Yesterday, April 17th, former first lady Barbara Bush passed away. Bush was married to former President George H.W. Bush, and she and her husband ran the White House as Republicans. Bush was known for her spitfire personality, but lesser known was the fact that despite her party affiliation, she took a surprisingly liberal stance on several social issues — including a woman’s right to choose.
According to Time, the former first lady often responded to questions about her stance on abortion by replying simply, “I’m not going to tell you,” which many took as a sign that she disagreed with her more conservative husband on the issue. A 1992 article in the New York Times makes Bush’s relatively pro-choice position even more apparent; in the article, Bush was quoted saying that the Republican party should not include abortion in its official political platform, although she insisted her stance was neutral.
“I’m not being outspoken or pro or con abortion,” Bush told reporters in 1992. “I’m saying abortion should not be in there, either pro or con.”
And according to CNBC, in her 1994 book Barbara Bush: A Memoir, the former first lady wrote even more candidly about her position.
“Let me say again,” she wrote. “I hate abortions, but just could not make that choice for someone else.”
Bush also made a visible effort to reach out to AIDS patients during a time when there were rumors that the disease was spread by touch. After her husband was sworn into office in 1989, she visited a hospice for children with the disease in Washington, D.C., where she was photographed holding a baby.
And the former first lady, along with other members of her family, was a vocal critic of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election. In a 2016 CBS interview, she once said that she didn’t “understand why people are for him.”
Bush was 92 years old when she passed away yesterday after battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure. She was the second woman in history to serve as both the wife of one president and the mother of another. And her legacy, including her more liberal take on social issues, will continue to live on. Our thoughts are with Bush’s loved ones during this time.