WASHINGTON, D.C. — Women’s and Civil Rights groups held a news conference today condemning Sen. John Ashcroft’s (R-MO) long record against the rights of women, minorities and lesbian and gay men. At the conference, Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority said that the John Ashcroft presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the John Ashcroft the women’s rights movement has known for over 20 years are not the same man.
“I should know,” Smeal continued, “As Missouri’s Attorney General, Ashcroft filed suit against the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1978, when I was NOW’s president.” Ashcroft charged NOW with federal anti-trust violations and attempted to break the ERA convention boycott of unratified states. In the Judiciary Committee hearings last week, when asked by Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), he led people to believe his purpose was simply to defend the tourism business in Missouri.
“His willingness to use the law and 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,” continued 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.”
For over 20 years Ashcroft has attacked a woman’s right to abortion. “This is a man who in 1999 pushed an abortion ban (the Missouri Infant Protection Act) yet told us last week that Roe is the settled law of the land,” said Smeal. This Act would also have allowed the use of force against abortion doctors with its “justifiable defense” provision. At the time, Ashcroft urged Governor Mel Carnahan to sign what he called an “important bill.” When Carnahan vetoed the bill he explicitly noted this defense provision and called it “outrageous.” Read the entire press release.