Of Counsel, Winter 2003
Message from Center President Nancy NorthupAs the Center for Reproductive Rights’ new president, I want, before anything else, to thank you for your support. It is your generosity and commitment that enable us to improve the lives of women worldwide. Over the past ten years, my predecessor Janet Benshoof built an extraordinary organization with a dedicated and talented staff. Through creative, aggressive litigation and legal advocacy, the Center has shaped the course of reproductive rights law in the United States and has strengthened reproductive health laws and policies across the globe. During the years ahead, we will build on that legacy to reach our shared goal.We still have a long way to go. Although Americans take pride in being a beacon of freedom and individual self-determination, our government is acting to dim those lights. As a January 2nd New York Times front-page story declared, “Foes of Abortion Push for Major Bills in Congress.” Following the past elections, their chance of passing such legislation is greater than ever. At the same time, the White House is seeking to retract our nation’s commitment to reproductive health rights at United Nations conferences. It has removed information about condom use from government web sites and has argued in court for state laws restricting abortions. And now that the Senate has joined the House and President as anti-choice, we face the very real possibility that our federal courts—including the Supreme Court—could veer radically away from our Constitution’s protection of privacy and reproductive choice.In the face of this adversity, my staff and I stand ready to use our legal expertise and skills to secure women’s reproductive rights. For more than a decade, our attorneys have been bringing successful lawsuits, persuading policymakers to liberalize restrictions and educating the public worldwide on reproductive rights spanning from contraception to abortion to harmful practices such as female circumcision/female genital mutilation.In the next decade, we will build on these accomplishments. Our international legal program, led by Katherine Hall-Martinez, will use international human rights norms to advocate for safe, accessible reproductive health services for women around the world, whether or not they choose to have children. Our domestic legal program, led by Priscilla Smith, will work with our allies to prevent restrictive laws from passing in Congress and in state legislatures, and to file suit if they do. But we will not be kept on the defensive. We will also pursue affirmative strategies to increase access to reproductive health services for all women, especially those facing social and economic barriers.So, in addition to thanking you for all you have done, I want to extend my hand in partnership. These are uncertain and difficult times. It is easy to succumb to focusing on the negative. But together, we can pursue a forward-looking agenda founded on the aspirations of billions of women and men around the world who seek to determine the course of their own lives.