Louise Melling Named New Director of ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project

November 8, 2002

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW YORK -- The American Civil Liberties Union today announced the appointment of Louise Melling as Director of its Reproductive Freedom Project. Melling, currently the Associate Director of the Project, will assume the position on January 2, 2003.

"As I prepare to take on the responsibility of directing the Reproductive Freedom Project, I am struck both by what we have accomplished as a movement and by the serious challenges that lie ahead," said Melling. 

"While women no longer have to face a world in which illegal, unsafe, and sometimes fatal abortions are the norm," she added, "for many women, especially low-income women, teens, and women living in rural areas, the right to choose is increasingly a hollow right."

In the coming year, Melling said, the ACLU will not only step up its efforts to protect access to abortion, especially safe abortion procedures, but also to ensure that all women can obtain contraceptives, including emergency contraception, that sex education programs prepare teens to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, and that religiously motivated refusals to provide certain reproductive services do not threaten the public's access to health care.

"Louise Melling has been an outstanding advocate for the reproductive rights of women for more than a decade," said Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director of the ACLU. "We are extremely fortunate to have the benefit of her experience and leadership at this critical time. I am confident that with Louise's guidance, the ACLU will remain at the forefront of the seemingly never-ending battle to preserve reproductive rights."

Melling succeeds Catherine Weiss, who has served as the Director of the Reproductive Freedom Project since 1997 and has worked for the ACLU for the past 14 years. During Weiss's tenure, the Project developed its mission to protect the rights of teens and low-income women and significantly expanded its outreach and advocacy programs.

"I am honored to be carrying on the work that Catherine began," Melling said. "Under her leadership, the ACLU became a champion of real women, in particular the young and the poor, whose rights have been most often ignored or violated." 

In her more than 10 years with the Project, Melling worked closely with Weiss to develop an expansive reproductive rights program. She secured the first injunction against a so-called partial-birth abortion ban in the nation; she led several successful state constitutional challenges to restrictions on Medicaid coverage for abortions; and she participated in numerous challenges to laws requiring parental involvement in minors' abortion decisions.

In addition, Melling has played an important role in developing the Project's communications, advocacy, and affiliate programs. For example, she was instrumental in establishing a nationwide training program for lawyers representing pregnant teens in states with parental involvement laws. She has also served as a spokeswoman for the Project on numerous reproductive rights issues, including most recently on the issue of religious refusals and reproductive health care. 

Melling first joined the Project in 1989 as a staff attorney fellow (a one-year appointment) and, in 1992, rejoined the Project as a senior staff attorney. She became the Associate Director in 1997 and most recently served as Acting Director. 

Melling received her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1987, and her undergraduate degree from Oberlin College. Following law school, she served as a law clerk for Judge Morris E. Lasker of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and was an associate at the law firm of Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman.

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