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January 26, 2012

It’s Politics. It’s Personal. It’s Choice.

Nation’s leading reproductive rights group praises Obama administration’s decision on contraceptive coverage; set to battle in 2012 to protect women’s freedom and privacy

Washington, D.C. - Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, delivered a speech marking the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Roe v. Wade at the organization’s annual dinner on Thursday, January 26, 2012 at the Hilton Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C.  

The program included a keynote address from The Honorable Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania. Susie Essman, comedienne starring in the critically-acclaimed HBO comedy series “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” served as the event’s mistress of ceremonies. The organization also honored the D.C. Abortion Fund, a volunteer-led group that helps low-income access abortion care, with its Champion of Choice award.

NARAL Pro-Choice America's signature event comes as 26 states enacted 69 anti-choice measures in 2011, the second-highest number since the organization started tracking such data in 1995. The record is 70, set in 1999. In addition to state-level attacks, the U.S. House of Representatives held eight votes on choice -related issue—the highest number since 2000.

Keenan's remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow:

I am honored to be here to say thank you for the tremendous support you provide NARAL Pro-Choice America. Tonight’s event is in the middle of what can only be called a War on Women, making our work more necessary than ever.

In Washington, the House of Representatives has gone from trying to redefine rape to allowing hospitals to refuse to provide emergency abortion care to women who will die without it. They also want to force rape survivors who choose abortion care to prove to an IRS agent that they were assaulted.

The callousness and hypocrisy that defines the War on Women doesn’t end in Washington. Last year, states enacted twice as many anti-choice measures than in 2010. Does any of this sound like the smaller, less intrusive government focused on jobs that these lawmakers promised voters?

Without question, the War on Women is out of touch with our country’s values and priorities. Folks, we are putting out fires every day, but we are also seeing examples of hope and courage.

Last November in Mississippi, voters overwhelmingly rejected a so-called “personhood” ballot measure. It would have outlawed abortion and could have banned common forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization.

In Congress last year, Rep. Jackie Speier of California shared her heart-breaking story of terminating a wanted pregnancy when she had encountered health-threatening complications.

Her story transformed the debate and received an outpouring of support from across the country.

And, just last week, the Obama administration stood up to intense lobbying from anti-contraception groups and made a decision that will guarantee insurance coverage of birth control without a copay for millions of American women. This is a huge victory.

Every time a woman goes to the pharmacy and picks up her birth control without a copay we are reminded of why it matters to have a friend in the White House.

The bottom line: ELECTIONS MATTER.

That’s why I believe that, at the end of the day, our determination will crush their anti-choice hypocrisy.

At NARAL Pro-Choice America, we are ready for the battle of 2012.

Choice is a winning issue—and we know it creates a clear contrast between candidates who share our values and their anti-choice opponents. Specifically, we have identified pro-choice women in battleground states who turned out in 2008, but they’re not inclined to do so in 2012. We cannot let them stay home!

By drawing the contrast between pro-choice and anti-choice candidates running for office, from the White House to the state house, we can bring these women voters back into the fold.

NARAL Pro-Choice America is uniquely suited to help accomplish this goal because these women voters care about choice— and they trust us when we tell them why voting pro-choice makes a difference in their lives.

Sometimes it seems overwhelming. I get that. But I would like to leave you with a story that, for me, represents why we do this work.

As many of you know, I grew up in Anaconda, Montana—a town in the heart of the state’s mining country. My dad worked at the copper smelter, and he had a brass tag, and on it was his number, 720.

You see, workers like my dad threw their number in a bucket as they arrived for their shift.

The brass tag was a marker that they had shown up for work. The smelter was a tough and dangerous place, where copper would boil at 1,200 degrees. At the end of the day, workers hung their tags on a pegboard, so their buddies would know they made it out safely.

I laugh sometimes at what my dad would think when I complain about dealing with the ins and outs of Microsoft Office, or if my iPad takes too much time to download an app. There was no control-alt-delete in the smelter. It was a hot, dirty, and dark place full of suffocating dust.

Yet, every day my dad threw his number in the bucket—and he did it for his family, his co-workers, his community, and his country.

My dad passed away when I was in my early 20s, before I had decided to run for public office. I carried his brass tag with me during all of my campaigns in Montana.

To me, my dad’s number symbolized the importance of sticking together. It reminded me of the value of hard work, the value of fair wages and safe working conditions.

And it reminded me why the political process is so important in our lives

At a time when so many Americans are anxious about our country’s future, I think it represents how important it is for us to stand with each other in solidarity for the values we share.

So, tonight, I thank you for showing up at our event, but I need more. I need you to talk about what you heard tonight with someone in your life you’ve never talked to about abortion.

It takes the inconvenience sometimes—of wading into uncertain waters, of starting a conversation when you’re not sure where it might go. Honestly, you might walk into some firestorms. I guarantee you you’ll feel the heat.

But just think of my dad at the smelter. Like him and his coworkers, we will get through this heat together. None of this is easy; but it is important.

Remember, you have the power to reach out to at least one person and connect the personal with the political, to ensure that, vote by vote, we end this War on Women.

I need you to show up every day between now and November 6. Post about choice on Facebook or Twitter. Volunteer at our phone banks. Take a pro-choice friend, neighbor, or family member to the polls.

I need you to stand up for those elected officials who have stood with us—and fight back when they are attacked. I need you to speak up when you hear anti-choice comments or read them online.

Tonight, I need you to throw your number in the bucket for choice.

Thank you for your support, your passion, and the hope you bring to our cause.

I'll see you on the campaign trail.


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