Defeated Missouri Republican Senator John Ashcroft was nominated today by G.W. Bush to be the nation’s next Attorney General, but women’s and abortion rights groups promise to protest his appointment. During a press conference yesterday, Kate Michelman, president of NARAL, called Ashcroft a “virulent opponent” of women’s reproductive rights, and said an Ashcroft Attorney Generalship would pose a “real danger” to a woman’s right to choose, noting that, in the past, he accepted an award from the American Life League, an ultra-conservative opponent of reproductive rights. As attorney general of Missouri, he took the National Organization for Women to court on the ERA boycott, and was a staunch opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment. During his 2000 bid for re-election to the Senate, he was named on NARAL’s “worst choice list,” a group of anti-choice candidates targeted for defeat. Missouri has one of the worst records on choice, and 96 percent of its counties have no abortion provider.
The Attorney General, as head of the nation’s top law enforcement department, is “directly responsible,” says Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt, for enforcing the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, a federal law that protects doctors, abortion providers, and women entering reproductive health clinics from anti-abortion harassment and violence. Both Feldt and Michelman, when asked yesterday about the possibility of Ashcroft’s being named Attorney General, responded that they “would oppose his nomination very strongly.”