ACLU Welcomes Introduction of the Federal "Freedom of Choice Act," Says Legislation Needed to Protect Women’s Health and Rights

April 7, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed the introduction of the “Freedom of Choice Act,” federal legislation aimed at ensuring that the government does not stand in the way of women getting the reproductive health care they need. The bill calls upon Congress to protect the right to privacy and a woman’s ability to have a child or to end a pregnancy.

“Today, more than ever, we cannot take our right to reproductive freedom for granted,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Anti-choice forces are moving full steam ahead to not only take away a woman’s right to choose an abortion but to limit access to birth control and other important reproductive health care.”

The bill, introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), would prohibit the government from enacting measures that deny or interfere with a woman’s right to bear a child or end a pregnancy.

The ACLU noted that in recent years, the attack on reproductive freedom has intensified. Just last month, South Dakota became the first state in more than 15 years to enact a ban on almost all abortions. Advocates have launched a campaign to put a repeal of the measure on the November ballot. In February, the Supreme Court agreed to review a challenge to the Federal Abortion Ban, the first-ever federal law restricting abortion practice beginning as early as 13 weeks in pregnancy. In addition, Congress is poised to push through measures that would endanger the health and lives of teenagers seeking abortions and cut off access to the early-abortion pill.

The attack on reproductive rights, however, is not limited to abortion. Congress continues to block bills, such as the Prevention First Act, that would help women avoid unintended pregnancies. Ignoring the advice of medical experts and major medical groups, the Food and Drug Administration has refused to allow the emergency contraceptive, Plan B, to be sold without a prescription. Likewise, in 2004, the Department of Justice released a protocol for treating sexual assault victims that failed to include information about pregnancy prevention and emergency contraception.

In addition, since 1997, the federal government has spent nearly a billion dollars on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs despite research indicating that many such programs are ineffective and contain inaccurate information. Some studies show that abstinence-only programs actually deter teens from protecting themselves from unintended pregnancy or disease when they start having sex.

“We must protect women’s access to the full range of reproductive health services,” said Fredrickson. “The ‘Freedom of Choice Act’ puts women’s health and not politics first. Lawmakers should adopt this much-needed proposal.”

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