John Ashcroft is a totally anti-choice, anti-women’s rights nomination for Attorney General. Not only did Ashcroft staunchly oppose the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), as Missouri’s Attorney General he filed suit against the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1979. Ashcroft charged NOW with anti-trust violations and attempted to break the ERA convention boycott of unratified states. “John Ashcroft has been an ardent opponent of women’s rights for over 20 years,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority and former NOW President during the Ashcroft anti-ERA lawsuit. “His willingness to stretch the law and use Missouri tax dollars to launch a three-year unsuccessful fight against NOW and the ERA all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court foreshadows how far he will go to fight and deny women’s rights,” added Smeal. “His utter lack of understanding of freedom of political speech and the right to take political action to achieve social justice exemplifies a track record where his right-wing ideology prevails over his legal judgment.”
“President-elect Bush promised to be a uniter and not a divider, yet Ashcroft’s opposition to legal abortion even in cases of rape and incest places him on the extreme edge of the far right that opposes all women’s rights advances,” said Smeal. As a U.S. Senator, Ashcroft did not support an amendment to the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1999 that would have prohibited anti-abortion extremists from using bankruptcy to discharge civil judgments against them for illegal anti-abortion activities. “Ashcroft’s position undermines a critical enforcement mechanism of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), which the Attorney General is chiefly responsible for enforcing,” continued Smeal.
In addition to his widely reported commencement address to, and honorary degree from, Bob Jones University, Ashcroft’s civil rights record falls far short of what must be demanded of a 21st Century Attorney General. In 1989 former President George Bush appointed Ashcroft to a federal commission to study the obstacles faced by minorities in America. Ashcroft was one of only two people on the 40-member panel who refused to sign the final report. He thought the report’s findings of discrimination were far too negative and “counterproductive.”
“The Attorney General must be able to recognize injustices in our society and work to remedy them _ he must neither rationalize, justify, nor run away from them,” said Smeal. “How can an Attorney General that believes Southern Partisan is setting the record straight be able to lead in the enforcement of civil rights and women’s rights laws?” questioned Smeal.