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MARCH 1, 2001
3:22 PM
CONTACT:  National Organization for Women
Rebecca Farmer 202-628-8669 x116
NOW Announces Emergency Action for Women's Lives
Statement of NOW President Patricia Ireland
WASHINGTON - March 1 - The National Organization for Women is declaring a state of emergency to save women's rights to self-determination and reproductive freedom.  NOW is calling on activists everywhere to take part in a national campaign which we will kick off with an Emergency Action for Women's Lives in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, April 22.

The Emergency Action for Women's Lives will target the U.S. Senate to protect our rights and to stop the packing of the U.S. Supreme Court with anti-abortion rights nominees. The Action will cap two weeks of in-state lobbying during the Senate's spring break from April 7 through 22. It will include virtual lobbying to inundate Senators with e-mails when they return to the nation's capital.

NOW is proud to stand with allies who join in the call for this emergency campaign: the Feminist Majority, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, the National Black Women's Health Project, Catholics for a Free Choice, the National Asian Women's Health Organization, the American Medical Women's Association and the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy. All of us feel the same sense of urgency and the imminence of the dangers and the full extent of the threats to our rights posed by the Bush administration.

Bush's attacks on women's reproductive freedom, beginning even before he took the oath of office, have convinced me that, even though he has tossed aside the campaign promise of "compassionate conservatism," there's one promise he means to keep. The man who in 1998 declared he would do everything in his power to restrict abortion now has a great deal more power to work with and he clearly intends to use it.

The nomination of John Ashcroft was a slap in the face of supporters of reproductive freedom. Ashcroft not only opposes abortion even in cases of rape, incest and danger to a woman's health, but also rejects some of the most popular and effective forms of birth control.

On his first day at work in the Oval Office, Bush issued an executive order eliminating international family planning funds to organizations that offer abortion counseling or lobby their own governments in favor of abortion rights, putting the lives and health of women around the world at risk.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson has indicated he will revisit the Food and Drug Administration's approval of mifepristone. And anti-abortion rights forces in the House of Representatives have already introduced a bill to limit its availability--a bill Bush is sure to sign.

And reporters overheard our new president boasting at a Catholic Charities luncheon that his so-called faith-based initiatives would advance the anti-abortion rights cause.

This is just the beginning. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has often been the critical fifth vote in support of legal abortion, reportedly will retire at the end of this term. Others may retire soon as well.

The Bush administration is committed to actions and strategies that limit reproductive freedoms, such as eliminating life-saving stem cell research, criminalizing abortion providers, reducing availability of birth control and denying funding for sex education that actually educates students about sex.

We do not declare a state of emergency and call this campaign lightly. We fully appreciate the gravity of placing ourselves on such a high state of alert and calling on activists to disrupt their lives and set aside business-as-usual. But we simply refuse to be the generations that both win and lose the rights to birth control and abortion. We are determined not to risk a generation of women's lives and opportunities without reproductive rights.

All of us will need to take extraordinary measures in these dangerous times. This is our opportunity literally to change the course of history and politics in this country. I know that, fighting together, we are up to the task.


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