Sabrina Schaeffer Hopes to Raise Voice of Conservative Women Through IWF

Sabrina Schaeffer
National Journal
Christopher Snow Hopkins
Add to Briefcase
Christopher Snow Hopkins
Sept. 4, 2013, 3:30 p.m.

Wo­men’s groups are of­ten con­sidered to be as­so­ci­ated with third-wave fem­in­ism and, by ex­ten­sion, the pro­gress­ive move­ment. But the In­de­pend­ent Wo­men’s For­um of­ten de­fies that im­pres­sion by chal­len­ging the Demo­crat­ic es­tab­lish­ment.

Meet Sab­rina Schaef­fer, an emer­ging voice on wo­men’s is­sues and an avowed foe of Obama­care. The Cali­for­nia nat­ive is the ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the In­de­pend­ent Wo­men’s For­um, which was foun­ded 21 years ago in the wake of the Clar­ence Thomas hear­ings, when the Su­preme Court nom­in­ee was con­fron­ted with ac­cus­a­tions of sexu­al har­ass­ment that sparked a na­tion­al con­ver­sa­tion.

“There was a sen­ti­ment among a num­ber of wo­men in town that tra­di­tion­al wo­men’s groups “¦ did not ad­equately rep­res­ent wo­men’s voices,” Schaef­fer said on the phone Monday. “There was a harsh voice as­so­ci­ated with wo­men’s-rights act­iv­ists that didn’t ne­ces­sar­ily rep­res­ent every­one.”

Today, the IWF is a voice for wo­men at­tuned to gender-spe­cif­ic is­sues but op­posed to the pro­gress­ive polit­ics es­poused by groups such as the Na­tion­al Or­gan­iz­a­tion for Wo­men and the Amer­ic­an As­so­ci­ation of Uni­versity Wo­men. One of the most con­ten­tious is­sues of the day, the Af­ford­able Care Act, il­lus­trates the schism between IWF and its bet­ter-known coun­ter­parts.

“Wo­men’s groups on the left are very con­cerned with ne­go­ti­at­ing spe­cif­ic ad­vant­ages for wo­men, like free birth con­trol, free an­nu­al ex­ams, elim­in­a­tion of gender-based pri­cing, and so forth,” Schaef­fer said. “But they’ve lost sight of the big­ger pic­ture, which is that wo­men and men both lose when we have a one-size-fits-all sys­tem. We try to high­light that there are two sides to the Obama­care equa­tion — not just the be­ne­fits, but also the costs.”

A nat­ive of Pa­los Verdes, near Los Angeles, Schaef­fer at­ten­ded Middle­bury Col­lege in Ver­mont, in­tern­ing at the Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee between her ju­ni­or and seni­or years. As soon as she left home, her fath­er moun­ted an un­suc­cess­ful bid for the House seat va­cated by then-Rep. Jane Har­man, D-Cal­if. “I al­ways joke that, when I went to col­lege, I was re­placed by a polit­ic­al cam­paign,” Schaef­fer said.

Her first job in Wash­ing­ton was as an as­sist­ant to former United Na­tions Am­bas­sad­or Jeane Kirk­patrick at the Amer­ic­an En­ter­prise In­sti­tute. Schaef­fer has de­scribed the im­plac­able an­ti­com­mun­ist dip­lo­mat, who re­nounced the Demo­crat­ic Party in the early 1980s, as a mod­el for con­ser­vat­ive wo­men.

After a stint at the White House Writers Group, Schaef­fer pur­sued a Ph.D. in Amer­ic­an his­tory at the Uni­versity of Vir­gin­ia but mi­grated to the polit­ic­al-sci­ence de­part­ment after two years. “I real­ized I did not want to be a his­tory pro­fess­or,” she said. “I knew that was not go­ing to get me where I wanted to be in Wash­ing­ton.”

She left the uni­versity with two mas­ter’s de­grees and re­turned to Wash­ing­ton as dir­ect­or of me­dia re­la­tions and pub­lic af­fairs at the Re­pub­lic­an Jew­ish Co­ali­tion and later as a speech­writer for then-Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio. Be­fore ar­riv­ing at IWF, Schaef­fer set up a con­ser­vat­ive polit­ic­al con­sultancy with her hus­band that em­phas­ized em­pir­ic­al re­search and con­trolled ex­per­i­ments.

When it comes to wo­men voters, Schaef­fer does not pre­tend that Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats are on equal foot­ing. In last year’s pres­id­en­tial elec­tion, the in­cum­bent won among wo­men by 12 per­cent­age points. (By con­trast, Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ee Mitt Rom­ney won among men by 8 per­cent­age points.) “It’s no secret Re­pub­lic­ans have a wo­men prob­lem,” Schaef­fer con­ceded in an April op-ed for For­bes.

But, in her view, this has more to do with the clout and where­with­al of pro­gress­ive wo­men’s groups than with the philo­soph­ic­al un­der­pin­nings of the pro­gress­ive move­ment. “The real­ity is when it comes to se­cur­ing wo­men voters, con­ser­vat­ives are out­numbered, out­re­searched, and out­spent,” she wrote.

What We're Following See More »
CNN/ORC Has Clinton Up 5 Points
7 hours ago

Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump 49%-44% in a new CNN/ORC poll out Monday afternoon. But it's Gary Johnson's performance, or lack thereof, that's the real story. Johnson, who had cleared 10% in some surveys earlier this fall, as he made a bid to qualify for the debates, is down to 3% support. He must hit 5% nationwide for the Libertarian Party to qualify for some federal matching funds in future elections.

Rapper Jay Z to Perform Concert for Clinton
7 hours ago
Log Cabin Republicans Don’t Endorse Trump
7 hours ago

While the organization praised him for being "perhaps the most pro-LGBT presidential nominee in the history of the Republican Party," the Log Cabin Republicans refused to endorse Donald Trump for president. The organization, which is the largest gay organization in the United States, said that Trump failed to earn its endorsement because he surrounded himself with anti-LGBTQ people "and committed himself to supporting legislation such as the so-called 'First Amendment Defense Act' that Log Cabin Republicans opposes."

Congress Needs to Deal With Impending Nuclear Plant Closures
8 hours ago

Energy Secretary Ernesto Moniz is warning Congress "that Congress and businesses need to act with more urgency to work out a medley of challenges in promoting nuclear power." A number of nuclear plants are currently on track to close around 2030, unless their licenses are extended from 60 years to 80 years, something that could jeopardize the success of the Clean Power Plan. Moniz called on Congress to pass legislation creating interim storage facilities for used nuclear power.

Trump Pocketed Insurance Money Following 2005 Hurricane
9 hours ago

Donald Trump has said he received a $17 million insurance payment in 2005 following Hurricane Wilma, which he claimed did severe damage to his private club in Florida. However, an Associated Press investigation could not find any evidence of the large-scale damage that Trump has mentioned. Additionally, Trump claimed that he transferred some of the $17 million to his personal account thanks to a "very good insurance policy."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.