10/11/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Irony of Sarah Palin's Extreme Conservatism

Yes, Governor Sarah Palin has added a dash of excitement to the Republican ticket, a party which has no history of reaching out to women. Let's remember what this party stands for: the appointment of Justices who are determined to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In past elections, it was difficult to get voters to focus on the importance of Supreme Court appointments. It seemed too far off, too hypothetical. That has changed in 2008. We're not talking about the distant future, we are talking now. Senator McCain has told the world that the justices he would appoint would be in the mold of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. He has made that promise not only to the far right; he has made it to the nation.

How likely is it that the next President will have the opportunity to fill vacancies? Very. Justice Stevens is 88 years old. Justice Ginsberg is 75 and has had bouts of ill health. Justice Breyer is 70, and Justice Souter, 68, has expressed a desire to return to his native New Hampshire. All four justices have been strong supporters of a woman's right to choose. They also have been in the minority on a host of decisions regarding civil rights and equal pay. The one which affected women most directly was Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. That 5-4 decision denied Lily Ledbetter, a supervisor on the factory floor, the right to sue for pay discrimination because she had not filed her case within 180 days. She found out she had been paid less than her male counterparts, after 20 years.

If you think that the McCain/Palin ticket has suddenly become a friend to women, just look at the make-up of the Democratic and Republican conventions. The Democratic convention, for the first time in history, had more female delegates than male, 51-49%, following a steady climb to gender equality.

The Republican convention break down was over 60% male. They moved in the opposite direction; fewer women than in 2004 and 2000.

Red state feminism may be exciting, even interesting, but it does not speak to average women, whether they are stay-at-home moms or working-moms or neither. If they take away Reproductive Choice, they will have taken away the most important decision a woman has to make: when and whether to have a child. Throughout history, women have struggled to free themselves from those who would dictate that decision, instead of acknowledging that women have the moral sense to make that decision themselves.

Wouldn't it be ironic if the McCain/Palin appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court thrust us back in time to the dark days when women had no choice.

Madeleine M. Kunin is the former Governor of Vermont and was the state's first woman governor. She served as Ambassador to Switzerland for President Clinton, and was on the three-person panel that chose Al Gore to be Clinton's VP. She is the author of Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead from Chelsea Green Publishing.