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:
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.