has not taken action in other contexts.
    -I don’t think that any comment blaming specific women, famous or anonymous online, for “hurting the feminist movement” is a productive or moral way to advance feminist goals.

  • mke

    I have been noticing this more and more in the comments here… while I understand that we are all passionate about the things we’re discussing, the nasty, sarcastic remarks are uncalled for and inappropriate in a feminist community.

  • syndella

    Are you serious?

  • Toongrrl

    I love you Laura!!!! Laura Silverman too. And Laura Ingalls Wilder

  • Marc

    I am snide and sarcastic to silly people, regardless of gender. Gender is important in any analysis, but it fails in this case, because I don’t give a damn if you’re a woman or man, I give a damn if you can make the world a better place; sitting around and wishing for the perfect world, and throwing out radical unattainable goals isn’t helping anyone.

  • Tabitha

    Gee, Marc. Thanks for charging me with finding a solution to a problem that people have debated for a long, long, time. I’m honored!
    Seriously, on this thread, most our simply offering our opinions about Laura Bush. I simply was observing that, many times, women disagree with their male counterparts on this issue.
    And personally, I think women’s opinions–whether pro-choice or anti-choice–should prevail. So my “solution” is a shift in attitude.
    Yes, men hold most of the political power. I see this as a big problem.
    But many men, like you Marc, seem to see this power as tenuous. Deferring to the female perspective on this one particular issue really rattles you. Wonder why???
    Oh, and sinse you don’t know me, don’t assume that I’m simply sitting around. I assure you that I’m quite active in women’s issues and human rights issues.
    Scary, huh?

  • tryingtosmile

    This is explored interestingly in “American Wife” buy Curtis Sittenfeld
    This fictional book is based on Laura Bush’s life (the author describes it as 85% fiction). It shows how one might end up in a situation where your beliefs take a backseat to your spouses politics (or political career). Not that it really justifies it in any way, but the book does show the series of choices that might put one in that situation.
    Although if you don’t want anything to do with the Bush’s sex life this book may not be for you. Fair warning. It’s not overly graphic or anything, but still.

  • mke

    Neither are “snide and sarcastic remarks,” one would imagine. Your disagreement is absolutely welcome, but I don’t think hostility is ever productive (and you just made clear how much you value productivity in internet comment exchanges).

  • LN80

    Marc, you don’t know anything about me.
    Your commentary on this thread represents the worse of interpersonal sexism.
    You need to reconsider how you respond to women in feminist spaces.

  • makomk

    Almost certainly, and it’s a serious issue. (Transphobia and the erasure of trans women in the feminist movement plays no small part in preventing trans women from having access to adequate healthcare, for example.) In fact, thank you for helping to demonstrate just how seriously this issue is treated.

  • Sky

    Yes. Assuming women can get pregnant, and that men cannot, is transphobic for the reasons I outlined above.

  • RevanW

    That’s completely uncalled for. Transphobic is a gross overstatement for what that post contained, much less what it was even about.

  • Anna

    i think it is important to mind our definitions of “man” and “woman”, especially before we make sweeping generalizations. so thank you for pointing that out Sky.

  • syndella

    Yeah, it is.

  • Marc

    Again – with the gender card – I don’t know you, correct, thus I wasn’t speaking to you based on your gender, but rather, your politics and what you claim.
    It’s funny, because while I am keenly aware that my own gender plays a factor, as well it should, because of my own privilege, but I get the feeling that what I am saying wouldn’t be called sexist if I weren’t male.
    I am not screaming reverse sexism here – I am simply saying that just because someone identifies as a woman does not mean that person gets to give opinions unchecked. In fact, being a woman doesn’t make you a feminist, nor do you get a free pass on not having your opinions questioned and challenged.

  • Marc

    It’s not that I disagree with a shift in attitude – I am all for it, but more than anything, it’s not a viable solution anymore than advocating the way to end violence against women is for women to stop living with and pro-creating with men. It just doesn’t happen. It’s a pie-in-the-sky ideal that doesn’t reflect the political and cultural reality of our world. It’s wishful thinking – and wishful thinking, much like prayer, always fails.
    Deferring to women’s opinions is not a problem for me – deferring to baseless opinions with no substance, and worst yet, no solutions and no viability is what I have a problem with.
    I don’t really care if you’re a man or woman, in the feminist movement or outside of it, if your opinion is as described above, I am going to call you out for it.
    I think I’ve been pretty consistent, in and outside of the movement, on this blog and in activism and politics, to call people out for perspectives that do nothing to add to the feminist movement. Yours was such. Congratulations.
    Just because you identify as female does not mean you get a pass of any kind – and if your opinions do not reflect the feminist perspectives that feminism requires, and if it adds nothing to the discussion, I am free attack such opinions – as I have with Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter and countless others, regardless of gender.

  • Marc

    I would say that, under normal circumstances, the use of “men” and “women” wouldn’t have created such a concern for transphobia – but because of the nature of that post, and the implications of voice, access and personal experiences based on gender, it was important to point out a need to be inclusive of all sexual identities, trans included.