Kate Michelman

Excerpts from a Monitor breakfast with the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Kate Michelman is president of what is now called NARAL Pro-Choice America. A recent name change was the organization's fourth since it was founded in 1969 as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws.

Ms. Michelman joined NARAL in 1985 as executive director. She has personal experience with the issues at hand. She described her own abortion to the Los Angeles Times as "one of the hardest, but also one of the most right and moral decisions I ever made."

A word about fairness. Our goal in running the Monitor breakfasts is to offer a forum for print journalists, which over time provides a fair hearing for both sides of controversial issues. After setting up Thursday's session at NARAL's suggestion, we contacted the National Right to Life Committee and asked them to provide a representative for a future breakfast.

On the abortion position she urges on candidates:

"We are helping [candidates] learn how to say effectively that 'My principal view is that a woman has a right to make these life-shaping decisions without government'. Secondly, our nation's goal should be to make abortion less necessary, not more difficult, and certainly not take away the right of women to choose."

On the health of abortion-rights advocacy in the states:

"The data clearly demonstrates that the state of choice in America is not good. We grade the states and the nation as a whole and we gave the country as a whole a D-plus. The status of reproductive rights is clearly in jeopardy. Seventeen states would likely make abortion illegal if Roe [v. Wade decision] were overturned. [By our count] 335 antichoice bills have been enacted since 1995 alone. Thirty-four last year were enacted. Each of these measures are designed to do one thing, and that is to make it more difficult, more burdensome - if not impossible - for women to exercise their right to choose."

On the state of abortion-rights advocacy at the federal level:

"The political landscape is not any better, if not worse. Each institution of national government, the Senate, the House, the White House, is controlled by those who really are determined to take away this right, or create the conditions that lead to the rolling back of this right, the overturn of Roe [vs. Wade]. The administration has taken aim at the right to choose."

On whether Congress will pass measures this session to restrict abortions:

"Obviously, they (abortion opponents) have the votes. I don't want to say that we will roll over and say have at it. We are going to do everything we can with our friends to stop these measures. But. frankly, we don't have the votes, and I think we have to choose our battles carefully.

"And we have to use every one of these attacks on a woman's right to choose to say to the American public your right to choose is imperiled and it is imperiled at every level and you need to enlist in the fight to save this right."

On NARAL's political plans for 2003:

"NARAL Pro-Choice America will conduct the largest mobilization in our history of pro-choice Americans. We will target 20 states. We will organize in a very deliberate, in a very focused, in a very extensive way. We believe that rights and freedoms are not won from inside Washington out, they are won from outside Washington in, historically.

"We are in a place in our history for women's rights where mobilization of people who embody these values must happen. ...we will be winning back this right or saving this right the same way we won it, which is person to person, neighborhood to neighborhood, organizing community by community, using paid media, using organizing, old fashioned shoe leather, citizen petition drives...."

On Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist:

"Senator Frist is an avid opponent of reproductive freedom and choice. His position, his record, his views are indistinguishable from Trent Lott's or any of the other anti-choice members of the senate. He has a different persona. ..."

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