This morning I sat down with Nancy Keenan, the current president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Below, she and two other NARAL leaders talk about how gay marriage and the War on Women are intrinsically tied, what Washington voters need to do to continue being the most progressive state on women's health, and why Mitt Romney has a heart like a holocaust.
Women aren't only fighting for their right to abortion access, they're now fighting to keep their birth control. How the fuck did that happen? The 2010 elections happened, and women didn’t turn out to vote as they should have. So we saw this huge turn in anti-choice laws, more than we’ve had in the last decade. Our backstop was in the Senate but even there we were defeating some anti-choice legislation by just one vote. Having people in office that are pro-choice is critical for protecting the rights of women.
But how did we make that two-year jump from anti-abortion legislation to anti-birth control? These are anti-choice politicians who've run on jobs and economy platforms and who have spent their whole time in office attacking women's rights to choose. They’ve been there, wanting to take away contraceptive coverage for years—they've been trying to de-fund family planning, Title 10. It’s been going on, it was just such a cumulative effect this year that it literally exploded on people’s radar screens. When the Komen situation happened, people sat up and took notice.
You've mentioned that Mitt Romney is evil. Please tell me more!
Bush never called for the overturning of Roe Vs. Wade—Romney has called for that. Romney also "absolutely" supports the personhood amendment, which not only outlaws birth control but in vitro fertilization. He's said he’d defund Planned Parenthood and other family planning agencies. Think of the hypocrisy of denying women access to birth control and outlawing abortions. With Supreme Court nominations, Romney has said that they’d have to support his views on abortion: Outlaw it. At least Bush was smart enough to only commit to changing "hearts and minds" when it came to the abortion issue. Romney is far more extreme than Bush.
So Romney can’t just say all that, and wink and nod to American women like it'll be okay. I don’t trust him. And American women shouldn't trust him.
Worst state in the country to be a woman: Go. Oh, man. I would say Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska... Washington and California are the best states in the country. (Check out WhoDecides.org for a complete hellish rundown of the anti-abortion laws in your state).
Let's talk about Washington. Reproductive Parity died last year, will we see it introduced again? Alison Mondi, spokeswoman for NARAL Pro-Choice WA: We'll hopefully run that again next year but it depends on what happens with the Supreme Court decision [challenging Obama's Affordable Care Act]. We’re working on the assumption that it will be upheld.
Which brings us to Rob McKenna, who's currently being sued by Washington women for challenging the health care law... Mondi: He’s not someone women can trust to stand up for their access, and voters want a strong pro-choice leader in the governor's office. When it comes down to who’s going to be signing or vetoing bills, we need someone like Inslee in office, not someone who's suing to take away women's healthcare, and who refuses at length to answer the questions of media, constituents, and the groups working on these issues.
What other races should Washington women be watching closely? Jennifer Brown, ED of NARAL Pro-Choice WA: The 27th district in Tacoma is one. Jeannie Darneille is running against Jack Connelly, an anti-choice democrat whose law firm is a big sponsor of crisis pregnancy centers. We need to keep the legislature pro-choice.
What questions do women need to be asking candidates in 2012? Do you believe that women have the right to make the choice about abortion care without government interference? Do you support family planning? Do you support medically accurate sex education in our schools? Those are fundamental questions. And if they hedge on any of those, vote for the person who won’t. But women have got to ask them.
Do you think there's any connection between progressives winning more victories with gay marriage and conservatives attacking women's rights with renewed vigor? Like, the Freemasons are sitting around in their secret robes, saying, "Holy shit, we're losing the gay battle! Quick! Who else can we oppress???" Keenan: Absolutely. Our fates are tied together. The right to the privacy to engage in a homosexual relationship, it was based on the right of privacy granted in Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade. If the right to privacy under [either of those cases] were to fall, the right to privacy in the gay community would also fall. Our fight is tied to theirs because it's all based on that simple right to privacy—the right to love who you want to love and decide for yourself when you want to have a child. Which is why there’s a lot at stake in this election.
So how do we win? Keenan: We harness the millennial generation—the people who are now between the ages of 18-30. Those 76 million people are larger than the baby boomers and by 2020 they’ll be the largest part of the voting population. And they’re pro-marriage equality and pro-choice. This is the next generation that will have such a huge impact on this country.
And we’ve seen an unbelievable increase in activism, in younger people becoming involved, connecting people to the political. For the next generation, this year's birth control fight has been their Anita Hill moment. It was like, you’ve got to be kidding me. They want to take my birth control away?
Last month, you announced that you're stepping down as president of NARAL after the 2012 election. What are you going to do with your time? Keenan: Fly fish in the morning, drink scotch in the afternoon. I’m going back to Montana. People think I’m running for office and I’m like, "NOOOOO!!!!"