FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 1, 2008
Representing America: Not Just Pro-Choice, but Pro-ChoicesPresident of NARAL Pro-Choice America testifies before platform drafting committee
Cleveland, Ohio -- Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, testified at the Democratic National Committee's 2008 Platform Drafting Committee meeting on Friday, August 1 in Cleveland. Keenan, a former elected official from her home state of Montana, is a member of the Democratic National Committee's Platform Committee. Her remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow:
On behalf of NARAL Pro-Choice America and the pro-choice American majority we represent, I am honored to submit this testimony to the committee. I appreciate the efforts of the committee, by providing this public forum, to allow the American people an opportunity to help shape the 2008 party platform. Pro-choice Americans have long recognized the Democratic Party's support for reproductive freedom and choice, and we at NARAL Pro-Choice America are here today to emphasize the importance of the party's continued commitment to those values.
This year, we celebrate the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. As I travel this country, people ask: who is the pro-choice majority? I see three groups:
The first encompasses many of the younger generation: the millennials, who come to this issue from the perspective of access to birth control because it is part of their lives. When you see pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions, or wonder why the price of birth control has gone through the roof on college campuses, the connection between the personal and the political is very clear.
Next are middle-school moms and dads who come to this issue because their children are coming of age and starting to face adult issues. These parents wonder if schools are teaching honest, realistic sex education; they worry about the explicitness they see in popular culture; and they note with concern the country's unacceptably high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
And then, there are women of my generation, who I affectionately call the menopausal militia. These Americans remember the world before Roe, and the desperate and unsafe measures women used to take to terminate pregnancy. They want to continue to make sure Roe is protected, and to ensure that our daughters and granddaughters can make private decisions without putting themselves at risk.
We all come to this issue with a different experience. But we are united in our belief that women have the moral right to make their own choices, and we want the full range of those choices to be part of our conversation. As a former Democratic elected official, I am proud to say that this party has always represented those values.
We recognize that the debate over reproductive rights has often been divisive—and its tenor has kept some Americans from engaging in the conversation. The slogans and bumper stickers that paint this issue in black and white fail to acknowledge the profound complexity most people feel on the issue of abortion. We can honor and respect those opinions while still protecting the fundamental freedoms we worked so hard to secure.
This presidential election, one of the most consequential in our lifetime, offers a critical opportunity for the Democratic Party and its members to re-assert a simple belief: women's lives matter. It is time to re-assert our fundamental respect for women. It's time to remind America that being pro-choice is a moral position. Let us remember: this movement was begun by a group of ministers who were tired of seeing women maimed and killed by unsafe procedures.
In 1967, the Reverend Howard Moody founded what he called "a faith-based organization." His Clergy Consultation Service on abortion eventually included 1,200 clergy members nationwide in the years leading to Roe, referring thousands of women to doctors who helped women safely terminate their pregnancies in the United States and abroad. As Reverend Moody said, "freedom of choice is what makes us human and responsible."
Every year, women in the United States experience almost three million unintended pregnancies, many of which lead to hardship for women and their families, tough decisions, and, for many, abortion. This reality is why we – the pro-choice movement and the Democratic Party – are not just pro-choice, we are pro-choices. As a community, we believe women should have all the means and opportunities available to make the decision that is right for them.
We support and defend a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy safely, with dignity and privacy. We also believe we can and should do more to prevent unintended pregnancy, which would reduce the need for abortion. So we stand for the teaching of honest, realistic sex education. We stand for the right to choose contraception, including the "morning-after" pill. We stand with women who choose to continue their pregnancies, hoping that a compassionate society will support them in the responsibilities of raising a child. And we stand for a woman's right to choose adoption.
We ask of politicians who are doing everything in their power to eviscerate Roe v. Wade: what is it about Roe that prevented them, during the time they controlled Congress and the White House, from improving children's health care, improving child nutrition, improving our schools, improving our child care, improving our social safety net?
How is it moral for the National Right to Life Committee to preach about respecting life while opposing the extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program? How is it moral to force teachers to censor life-saving information from our teens in the classroom, as they must do under the federal government's abstinence-only policy?
I am under no illusion that the people on both sides of this debate will ever see eye to eye on the issue of ending unintended pregnancy. But can't we agree that we want every child born in this country to be wanted, cherished, and loved? Can't we agree to do all we can to ensure that every child is fed, every child can see a doctor, every child receives an education, and every child has the opportunity to succeed in life? I am proud to say that my party – the Democratic Party – is the one advocating these positions. These are the true "pro-life" values.
It is no overstatement to say that reproductive freedom is on the line in this election.
Roe v. Wade is a shell of its former self. Since 1995, American politicians have passed more than 550 laws limiting women's reproductive freedom. In nearly 90 percent of counties across America, there is no access to abortion because there is no abortion provider. The Supreme Court is perched on an ideological precipice, and President Bush already has made an indelible mark on history by pushing the bench further and further to the right.
The good news is that the vast majority of Americans still support a woman's right to make personal, private decisions about abortion. American women and men are tired of the years of attacks on their reproductive freedom. In its 2008 platform, the Democratic Party has an opportunity to make a strong statement re-asserting its longtime commitment to the core American values of freedom and privacy. I have every confidence that you will make them – make us – proud.
Again, I thank the committee for the opportunity to speak to you today, and I thank each of you for your time and service to this important cause.