One Step at a Time
Of Counsel, Spring 2004
Message from our President Nancy Northup
As I looked out over the Mall in Washington, D.C., on April 25, preparing to speak to a crowd of a million, I was so proud of what our movement has accomplished.
It was heartening to see that the crowd spanned several generations. There were marchers who had come of age when the use of contraception was a crime. (After all, it was only in 1965 that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of married people’s right to use contraception.) There were those who were teenagers when Roe v. Wade was decided, and others who were born decades after. Three generations of my family came, ranging from age 10 to 76. I took the stage with my son and daughter at my side, because I wanted them to know that the March was about strong families—families in which children are cherished and women are equal. And I wanted them to know the March was about their future—whether their government would respect their privacy, religious freedom, and ability to chart their own destinies.The Center staff arrived at the March fresh from trial in Nebraska, where we are representing Dr. LeRoy Carhart and others challenging the 2003 federal abortion ban. For over a year, we had been marshalling the facts, honing our legal arguments, dissecting the government’s case, and working to get the media to stop using “late term” to describe a law banning abortions as early as 12 weeks of pregnancy. The March put our hard work into perspective, reminding us of the millions of women, men and families affected by each case we take on.Swimming upstream against a reactionary current, the Center has had some incredible victories recently, as you will read about in this Of Counsel. For example, while we prepared for Carhart v. Ashcroft, a federal trial judge in Virginia ruled that the state’s so-called “partial-birth infanticide” law was unconstitutional. And just as we went to press, we kept another such law in Utah from taking effect.Internationally, we celebrated three years of collaborative research with publication of Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Live – South Asia. This region—home to the world’s largest democracy and one-sixth of the world’s women—has some of the most discriminatory laws against women in the world. Our carefully documented report (almost 4,000 footnotes!) not only lays out existing laws and policies, but also proposes directions for change. We are currently involved in cases in India and Nepal that involve coercive sterilization, child marriage, and women imprisoned for abortion.Our friends and colleagues who joined the March from India, Nepal and fifty other countries, including many who live under oppressively strict abortion laws, know just how high the stakes are when reproductive freedom is not guaranteed as a fundamental right that governments are legally obligated to protect, respect and fulfill. Our mission is to enshrine that fundamental guarantee into law—for all of us.