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February 2, 2010

Nancy Keenan's Speech - 37th Roe Anniversary Luncheon

"Attitude is Everything"

Washington, D.C. – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, delivered a speech marking the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Roe v. Wade at a luncheon on Tuesday, February 2 at the Hilton Washington Hotel in Washington, DC.

The program included a keynote address from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and honored Dr. George Tiller's service to women with its Lifetime Achievement Award. A representative of the Tiller family was on hand to accept this award for the physician who was shot inside his Wichita, Kansas church last May. The title of Keenan's speech references a phrase often associated with Dr. Tiller.

In addition to the speeches and award presentation, Oscar- and Emmy-nominated actress Amy Madigan, a member of NARAL Pro-Choice America's board of directors, served as the event's mistress of ceremonies.

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

Thank you, Amy [Madigan], for that kind introduction. Thanks to our co-chairs and honored guests.

What a year…we've been on a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows.

A couple of weeks ago, I returned from a trip to New York and walked into Union Station to hundreds of anti-choice protesters, including many young people. At that moment, a rush of emotions consumed me: frustration… annoyance… impatience… and then anger, as I saw sign after sign that read "Women regret their abortions" or "stop abortion in health care." I felt like standing up on the visitors' information desk and screaming…I AM PRO-CHOICE AMERICA!

I know…it would have made me feel better, but it wouldn't have changed the situation we face. As I rode home on the Metro, I thought about the crowds that flooded the city streets one year ago for the Inauguration of President Obama. We felt pride, euphoria, hope, and relief… relief that we had a pro-choice president in the White House and many more allies in Congress who share our values.

And, let me tell you, together we have made a great deal of progress for women. President Obama repealed the global-gag rule and eliminated funding for two failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. We lifted the ban on Washington, D.C.'s ability to use local funds to pay for abortion services for low-income women. We increased funding for family-planning programs at home and around the world. And history was made as federal judge Sonia Sotomayor became Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Yet every time we took a step forward, a massive wind of resistance was building and began to blow back at us.

We knew that health-care reform would pose challenges. Despite our recent wins, the number of anti-choice politicians still outnumber our pro-choice allies… opening the door for Bart Stupak to hijack health reform. To add salt to the wound, the pro-choice candidate lost the race to replace our great champion, Senator Edward Kennedy. And then the Supreme Court opened the floodgates for corporate spending in elections. That means that corporations with an anti-choice bias can open their checkbooks and spend money against pro-choice candidates. Remember how we boycotted Dominos Pizza because the corporation gave money to anti-choice causes? Well, now a corporation like Dominos can engage in the political process in ways we have never seen before.

Look, we face challenges – and we could wring our hands, whine, complain, or blame our friends. Or, we can do something about it.

For example… those younger protesters holding up anti-choice signs at Union Station are a snapshot of the future. Sadly, somewhere in that crowd is tomorrow's Bart Stupak. While we fight these immediate challenges, we have to take important steps for the future – for every Bart Stupak, we need two Al Frankens. That's why we're reaching out to millennial voters (the young women and men under 30). They are larger than the baby-boom generation. They are the most diverse in our nation's history. They live in a world where technology has revolutionized how they engage in their community and act on their passions.

Many are not familiar with the significance of Roe v. Wade. They don't share the memories of the pre-Roe era of illegal abortion. Their experiences are different – but their potential to build an even stronger pro-choice movement is unparalleled.

Standing on the shoulders of great women and men who never wavered in the face of adversity, we will build the next generation of diverse, empowered and passionate pro-choice leaders.

We have no better example of an individual who never wavered than Dr George Tiller; a man who taught us some valuable lessons. As he was under assault everyday, Dr. Tiller told his staff and family that "attitude is everything." Even under intense harassment, he never gave up or allowed his opponents to stop him from providing vital care to women. While we cannot replace Dr. Tiller, we can learn from him, and draw inspiration from his heroic example.

I leave you with one call to action. In honor of Dr. Tiller's legacy, adopt an attitude…of resolve, of fearlessness, of never giving up on making the future a better place for all women.

Thank you for being here today, for your confidence, and for your continued support.

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