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President-elect George W. Bush ran for office on the platform of political cooperation. He said, "I am a uniter, not a divider." But with the nomination of former Sen. John Ashcroft as U.S. attorney general he is telling the American people that "all bets are off" because Ashcroft is certainly not a man who believes in uniting people. His stance on women's rights and reproductive choice is not one of conciliation. He was quoted in the Chicago Tribune on May 25, 1998, as stating, "They say can't legislate morality. Well, you certainly can."
Ashcroft is part of the far-right fringe of the anti-choice movement. As a U.S. senator, Ashcroft promoted a constitutional amendment and sponsored federal legislation to ban all abortions except those medical procedures "required to prevent the death of either the pregnant woman or her unborn offspring, as long as (the law authorizing such procedures) requires every reasonable effort be made to preserve the lives of both of them." And even more frightening is that Ashcroft believes the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade.
His proposed federal legislation and constitutional amendment could have been invoked to ban common forms of contraception, including the pill and IUDs. He voted to prohibit the use of tax funds for emergency contraceptives. Ashcroft has supported no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, nor any exception for abortions necessary to prevent serious or permanent injury to a woman's health.
He opposed the Equal Rights Amendment. As Missouri attorney general, he sued the National Organization of Women (NOW) for boycotting Missouri when the state would not ratify the ERA. He also opposed state-level legislation requiring equal pay for equal work.
His nomination is opposed by People For The American Way, Planned Parenthood, NARAL and many other women's organizations.
If you care about women's rights and reproductive freedom, please contact the judiciary committees of the House and Senate and oppose Ashcroft's nomination. The vote could come as soon as next week and it is imperative that people speak up now. If you would like more information about Ashcroft's stance on abortion and many other issues, I'd recommend looking at the Web site The People For The American Way have established to educate Americans about Ashcroft's background and positions (www.opposeashcroft. com). There are many other issues like support of the arts, gay rights, the environment and civil rights, where Ashcroft's positions are unabashedly conservative and deeply disturbing.
Don't take my word for it. Educate yourself and read Ashcroft's own words. Take for example his comments on April 10, 1998, where he is quoted as saying, "There are voices in the Republican party today who preach pragmatism, who champion conciliation, who counsel compromise. I stand here today to reflect those deceptions. If ever there was a time to unfurl the banner of unabashed conservation, it is now."
Please add your voice to the debate and let President-elect George W. Bush know that Ashcroft will not be a unifier as U.S. attorney general. Rather, he will be a divider of the worst kind.
Alexis Ross Miller is a lifelong Alaskan and former board member of the Juneau Coalition for Pro Choice.