Of Counsel, Winter 2004
Message from our President Nancy Northup
When President Bush signed into law the first federal ban on abortion last November, his remarks cast those of us who oppose the ban as destroyers of American decency and values.Are we? I was born in the heartland – Kokomo, Indiana – and moved eight times by the time I was nineteen, taking me to places as different as New York City, Temple, Texas, and a small town in the Sacramento Valley. I sold Girl Scout cookies and earned merit badges. I marched down Main Street proudly playing the flute in my green band uniform. I was co-captain of my cheerleading squad, pledged allegiance to the Flag, sang “God Bless America”, and went to church on Sunday.I became a lawyer because I was inspired by the Constitution and Supreme Court decisions that, over time, have recognized the equality and dignity of persons the Founders excluded from their great experiment in self-governance. I spent seven years serving as a federal prosecutor. And I was proud to stand up in court every day and say: “My name is Nancy Northup, and I represent the United States.”I still believe that. Because I deeply believe in a bedrock commitment of America’s constitutional democracy: freedom of religion and separation of church and state. At its core, the battle over reproductive rights is between a fundamentalist belief that everyone must follow one set of religious truths, and a more open view that respects differences of religious beliefs and ethical positions. Growing fundamentalist influence over U.S. domestic and foreign policy is making the nation forget its commitment to religious freedom.But the Supreme Court has not forgotten. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court stressed that men and women of good conscience can disagree, and some always shall disagree, about the moral and spiritual implications of terminating a pregnancy. And last June in Lawrence v. Texas, quoting Casey, Justice Kennedy reminded us: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”It is human nature to want everyone to agree with one’s religion or personal moral code. I understand that well – I teach Sunday school each week out of the desire to pass along my religious faith and traditions to others. But I also accept that there will always be vast differences among religious and secular perspectives on life. I also understand, and firmly believe, that government should not help me or anyone else spread our religious beliefs. The White House is not a Sunday schoolFortunately for the health and lives of women and their families, the Constitution agrees with us that religion should not be legislated or imposed by government, and that we should have the right of conscience in making personal decisions about when and whether to have a child.That’s what the Center is fighting for. Please join us, support us, fight with us.