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Gov. Brownback Doubles Down on Attacking Reproductive Rights

Sam Brownback_small.jpgThere's something happening in Kansas that's not making national headlines but should be. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is doubling down on his anti-choice agenda. It's extreme. And he's showing no sign of stopping.

Anti-choice Gov. Brownback already signed a bill that manipulates Kansas' tax code to limit abortion care, and now he's poised to sign two more bills that would severely restrict women's access to affordable health care in the Sunflower State.

One bill - the state budget bill - includes a provision that would effectively defund reproductive-health clinics, which many women and families rely on for a full range of reproductive-health services. For many low-income families, these clinics are their only means of accessing basic health care. The second bill would extend unnecessary tax penalties on reproductive-health clinics for making renovations or even holding fundraising events!

Don't be fooled, these bills and tax penalties are really just a way for extreme anti-choice politicians to further restrict access to reproductive-health care and force their personal beliefs on all Kansas families.

Gov. Brownback has never been shy about his extreme anti-choice record: "If a pro-life bill [comes] to my desk, I will sign it. I am not backing away from that."

If he signs these bills, Gov. Brownback will pile onto his already long anti-choice resume. Just last year, Gov. Brownback signed an extreme anti-choice bill into law to effectively ban abortion in almost all cases and could outlaw many common forms of contraception, stem-cell research, and in-vitro fertilization.

In 2012, Gov. Brownback signed a bill that allows doctors to withhold medical information if they think it will lead a woman to choose abortion or refuse treatment like chemotherapy for cancer patients if they think it would end a pregnancy. Even worse the same bill requires that doctors lie to women.

If these attacks to deny women control over the bodies and futures weren't bad enough, Gov. Brownback has spent roughly $1 million in taxpayer dollars to defend these unconstitutional laws in the courts.

Gov. Brownback has two more chances to stand up for women's freedom and privacy. It's time that he put his anti-choice, anti-woman agenda aside and prove that he's not going to punish working families and Kansan women just to score political points.

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Recognizing National Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness month, and we'd like to pay tribute to survivors of sexual assault by recognizing progress that's being made in the movement to make sexual assault a thing of the past.

Sexual assault is still a serious problem that must be addressed. While we still have a long way to go in terms of developing substantive solutions to preventing these crimes and tackling the negative stigma associated with sexual assault, elected officials across the country are taking steps forward to provide appropriate protections and care for survivors.

Here are four ways elected officials across the country are working to bring justice to sexual assault survivors:

1. In California, Asm. Mike Gatto is collaborating with a sexual assault survivor to make sure colleges and universities report sexual assault to police.

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Sponsor: California Asm. Mike Gatto

Asm. Mike Gatto was horrified to learn that colleges were sweeping sexual assaults under the rug, so he contacted a student who, with several of her peers, had filed a federal complaint against UC Berkeley for not taking their assaults seriously. He's written legislation to require campus officials to report all sexual violence to the police unless survivors don't want their assault to be reported or wish to remain anonymous. This bill passed unanimously through Assembly Public Safety Committee and will head to Assembly floor for a vote.

2. California is moving a bill to make sure police process rape kits more quickly.

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Sponsor: California Asm. Nancy Skinner

Right now in California, there's no law that puts a deadline on how quickly rape kits must be processed. No wonder only 21-percent of sexual assaults resulted in arrest in 2012. If this bill passes, it could help bring justice for countless survivors of sexual assault.

3. In Tennessee, the state House and Senate unanimously passed legislation that eliminates the current three-year statute of limitations for survivors of rape.

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Sponsors: Tennessee Sen. Mark Norris and Rep. Joe Towns

This new legislation would help survivors of rape to bring their attackers to justice regardless of how much time has passed after the vicious attack. Some victims of rape may need time to cope with their assaults and now will no longer be burdened by the three-year statute. With the statute removed, victims can work with the state to prosecute when they are ready to come forward.

4. Maryland is moving legislation to bring justice to rape survivors.

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Sponsor: Del. Ariana Kelly

Right now, only one hospital in every Maryland county provides the type of exam that can be used to prosecute the attacker. If a rape survivors show up at the wrong emergency room, the survivors could be told to drive to another hospital! This common sense bill requires that every hospital establish procedures to treat survivors of sexual assault and was passed unanimously by both Maryland houses.

We still have a long way to go, but every step and every piece of legislation to curb sexual assault and give justice to survivors is a step to making the world a safer place for us all.

Thank you for joining us in recognizing National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

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The Anti-Choice Agenda to Deny Information and Reproductive-Health Care

Chalkboard_small.jpgThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a new report out on teen pregnancy, and called out how ineffective "abstinence-only" programs really are:

"Only four out of 10 [teenagers] said they had been given information both on how to say no to sex and about birth control. And 83 percent of the boys and girls who had sex said they had not received any sex education before their first time."

Woah. That's just scary. No wonder the U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate of any developed nation.

This is what the anti-choice movement is all about: keeping people from getting the facts and from making the health-care decisions that are right for them. That means a lot of teens aren't learning what they need to know to stay healthy.

Take a look at four ways the anti-choice movement's agenda is playing out across the country:

  1. "Abstinence-only" programs: Not only has the anti-choice movement made it their agenda to withhold information from young people across the country, "abstinence-only" programs actually promote misinformation and use shaming tactics to block teens from accessing birth control or their full range of reproductive options. Only 28 states require sex education that teaches about birth control.
  2. In one Mississippi classroom, students of an "abstinence-only" program were made to pass around an unwrapped piece of chocolate to show that sexual activity is dirty and shameful. A school district in Texas compared sexually active teens to "chewed up gum" that should be thrown away. Another program taught students that if they have sex they're like a "rose without petals." Education is supposed to encourage and inspire students, not shame them and make them feel worthless. The problem is these programs just don't work. Teens will still have sex, but they have no idea of the risks or consequences.

  3. Anti-choice "crisis pregnancy centers" (CPCs): The anti-choice movement's agenda of denying information and using shame isn't only happening in schools. Our opponents have created "crisis pregnancy centers" to stop women from choosing abortion. These fake clinics are meant to look like abortion providers to lure women facing an unintended pregnancy through their doors, but then they tell women lies like "abortion causes breast cancer," "Condoms are porous," and "abortions will ruin your chance of having children in the future."
  4. Attacks on contraceptive coverage: For the anti-choice movement, withholding information isn't extreme enough. They are also working to let bosses who oppose birth control refuse to cover it for their employees and two of their cases have gone all the way to the Supreme Court. One in three women struggles to afford birth control, so if these bosses win it's going to mean that a lot of women could lose access altogether.
  5. Laws that close abortion clinics: Anti-choice politicians in states like Texas close reproductive-health clinics, including ones that provide abortion. We're seeing this happen in Ohio where new restrictions are forcing clinics out of business because they cannot comply quickly enough with unnecessary transfer agreements with local hospitals. These Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws have one goal: shut down clinics where women can get safe and legal abortion care. And, sadly, in states that are dominated by anti-choice politicians, these laws are doing just that.
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Rallying for Birth Control at the Supreme Court
Justin Cohen is a staff member of the Communications department at NARAL Pro-Choice America.

DC 325 rally.pngAs snow began to fall earlier today, we joined more than 40 women's health groups and progressive allies, along with hundreds of activists for our "Not My Boss's Business" rally outside the Supreme Court.

The court began to hear oral arguments for two cases brought by for-profit companies who want to give bosses the right to deny their employees birth control coverage just because they oppose it. The Affordable Care Act's birth-control coverage benefit is one of the biggest reproductive-health wins in a generation, but that makes it a target for anti-choice forces.

The frigid weather wasn't going to stop us from having our message heard - personal health decisions should be made by a woman and her doctor. It is not any boss's business!


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


Now it's up to the Supreme Court to rule in favor of women's reproductive health-care access. Make sure to you follow our hashtag #NotMyBossBusiness to stay up to speed with our campaign!


Happy Birthday to the Affordable Care Act!

Justin Cohen is a staff member of the Communications department at NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Remember what it was like when insurance companies behaved like being a woman was a pre-existing condition? Fortunately those days are over! Today is the four-year anniversary of when pro-choice President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law.

This health care law is one of the biggest advancements for women's reproductive health in a generation. Thanks to the ACA, more than 30 million Americans will have access to affordable family-planning services, better access to contraception, and maternity care.

Help us celebrate this milestone and get the word out about all the ways our lives have improved because of the ACA. Share our graphic on Facebook and show your support for this incredible piece of legislation that is benefiting women across the country.

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Under the ACA, 27 million women now can access no-cost birth control using their insurance coverage. Who would argue with that, right? I'll tell you who: certain narrow-minded bosses who want to put their personal beliefs ahead of health care for employees - they'll stop at nothing to restrict women's access to contraceptive coverage.

In fact, we're heading to the Supreme Court on Tuesday to defend the birth-control policy against these attacks.

Bosses at Hobby Lobby and Conestoga believe it should be up to them whether to provide their employees birth control coverage. If these bosses win, they could possibly be empowered to deny any kind of health-care coverage for any reason!

Employees should not be held at the mercy of their bosses. So we're teaming up with more than 40 women's health groups and progressive allies, and 40 religious groups to say that birth control is not my boss's business. If you can, join us in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday to show that a decision in favor of these bosses would be completely out of touch with most Americans. We will be meeting in front of the Supreme Court at 8:30 a.m. You can RSVP today!

Follow our hashtag #NotMyBossBusiness to stay up to speed if you can't join us in person.

We know that when women have control over their own health care, they're empowered to make essential decisions about their families and their futures. That's why we're going to continue to fight every day for women's access to comprehensive reproductive-health care.

Happy birthday, ACA!

Women's History Month: Recognizing Pro-Choice Heroines

It's March, which means it's Women's History Month!

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis became a household name overnight when she took an epic stand against extreme anti-choice politicians in her state. There are so many pro-choice champions that few are ever recognized for their hard work and dedication to protecting women's reproductive freedom. That's why this year, we're recognizing some amazing heroines of the pro-choice movement that stood up to anti-choice attacks in their states, and work tirelessly to protect and expand women's access to reproductive-health care, birth control, and abortion services.

In New Mexico, we recognize Dolores Huerta, a worker's and women's right activist who was a key figure in battling the first city-wide abortion ban proposed in Albuquerque. In an ad produced by NARAL Pro-Choice America, Advocates for Youth, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and Young Women United, Dolores said:

"I am Dolores Huerta, New Mexican, and Catholic mother of eleven. Women are the only ones who should make decisions about their bodies. We cannot allow others to interfere in our lives. Decisions about abortion belong with a woman, her family, and her doctor. I have fought for working people all of my life. Join me and defend the rights, dignity and the respect of all women and families."

Huerta has been fighting for civil rights for more than six decades. She recently received our Champion of Choice Award. Check out this video of her acceptance speech:

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In Massachusetts, we recognize Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose office defended the state's pro-choice buffer zone law at the Supreme Court, which NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts supported strongly. This law protects patients and medical professionals from being harassed and intimidated by anti-choice protestors who mob reproductive-health clinics.

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Attorney General Coakley released a statement after the buffer zone oral arguments and said:

"I am proud that Massachusetts passed the buffer zone law to help people access reproductive health care free from harassment... I thought the justices asked insightful questions about the constitutional balance that this law must, and we believe does, strike. I am hopeful that they will conclude that the buffer zone statute appropriately protects speech, health care access, and public safety, and should remain law."

In Oklahoma, we're like to recognize Rep. Constance Johnson who led the charge against recent legislative attacks in her state.

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When politicians in the Oklahoma state legislature pushed for extreme anti-choice "personhood" legislation that would ban abortion care with no exception for survivors of rape or incest and could also ban in-vitro fertilization, Sen. Johnson fought back.

Sen. Johnson introduced her own tongue-in-cheek bill to ban "non-procreative ejaculation" and expose the hypocrisy of anti-choice politicians who would endanger women's health:

"As a woman and a 31-year veteran of the legislative process in Oklahoma, I am increasingly offended by state law trends that solely focus on the female's role in the reproductive process. With Oklahoma's new, never-before-experienced Republican majority, we are seeing enactment of more and more measures that adversely affect women and their rights to access safe medical procedures when making reproductive-health care decisions."

In New Hampshire, we recognize former NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire board member and co-chair of the New Hampshire Reproductive Rights legislative caucus, state Rep. Candace White Bouchard.

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Year after year, Rep. Bouchard stands up to legislative attacks on choice and received NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire's Champion of Choice award in 2012. Rep. Bouchard co-sponsored the New Hampshire buffer zone bill and was lauded by her pro-choice peers when she bravely refused to allow an anti-choice colleague to speak against abortion to the full House on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Over in Michigan, we must recognize Michigan Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer who took a stand and bravely shared her own personal story of sexual assault to fight the anti-choice "rape insurance" bill in Michigan. She spoke out against her extreme anti-choice colleagues, saying:

"As a legislator, a lawyer, a woman and the mother of two girls, I think the fact that rape insurance is even being discussed by this body is repulsive, let alone the way it has been orchestrated and now shoved through the legislature."Those of you on the other side of the aisle are all too happy to be puppets in this offensive game impacting women's lives... This is by far one of the most misogynistic proposals I've ever seen in the Michigan legislature."

You can watch state Sen. Whitmer's testimony below:

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In California, we recognize state Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, who authored a law in 2013 that expands access to safe abortion care in the Golden State.

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This new law, which NARAL Pro-Choice California organized around to help pass, will increase the number of medical professionals, including midwives and nurses, who can provide early abortion care.

We honored Asm. Atkins in our 23rd edition of Who Decides? The Status of Reproductive Choice in the States for her amazing work protecting and expanding women's reproductive rights in California.

We know that the brave work of these pro-choice heroines would have been possible without contributions from pioneers and advocates of women's reproductive rights. That's why we'd like to recognize former Missouri state Sen. Harriet Woods for being a trailblazer in politics. Sen. Woods' political career spanned more than three decades. She served in the Missouri legislature with just a handful of women in the 1980s and went on to become the first, and so far the only, female Lieutenant Governor of Missouri.

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Sen. Woods' loss in a tight race for U.S. Senate against incumbent John Danforth led to the creation of the pro-choice democratic non-profit EMILY's List. From 1991-1995, Sen. Woods served as the president of the Women's Political Caucus and continued her work fighting for women alongside NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri until she passed away in 2007.

As we recognize pro-choice heroines of the past we also look to the future and to up-and-coming pro-choice leaders who are just getting started on their paths to protecting women's freedom and privacy. New pro-choice supporters and activists pop up every day across the country. They're the ones who will lead the charge and make sure women continue to have access to comprehensive reproductive-health care and abortion access.

That's why we're also we recognizing NARAL Pro-Choice California PrivacyPAC-endorsed California state senate candidate Sandra Fluke.

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Fluke garnered national attention when she was denied the right to testify at the now-infamous all-male panel on birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Fluke has since dedicated her career to social justice and public advocacy. She recently attended NARAL Pro-Choice America's San Francisco Power of Choice Luncheon as a special guest and panelist.

We're so thankful to have pro-choice champions defending women's reproductive freedom in every state. These elected officials, along with countless others, work every day to make sure women have safe, legal, access to all of their reproductive options.

In honor of Women's History Month, we recognize and thank these elected officials for their service and for not backing down to anti-choice legislative attacks across the country.

Honoring America's Dedicated Abortion Providers

Doctors office_small.jpgToday is National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day!

Any woman who experiences an unintended pregnancy and chooses abortion deserves the same care and compassion as any other medical patient. That's why the role of abortion providers is essential to women's reproductive-health care.

Abortion providers across the country risk their lives to ensure women can access abortion care with compassion. Not only do they put their safety on the line, some also travel thousands of miles to make sure they can provide care in areas where there is no abortion provider on staff. That's why we work every day to protect women's reproductive freedom and abortion providers across the country.

We hear every day from women who are grateful for their provider's compassionate care and assistance when choosing the best reproductive-health option:

Nicole, 32:

I never thought I would have an abortion. Last summer I made the heart-wrenching decision to terminate a very much wanted pregnancy. At our 12 week scan we discovered that our baby boy had an 11 mm cystic hygroma and further genetic tests confirmed that he had trisomy 18. Trisomy 18 is not compatible with life. Our baby had a less than 5% chance of even making it to term and if he did he would have died shortly after birth. We couldn't bear the emotional distress of knowing that each day could have been the day our baby would die in the womb and if we made it to birth it would only be to bury him shortly after. I still cry every day for our baby we lost but I know we made the right decision for us and I'm so thankful that we had the option to make that decision. I am also so thankful for the compassionate doctors and genetic counselors we met along the way.

KC, 30, Massachusetts:

At 35 weeks in a very wanted pregnancy, my baby was diagnosed with serious brain malformations. Her prognosis was grim. It was not known how long she would live, but it was certain that she would suffer for all of her brief life. My husband and I were devastated.

It was so late in my pregnancy that there was only one clinic in the entire country that could legally take us. We knew what our choice was and didn't need more time to think about it. We knew this was right. We scrambled for the money and hopped a plane the next business day to take us to our procedure. Our care was incredible. Everyone was so compassionate and very serious about keeping me safe. I miss my baby terribly, but I know that I did for her what I would want my parents to do for me. We saved her, and there is great peace in that.

I am so thankful to our clinic and caregivers for helping me and my baby, but at the same time I am angry that, had we found out only one day later, all doors would have been closed. I'm hurt that we had to leave our home and support network to get our care. I'm enraged that this option rested on fast access to $30,000 for trip and care. It is incredibly unjust that a family without contacts to such resources would have no choice at all. I am deeply saddened that being open about my loss might risk harassment or even violence against my family and clinic. I despair that something so close and personal and poignant be subjected to a raging war over women's rights. I am scared that other loving families in my place will run out of safe and humane options that they can live with.

Eve, 37, Alaska:

We were using birth control and it failed. I found out I was pregnant after I missed my period (at five weeks). I live in one of the larger cities in Alaska, but because the clinic does not have an abortion provider, they fly one in at regular intervals. I waited four weeks for a provider. The clinic was wonderful, caring and understanding (to the point of letting me make a backup appointment just in case the doctor was weathered out and could not fly in). I am lucky because I do not live off the road system and have a supportive family. I can only imagine what the wait might be like for someone with little support out in a village somewhere off the road system, especially with all the scary self-help advice out there on the internet. I am grateful for action groups working to keep access to abortion open and the procedure itself safe and legal. Finally, I cannot thank the clinic and the providers enough for their time and caring when I needed it.

Halina, 21, North Dakota:

While switching from different birth controls I became pregnant. I was not mentally or physically ready for a child. I chose to have an abortion. My husband and I are very grateful we had a choice in this decision. The clinic we went to was the only one available in North Dakota, they were very nice, very helpful, they made sure I was fully educated with my choice and I am very thankful for that. Banning abortion gives NO choice for women and to me, that's just wrong.

Erica, 32, Texas:

I thought I was doing everything right....

While I was certain that I was using the pill correctly, I did manage to get pregnant. I called him and we decided that we were far too young and not financially able to have a child together. I was working two jobs and I was a full time student. I was paying my way and helping pay bills for my parents.

In the end, the abortion was performed with a lot of guidance from the clinic. They made sure I was absolutely informed of my choices and I made the right one for myself and my body. Looking back, I never regret my decision for one second - other than getting pregnant in the first place. Now, I'm successful and married to a wonderful man and we are trying to have our first child. The panic I felt when I found out I was pregnant really made me understand the women who retreated to back alley abortions - I would have done ANYTHING to have my abortion and I am so thankful that I didn't have to make that kind of a decision.

Evie, 30, Texas :

My boyfriend knew before I did, and it was just a side comment from him about how beautiful I looked that made me even think to buy a pregnancy test. When I told him, he was his usual supportive and gentle self, and apologized. Then promised to support me however I wanted to proceed.

He did all the research, found me the best abortion clinic in the state...The doctors were a husband and wife team, a loving pair of caregivers who were so obviously in this practice for all of the kindest reasons.

The doctor who performed my exam apologized, seemingly humiliated, before using the vaginal ultrasound probe to show me the pea-sized [pregnancy].

About 48 hours later, my seemingly constant "morning" sickness was over and I was no longer pregnant. It was painless. I felt supported. I had an excellent team of medical professionals to support me and answer my questions.

Even though abortion care is a critical part of reproductive-health services and lets women's control their destinies - one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime - anti-choice forces work hard every day to close down clinics and force abortion providers out of business.

Anti-choice groups do whatever it takes, from passing laws like the one in Texas to close clinics, to using harassment, intimidation and even violence. As recently as last week, an anti-choice activist vandalized and forced a reproductive-health clinic in Montana to close in order to intimidate patients and providers. In 2009, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was murdered in his church by an anti-choice extremist.

We're honored to recognize some of our current and former NARAL Pro-Choice America board members who are also abortion providers, Dr. Sara Imershein, who provides care to women on the East Coast, and Dr. Susan Wicklund, a retired provider and author of "This Common Secret" about her experience as a provider in an extremely conservative part of the country.

We thank abortion providers across the country who risk their lives and safety to ensure that women have access to essential reproductive-health services and abortion care.

Happy National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day from NARAL Pro-Choice America.

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Do You Know Where the Candidates Stand on Choice?

Today, we launched our 2014 Voter Guide, a breakdown of choice ratings for candidates running in every federal primary elections across the country.

Imagine what we could do if politicians across the country knew voters would only support candidates who believe in a woman's right to comprehensive reproductive-health care and abortion access.

Despite the fact that seven in 10 Americans believe abortion should remain safe and legal, 53 anti-choice measures were enacted in 24 states in 2013 alone. Those restrictions included bans on abortion throughout pregnancy, legislation aimed at shutting down reproductive-health care clinics and providers, and measures to block access to birth control.

In 2014, a year with 36 senate races and 36 governors seats on the ballot, it's more important than ever that voters are aware of a candidate's position on choice and whether they would protect or restrict women's rights if elected. That's why we're holding them accountable.

Every voter needs to know who is making the pro-choice grade and who is failing.

We've seen it over and over. When voters know where candidates stand on choice, they vote pro-choice.

Not only does our 2014 Voter Guide include choice ratings on candidates, we also include voter registration deadlines in every state and easy ways to find your voting precinct location. The Voter Guide also has information on key ballot initiatives that endanger a woman's right to choose and information on how you can connect with a NARAL Pro-Choice America affiliate in your state.

Do you and your friends and family know where your representatives stand on choice?

Make sure they do. Show that you're a pro-choice voter and encourage them to find out where the candidates stand by sharing this graphic:

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The Daily Reporter: Critics Question Boggs' 'Bias'

We're calling on our senators to reject the nomination of anti-choice, anti-marriage equality Michael Boggs to federal court! Check out a fantastic article about our work by Robin McDonald over at The Daily Reporter:

When federal judicial nominee Michael Boggs recounted bills he had sponsored as a Georgia legislator in a questionnaire for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, he sounded earnest and, occasionally, even a little dull.

But his list of legislation--which included strengthening the state's child pornography laws, rewriting the state Probate Code and requiring criminal background checks for bail bondsmen--didn't mention his sponsorship of far more controversial measures reflecting a conservative political agenda at odds with the president who has nominated him to the U.S. District Court.

Boggs, who served as a Democrat from 2001 to 2004 in the Georgia House of Representatives, made no mention of a resolution he introduced in the House in 2004 calling for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Speaking on the floor of the House, Boggs said the amendment was "premised on good conservative Christian values" and intended to guard against rulings by "activist judges" who might overturn a state law that already barred gay marriage.

Now a judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals, Boggs also failed to mention his sponsorship of bills that remain anathema to progressive Democrats--enacting more limits on abortion and placing the Ten Commandments in Georgia's 159 county courthouses--and his vote to retain the Confederate battle emblem on the state flag.

A lawyer from the southeast Georgia district Boggs used to represent said Boggs was merely reflecting his conservative, "Bible Belt" constituency by promoting those legislative efforts. She and another attorney who also tried cases before Boggs when he was a Superior Court judge in Waycross said Boggs would have no trouble separating his advocacy role as a legislator from his mandate as a judge to fairly and impartially administer the law.

But Boggs' legislative record has provided fodder for more than two dozen national progressive and civil rights organizations that are urging the Democratic-controlled Senate to reject his nomination.

Boggs could not be reached for comment and--like other federal judicial nominees--has avoided comment on issues associated with his nomination.

Package deal

Boggs' nomination is part of a package deal that the White House cut with Georgia's two Republican senators last year. That deal allowed U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss to name one nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and three of four nominees to the district court.

In return, Isakson and Chambliss have reportedly agreed to lift their objections to Atlanta litigator Jill Pryor, whose nomination to the Eleventh Circuit they have stalled for two years. Pryor's nomination has been championed by her longtime law partner, Emmet Bondurant, the former chairman of Georgia Common Cause who has challenged Republican-sponsored measures such as Georgia's voter photo ID law.

The deal also has Georgia's senators agreeing to the nomination of Leigh Martin May, whose candidacy for the federal bench they first rejected in 2009. May, a co-founder of the Red Clay Democrats, is a law partner of James Butler Jr., one of the state's most prominent plaintiffs attorneys.

A spokesman for the progressive group Democracy for America dismissed the idea that Boggs' nomination was a necessary compromise.

"We understand there are times you do some kind of horse-trading in politics," said Neil Sroka. "But there is a difference in horse-trading and caving on core values. This is an example of the White House caving and giving far too much to the right in a lifetime judicial appointment."

"From everything we have learned about him," Sroka continued, "he [Boggs] is a candidate that the right wing has been desperate to have on the federal judiciary."

Abortion, religion and race

Among the bills Boggs sponsored as a legislator but omitted from his Senate Judiciary questionnaire was one establishing a "pro-life" license plate that would have generated funds for crisis pregnancy centers that didn't provide abortion counseling or abortion-related procedures. Other bills he sponsored would have required minors to seek permission of a parent or guardian before they could obtain an abortion, even in cases of incest and rape, and required that a minor seeking an abortion also must be accompanied by a parent or guardian with a state-issued photo identification.

Last week, NARAL Pro-Choice America launched a campaign to stop Boggs' confirmation. "We look to our judicial branch to protect and uphold our values and freedoms," Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the Daily Report. Boggs' legislative record, she added, "shows that he will push his personal agenda instead of listening to the cases in front of him without bias."

UniteWomen.org Action this week launched a Twitter campaign, #No2Boggs, to defeat his confirmation. In conjunction with the Twitter campaign, the organization posted on its website an open letter to President Barack Obama, calling Boggs' nomination "an extreme step backwards" and asking the president to withdraw it.

Another bill that is generating concern is one he sponsored with then-House Minority Leader Glenn Richardson and four other lawmakers, calling for the display of the Ten Commandments in all of Georgia's 159 county courthouses. The bill, which said the display was also to include copies of the Mayflower Compact and the Declaration of Independence, authorized the state attorney general to defend the counties against federal lawsuits challenging the practice as unconstitutional. That bill included language that "Biblical literacy contributed importantly in the development of American law and constitutionalism."

A spokeswoman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State said what the organization has uncovered so far about Boggs has already caused "great concern."

Along with the Ten Commandments bill, Maggie Garrett noted that Boggs backed a measure asking the U.S. Congress to affirm that the U.S. is a Judeo-Christian nation and a resolution in support of "In God We Trust" as the national motto.

Those bills show "a fundamental misreading of the U.S. Constitution, which is not really a trait you want in a federal judge," said Garrett, a former lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. "At this point, we have reservations and concerns, but we are still examining the record."

Boggs' civil rights record and his 2001 vote to retain the Confederate battle emblem as part of Georgia's state flag have also drawn the ire of the NAACP, Georgia's Democratic congressmen, and a coalition of the state's minority bar associations. At a Dec. 23 news conference in Atlanta, state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, said that the NAACP's examination of Boggs' legislative record "shows that Michael Boggs is on the wrong side of history. The votes we have looked at tell us that Michael Boggs does not understand the idea of inclusion, the idea of diversity, the idea of simple justice."

'Conservative judicial philosophy'

A 1990 graduate of Mercer University's Walter F. George School of Law, Boggs was in private practice from 1990 until 2004, first at McKenzie & McPhail and its successor, McKenzie, Martin, Taylor & McConnaughey in Atlanta, then at Thomas & Settle in Waycross, Landers & Boggs in Waycross, and as a sole practitioner.

After he was appointed to the Waycross Circuit Superior Court by Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2005, Boggs founded the circuit's drug court and served until 2012, when he was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. For the past two years, Boggs has served as co-chairman of Deal's Council on Criminal Justice Reform.

When Boggs was applying for his state appellate seat, he told the Judicial Nominating Commission in a questionnaire that his conservative judicial philosophy rested on a limited role for the judiciary in favor of "a duly elected citizen legislature."

Boggs also wrote in his application about "the limited role of the appellate court," the need for an understanding of "the proper delineation in roles between the legislative and judicial branches of government," and a desire to "re-establish our courts as protectors of the Constitution, not partisan refuges for policy makers." He also cited a requirement that any law clerk he hired should "share my conservative judicial philosophy."

"The judiciary continues to endure criticism, fairly earned in some cases, of abrogating their constitutionally created authority by issuing decisions that venture into policy making," Boggs wrote. "Partisan political campaigns are increasingly politicizing our judiciary, in part because of judicial decisions that have ignored or violated the basic tenets of the judiciary, that policy making is the sole province of a duly elected citizen legislature."

Blackshear attorney John Thigpen, who told the Daily Report this week that he probably has tried more cases, both criminal and civil, in front of Boggs than any other lawyer, said Boggs' political stances while a state legislator would not affect his ability to be fair on the bench. "I don't think that would interfere one bit with him doing the right thing," Thigpen said. "He's a man's man, OK? He knows what to do and how to do it. I've been practicing law 35 years. As far as I'm concerned, he's top of the line."

Thigpen said that Boggs represented his district while he was a Georgia legislator and that he thought highly of him in that role as well. "He was conscientious. He knew what his constituents wanted," Thigpen said. "We're in the Bible Belt down here. ... I think he was doing what his constituency wanted him to do. And that was his job."

Thigpen also dismissed criticism that legislation Boggs had sponsored might signal he would entertain a bias should those matters be litigated in his courtroom. "He will look way beyond that," Thigpen said.

Brunswick attorney James Durham, a former member of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission and former president of the State Bar of Georgia, also defended Boggs. He told the Daily Report this week that he has tried cases in front of Boggs in the Waycross Judicial Circuit, saying, "I have never seen anything but complete fairness from Mike Boggs in a courtroom."

"I don't know that you can equate what somebody did as a representative," with his role as a judge, Durham said. "That's a different job. That's representing a constituency. I assume, in most cases, people try to represent their constituencies as they think they would vote."

Durham added: "It doesn't have anything to do with how somebody would be on the bench as a judge and how they would apply the law. I have never seen anything that would indicate to me that Judge Boggs would have a personal opinion in his rulings."

Doesn't reflect 'Obama's values'

State Rep. Karla Drenner, the first openly lesbian woman elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, served with Boggs during his four years there. She told the Daily Report, "He doesn't depict any of the values the Obama administration stands for. ... I don't know why we would want to appoint someone for life who doesn't share the visions, the values that this current president has."

Drenner described Boggs as "a vocal opponent" of same-sex marriage and identified him as "the first Democrat to come out in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban it in Georgia. At the time, the state already had a law on the books barring same-sex marriage, and Drenner called the constitutional amendment "one of the most contentious issues" the legislature has faced.

Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, recorded the resulting debate on the resolution in February 2004, including Boggs' introductory speech, which she supplied to the Daily Report. In that speech, Boggs said, "It's my opinion, both as a Christian, as a lawyer and as a member of this House, that it's our opportunity to stand up in support of this resolution."

"I think it's important to recognize the dangers that we face with respect to activist judges, with respect to mayors who are operating in derogation of current state law," he continued. "I submit to you that proposing a constitutional amendment that, in fact, mirrors the language, for the most part, that is ... codified in Georgia's Defense of Marriage Act will give us an additional safeguard," Boggs said, according to a transcript of Drenner's recording. "It will, in fact, prohibit state constitutional challenges to the proposition ... that is outlined in Georgia law already. ... I submit to you that whether you're a Democrat or whether you're a Republican, whether you're rural from a rural area, like myself, or whether you represent an urban area, we have opportunities seldom [seen] in my short tenure in the legislature to stand up for things that are commonsensical; things that are premised on good conservative Christian values, and, in this instance in particular, to support the sanctity of marriage. I'm going to ask all of you like me to support this proposition."

In recalling that debate, Drenner said, "I don't think that Judge Boggs, in this new capacity, would be any friend to the gay community or any other progressive agenda that the Obama administration has supported. ... He's going to be part and parcel of the reason why the South won't move forward. Look at his history: no on same-sex marriage, no on a woman's right to choose, no on changing the flag."

That Boggs omitted from his Senate questionnaire his sponsorship of the socially conservative legislation "shows that he knew they are points of contention, and he has probably not changed his opinion," she said. "Either by omission or commission, it is still a lie."

At the December news conference, Fort said the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage was part of a nationwide, and largely successful, push by "the far right of the Republican Party" to turn out the vote in 2004.

Last October, after the Daily Report identified Boggs as one of the possible nominees for the federal bench in Atlanta, Fort and representatives of several civil rights organizations in Georgia--including the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, the NAACP, and Georgia Women's Action for New Directions--voiced their objections to Boggs because in 2001 he had cast a vote to retain Georgia's old state flag, emblazoned with the Confederate battle emblem.

Boggs was one of 82 legislators, including current state Democratic Party chairman Dubose Porter, who voted not to strip the flag of its Confederate symbol.

At a news conference, Fort said, "We are very concerned that a judge, while a legislator, in the 21st century voted for the Confederate flag. It is reasonable for the public to be concerned about whether he is committed to fairness."

A coalition of African-American lawyers and bar associations in Georgia which also is opposed to Boggs has asked Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., for permission to testify in opposition to the slate of nominees at their confirmation hearings.

A committee spokeswoman told the Daily Report this week that those hearings have not been scheduled because neither Isakson or Chambliss have returned blue slips to the committee signaling their willingness to support the president's nominees and because committee Republicans are still reviewing background materials on the Georgia nominees. Spokeswomen for both Chambliss and Isakson could not be reached for comment.

U.S. Rep. David Scott, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Clayton, Cobb, Douglas, Fulton, Fayette and Henry counties, also has sought permission to testify at the Senate judicial confirmation hearings, and at a meeting earlier this month with the Congressional Black Caucus and presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett challenged Jarrett and the White House to have Boggs' name withdrawn.

"Why should we have judges nominated for life who have such biases in their backgrounds," Scott said. "Sometimes it's better to have these positions vacant than to put these people in with prejudiced opinions against African-Americans, against gay people, against women's reproductive rights. ... It can't stand. Georgia is better than that."

Thanking Our Pro-Choice Champions in Honor of Black History Month

February is Black History Month, and we'd like to acknowledge and honor a few amazing African-American pro-choice champions who've stood up for women's reproductive freedom, especially against recent anti-choice attacks in the states.

When anti-choice politicians in Ohio introduced legislation that would ban abortion as early as six weeks - before most women realize they're pregnant - State Sen. Nina Turner introduced a tongue-in-cheek bill that would require men to undergo psychological counseling before accessing Viagra.

A close ally of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, we recently honored Nina with our Champion of Choice Award for her leadership and advocacy on behalf of women's health.

We'd also like to recognize North Carolina state Rep. Alma Adams who spoke out against extreme anti-choice restrictions that could close reproductive-health clinics.

Alma Adams speaking.jpg

When anti-choice politicians in her state tried to pass anti-choice restrictions using a "motorcycle safety" bill, Alma called out the anti-choice legislators for their cheating tactics:

"It's about politics. It's not about women's health. It's not about safety...As a woman, I am personally insulted by the maneuvers around getting this bill to the floor. We've made a mockery of women's health and safety."

Alma has been fighting for reproductive rights for nearly three decades, and we are so grateful for having her solidarity with NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and being an ally to all women and families.

In the Cheesehead state, we'd like to recognize Wisconsin state Rep. LaTonya Johnson. She fought against a medically unnecessary forced ultrasound bill and spoke on the Wisconsin floor about the importance of access to comprehensive sex-education program.

LaTonya also spoke at the Stand with Wisconsin Women rally let by NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin and their coalition. Check out the video below:

And in New York, we're giving a shout out to State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic Conference Leader and the first African-American woman to hold that position!

Andrea Stewart Cousins Small.jpg

Andrea, who was endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice New York, led the charge for the Women's Equality Act (WEA) in the State Senate last year and continues to advocate for the full 10-point WEA. She said:

"No one would believe that in 2013 there were not enough Senators willing to vote to protect the health and equality of women. In 1970, when choice was first passed in New York, 12 Republican Senators joined a majority of their Democratic colleagues to support this landmark legislation. In our state, women's health has never been a Republican or Democratic issue. I find it shocking that 43 years later not one Senate Republican stood up for women's equality."

Andrea was the primary sponsor of the Reproductive Health Act in the 2011 session.

In Texas, where NARAL Pro-Choice Texas works on the ground to defend reproductive rights against huge challenges, we want to recognize some awesome leaders who were loud and proud about their pro-choice values during the heated legislative attacks that led to Wendy Davis' historic filibuster.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson hung a wire hanger from the microphone while she spoke during the hearings to pay reverence and respect to the many women who were injured or died accessing illegal abortion.

Senfronia Thompson.jpg

State Rep. Dawnna Duke rallied women in Texas and proposed amendments that would allow more options for women with unintended pregnancies.

Dawnna Dukes.jpg

We're also giving a shout out to Virginia Delegate Charniele Herring, who has a 100% pro-choice voting record!

CharnieleHerring.jpg

Charniele was the first African-American woman elected to represent Northern Virginia in the General Assembly. Charniele was also chair of the reproductive rights caucus in 2012 and was a huge player, along with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, in the fight against forced ultrasound legislation in 2012.

The pro-choice movement is fortunate to have incredible champions from all backgrounds and walks of life but we couldn't be where we are today without the tenacious, smart, and courageous leadership of African-American state lawmakers.

We can't thank these pro-choice rock stars enough for standing up for women's reproductive freedom in all communities.

Happy Black History Month from NARAL Pro-Choice America.

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