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March 16, 2010

Nancy Keenan's Speech - 15th Annual San Francisco Power of Choice Luncheon

San Francisco, Calif. – The following is a copy of the remarks, as prepared for delivery, by Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, at the organization's 15th annual San Francisco Power of Choice luncheon at the Westin St. Francis Hotel on Tuesday, March 16, 2010.

The program also included a panel discussion moderated by Rose Aguilar – journalist, political blogger and author of Red Highways: A Liberal's Journey into the Heartland.

The panelists included Michelle Goldberg, bestselling author of The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World, Carole Joffe, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of California, Davis, and author of Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us, and Jeff Sharlet, New York Times best-selling author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power (Harper, 2008), a contributing editor for Harper's and Rolling Stone, and a visiting research scholar at New York University's Center for Religion and Media, where he's taught literary journalism and American religious history.

The event's co-chairs are San Francisco philanthropists Dagmar Dolby, the founder of the Power of Choice luncheon, and Nonie Greene, chair of NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation. The chair of the Crystal Circle – comprised of major donors – is San Francisco philanthropist Jane Wolf.

If you have questions, please contact the communications department at (202) 973-3032. The remarks begin below:

Thank you, Nonie [Greene] and Dagmar [Dolby], for that kind introduction.

Before I get into my remarks, I want to say something about the buttons/stickers we're wearing in support of our friends at UNITE HERE, the organization that represents workers at this hotel and hotels across the city. There is a labor-management dispute that we learned of last week. So we want to thank many of the workers here today who are members of this union for their great work. We at NARAL Pro-Choice America stand with you.

Several weeks ago, I was in Union Station in Washington, D.C. around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Getting off the train I walked into hundreds of anti-choice protesters, including many young people, who were waving signs – women regret their abortions and stop abortion in health care.

You know the feeling when you see those signs…frustration… annoyance… impatience… and then anger.

That evening, I thought about the other crowds I had been in, like the crowds that flooded our nation's capital a little more than 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.

The good news is, 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.

Look at health-care reform. 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. And until these numbers change, politicians like Stupak will continue to use women's reproductive rights as a bargaining chip.

Congress isn't the only concern. Two months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a 100-year-old ban on corporate spending in federal 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.

Think about a parental-notification ballot measure with corporate sponsors.

Challenges aren't new to us – that doesn't change, but we can prepare now for those challenges in the years ahead.

For example… those younger protesters holding up anti-choice signs at rallies 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 a Barbara Boxer and a Dianne Feinstein.

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 the late Dr George Tiller of Kansas; a man who was equally passionate and compassionate…and he 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, compassionate care to women. While we cannot replace Dr. Tiller, we can learn from him, and draw inspiration from his heroic example.

Today, 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 and doing your part to make the future a better place for all women.

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

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