Ted Kennedy had an immeasurable impact on the American political landscape during his time in office and has been praised by feminists as a champion of women’s rights. But conservative women do not look upon Kennedy’s record with women as favorable because of the choices he made both in his political and in his personal life.
Conservatives say that the left-wing feminist movement was pivotal in his approach towards women and women’s issues and destructive to the way he viewed women later on in his career.
“Liberal feminists had a willful blind spot when it came to Ted Kennedy’s personal failings with women – failings that would have drawn strong condemnation for most politicians. But Kennedy was an effective champion of left-wing causes, so all was forgiven,” said Carrie Lukas, Vice President for Policy and Economics at the Independent Women’s Forum. “This says more about the hypocrisy of liberal feminist groups than about Senator Kennedy."
Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, said that she had respected the Senator early in his career, but that he was gravely influenced by the feminist movement early on. When Kennedy ultimately changed his pro-life stance to a pro-abortion stance, there were ramifications for women beyond the abortion debate.
“It was only after the Democratic Party changed their system for selecting a Presidential nominee, which then gave superpower to special interest groups, that Ted Kennedy changed his position,” said Wright. “That was a sad choice on his part not only for women, but for the Kennedy family.”
Wright said that it was Kennedy’s sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who was responsible for some of Kennedy’s pro women votes later in his career. He voted for legislation on behalf of those with disabilities and co-sponsored the Pre-Natal Nondiscrimination act (PreNDA) with pro-life Sen. Sam Brownback. Shriver passed away on August 11, just a few weeks before Ted Kennedy.
Wright pointed out that for the most part, Kennedy’s personal life showed an overarching disrespect of women.
“There are some famous episodes in Ted Kennedy’s life that seem to reveal a lack of respect for women,” said Wright. “His refusal to help Mary Jo Kopechne as she was dying – and he was responsible for the situation in which she died – his notorious philandering, using women as sexual objects for his own pleasure, and his adoption of the radical feminist views…showed that he just did not understand and value the unique characteristics of women.”
Keli Carender, Young Republican Chairman in Washington State, agreed that Kennedy’s life was not one that awarded women much respect.
“A man who supports women's rights starts by immediately notifying the police when he has driven off of a bridge so that the woman stuck inside his car, drowning, might have a chance to live,” she said.
“I could not comprehend how a man that had blatantly committed criminally negligent homicide not only managed to wriggle out of any legal consequences, but eventually went on to become the ‘Lion’ of the Senate and the champion of women and the poor,” said Carender. “I was outraged to look back on all the years of support that women's groups gave to Kennedy.”