TAMPA, Fla.-On Tuesday, pro-life supporters-including dozens of delegates to the Republican National Convention (RNC)-feted Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly with a giant, three-tier birthday cake trimmed in red, white, and blue at a pro-life reception at the Florida Aquarium. Schlafly-a longtime pro-life activist-turned 88 earlier this month.
Reaching nearly nine decades isn't the only milestone for Schlafly. In an interview with me here in Tampa, Schlafly said this year's RNC marks the 16th consecutive convention she's attended.
She attended her first GOP convention in 1956 at San Francisco's Cow Palace-an indoor arena. Republicans re-nominated President Dwight D. Eisenhower that year, and crooner Nat King Cole addressed the assembly. By 1972, Schlafly had founded the Eagle Forum, an organization supporting conservative causes, including pro-life activism, and she continued to attend conventions.
In 1984, she served on the GOP platform committee with the late Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois and helped craft the core of a pro-life plank that remains in the party's platform today.
This year, Schlafly is serving as a Missouri delegate and again as a member of the party's platform committee-a role she's held at several conventions over the last 46 years. (Delegates of each state choose one man and one woman to serve on the national platform committee that meets before each convention to hammer out language for the party's positions on a range of issues.)
If Schlafly is growing weary of the work, she doesn't show it. At a hotel near Tampa Bay, she moved through the halls with ease, sporting a red suit with white trim and her trademark golden eagle pin.
She called the week of platform work "grueling" but believes it's the strongest platform the party has published in years. With Democratic accusations that Republicans are extreme on social issues like abortion and marriage, the platform retained its conservative positions on both and called for protection of the Defense of Marriage Act-a law the Obama administration said it would no longer defend.
The platform also includes a section on religious liberty, and calls for freedom of conscience for religious institutions that provide healthcare insurance to their employees.
Schlafly-who helped draft the pro-life plank again this year-remembered past battles in the committee when fellow Republicans wanted to soften the pro-life language. That wasn't the case this year, she said, "In previous conventions it's been a knock-down, drag-out battle. But we've won, and they don't fight us on it anymore."
The veteran delegate-who's seen 11 different presidents serve since she first began attending conventions in 1956-acknowledges that GOP nominee Mitt Romney hasn't talked about much abortion during his campaign but says she believes he'll embrace pro-life positions if he's elected.
If he doesn't, Schlafly says she'll push back again-she's already planning to attend the 2016 conventions, when she's set to turn 92.
Follow WORLDmag.com's in-depth coverage of the Republican National Convention all week.