January 22, 2009
Secretary of State Kate Brown
Roe v. Wade Planned Parenthood
I’m so very happy to be here to be here tonight to celebrate with you the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
I’m here because like each and everyone one of you, I truly believe that women will not achieve equality until we can control our bodies.
For my seventeen years in the Legislature, it has been an incredible struggle to achieve even the simplest of goals.
As the Women’s Rights Coalition lobbyist in 1991, I watched as Jeanne Atkins and Planned Parenthood advocates fought to save abortion services in the Oregon Health Plan.
As a legislator, I introduced the first contraceptive equity bill in 1993. I smiled when Viagra was developed and then easily covered by health insurance …
And then I laughed when it became such a high proportion of the pharmaceutical costs that they dropped insurance coverage … and then I fought for another ten years to put pro choice leadership in charge of the Legislature so we could finally pass the bill after sixteen years of hard work.
Despite all of this, Oregon should be very proud of our leadership in the reproductive rights movement. We are one of only seven states with no restrictions in our access to reproductive services.
Every one of our major statewide officers is pro-choice. So is our Legislative leadership and of course Governor Kulongoski and First Lady Mary Oberst have stood shoulder to shoulder with us.
So of course, it would be easy in this climate to become complacent.
There is still a lot of work to do. But this time, we’re not on defense anymore, we’re on the offense.
Here are a few of the important legislative issues lawmakers will look at this session:
Updating and modernize our sex education statutes.
Maintaining funding for Gov. Kulongoski’s family planning services for low income women.
And allowing prescriptions to be written for the partner of a person who is treated for an STD without
the partner present.
These are important issues but we cannot grow too comfortable here in our protected Oregon Bubble.
There are a number of tough issues we must tackle.
Let’s start by getting rid of abstinence only education. The result? Look at Mississippi, which relies heavily on abstinence education. It’s also the state with the highest teen pregnancy rate. How’s that working for you, Mississippi?
This year, 750,000 teenagers will become pregnant and another 4 million afflicted by a sexually transmitted disease. I can’t imagine that anyone outside of Crawford, Texas, believes that abstinence only education works.
And we must reverse the Hyde Amendment. As you know, the Hyde Amendment bars the use of federal funds for abortion and it will take an act of Congress to reverse it.
They need to do this and do it quickly because today, as always it unfairly targets poor women, Native American women and women in the military.
Now is the time to guarantee access to women all across this land. Congress must act now to pass the Freedom of Choice Act. It would grant all women in the United States the same right of reproductive choice by codifying Roe v. Wade in our federal statutes.
Since we cannot guarantee the future, this should happen now.
Congress must deal with the Hyde Amendment and FOCA now. Please, call your congressional delegation and tell them this is a priority during this session.
We are looking at a great opportunity. For the first time in eight years, we have the ability to improve the lives of women around the world.
The global gag rule was an abomination from when former President George Bush … Can I say that again? Former President George Bush restored it on his third day in office eight years ago today, yes on Jan. 22.
The Mexico City policy, as it’s known, withholds U.S. dollars from any family planning organization around the world that provides abortion services or even counsels on abortion.
This restrictive policy has done tremendous harm to worldwide family planning efforts.
Many of these third world countries believe it’s better for women to receive safe and legal abortions than to die from botched procedures. What incredibly progressive public policy.
The impact of this gag rule has been devastating. Nowhere are these issues more critical than in third world countries. Kenya, Nepal and the Dominican Republic.
The director of the Family Planning Association of Nepal told Congress a few years ago how the rule devastated the group’s work. If she accepted the U.S. money, she would have been crippled in how she could talk to her own government about a health care crisis.
“I put our clinics in very real jeopardy,” she told our lawmakers. “It is an untenable situation. But, we simply could not stand by and watch countless women suffer and die without doing everything we could to prevent this misery.”
This devastating rule must be reversed by President Obama and reversed quickly. Yes, he’s got a busy to-do list but I hope this is at the top.
I look forward to working with you to achieve full equality for women in Oregon, women in the United States and women around the world.
We have an obligation to future generations. As Melody Rose, a professor at PSU, said, “We it to owe our grandmothers - as well as our daughters - to continue the fight for women’s full humanity through reproductive rights.”
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