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January 16, 2001


Communications Department

National Abortion Federation Joins National Council of Women's Organizations in Opposing Nominations of John Ashcroft as U.S. Attorney General and Tommy Thompson as Secretary of Health And Human Services

Statement of Vicki Saporta, Executive Director

Washington, DC - The National Abortion Federation joins the other members of the National Council of Women's Organizations in strongly opposing the nominations of Tommy Thompson for Secretary of Health and Human Services, and John Ashcroft for Attorney General. NAF opposes the confirmations of Tommy Thompson and John Ashcroft not because of their conservative ideologies, and not because they oppose a woman's right to choose, but because we believe their extreme ideologies have rendered them incapable of objectively carrying out the important responsibilities of these positions.

In his 15 years as Governor of Wisconsin, Thompson established himself as one of the most anti-choice governors in the country. He signed numerous laws restricting women's access to abortion and even signed legislation prohibiting private insurance from covering abortion except to preserve a woman's life. In fact, Wisconsin is ranked as one of the 12 states that would be most likely to overturn Roe v. Wade if given the opportunity, largely due to Thompson's extreme anti-choice position. Thompson's record leads us to doubt whether he could in fact place the nation's health before his own personal agenda.

This afternoon, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings on the nomination of John Ashcroft for Attorney General of the United States. NAF is strongly opposed to the confirmation of Ashcroft for Attorney General because of our grave concern that he will not enforce the laws protecting abortion providers and their patients.

We know firsthand how important the Justice Department is in stemming the tide of violence against abortion providers. In recent years, the Justice Department created the Task Force on Violence Against Reproductive Health Care Providers; provided U.S. Marshall protection to abortion providers in the wake of extreme acts of violence; placed two anti-choice terrorists on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list; and dispatched federal law enforcement officials to communities where local law enforcement officials were not enforcing the law. In the last two years since Janet Reno created the Task Force, NAF has documented an overall decrease in extreme forms of anti-choice violence. The actions of the Task Force have served as a deterrent to violence and have saved lives.

From our 23 years of collecting statistics on incidents of violence and harassment against abortion providers, we know that when laws are enforced, violence decreases. Conversely, when laws are not enforced, violence in communities across the country increases. We cannot tolerate another increase in violence because an Attorney General refuses to vigorously enforce the law.

Throughout his career, John Ashcroft has allowed his extreme position on a woman's right to choose, which would outlaw abortion even in cases of rape and incest, to influence almost every aspect of the jobs he has performed, both in the state of Missouri and as a U.S. Senator. For a quarter century, he has consistently placed the goal of banning abortion at the forefront of his legislative agenda, and has even brought political retribution against those who have opposed his extreme agenda.

Ashcroft has criticized the Supreme Court decision that allowed states to restrict harassing and threatening behavior of anti-choice protesters outside of clinics, saying it "weakened the First Amendment's speech guarantees." In the last session of Congress, he also voted against a measure in committee that would have prevented anti-choice criminals from discharging their debts incurred as a result of illegal activity. He has even tolerated an anti-choice extremist, who was found guilty of threatening abortion providers, as part of the leadership of Missouri's Republican Party.

The dedicated women and men who risk their lives to provide safe reproductive health care to women deserve nothing less than an Attorney General who will vigorously enforce the laws of the land. Our examination of John Ashcroft's record leads us to conclude that his extreme ideology has rendered him unable to fulfill that mission.

It is significant that so many women's and progressive organizations have come together as part of the Stop Ashcroft Now campaign. While Bush stated repeatedly during his campaign that he wanted to unite Americans, the fact that we are here today shows just how hollow that promise was.


The National Abortion Federation is the professional association of abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to ensuring that abortion remains safe, legal and accessible.

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