Vice President George H. W. Bush on women’s issues

Published on 9 February 2012

Vice President - January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989

Vice President George H. W. Bush on women’s issues

For better and for worse, in 1988 Vice President George H. W. Bush was seen as the bearer of President Ronald Reagan’s legacy.

This was a boon on topics such as foreign policy, where the Reagan Administration had succeeded in fashioning itself as the bulwark against Communism.

While there were certainly controversial moments in foreign policy, such as Iran-Contra, overall President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H. W. Bush were both viewed as strong, reliable Cold Warriors.

On women’s issues, however, many voters believed the Reagan Administration policies rolled back many rights, chief among them abortion rights and equity in the workplace.

This legacy was a burden that the Vice President had to carry into his battle with Governor Michael Dukakis, an unapologetic liberal who had been a staunch defender of women’s rights for his entire political career.

Vice President Bush’s relative unpopularity with women voters arose in large part from his association with the Reagan agenda, as opposed to his own actions.

As Vice President, Bush did not serve a very prominent public role. He was mostly content to play a limited constitutional and ceremonial role, and was viewed by most as a pragmatist (an image that would later cause him some trouble in his re-election campaign when he seemed to lack what he himself referred to as “the vision thing”).

Nevertheless, Vice President George H. W. Bush took some of the blame for certain policies implemented by the Reagan Administration.

Before Reagan was even elected, he had the Equal Rights Amendment removed from the GOP platform, a move that disappointed some independent and even conservative women voters who otherwise supported the Republican agenda.

Another black eye for the administration was the ”Mexico City Policy”, also known as the Mexico City Gag Rule or the Global Gag Rule.

This policy effectively banned federal funding for international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that offered or promoted abortion.

The action effectively dried up a substantial amount of the money for international family planning. The Reagan Administration also shrunk the size of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a department tasked with investigating sex discrimination in the workplace.

This move happened during a time when sex discrimination claims rose 25%. As President, George H. W. Bush would later nominate Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Anita Hill hearings that followed further contributed to the view that the Republican Party was not committed to equal rights for women.