January 9, 2001
The National Abortion Federation is strongly opposed to the confirmation of John Ashcroft for U.S. Attorney General because of our grave concern that he will not enforce the laws protecting abortion providers and their patients. We fear an increase in the violence directed against the dedicated health care professionals who provide safe, legal abortion services to women if Ashcroft becomes the next Attorney General.
As the chief law enforcer in the country, the Attorney General oversees the enforcement of laws protecting abortion providers and their patients from violence and harassment. The actions of the Justice Department can help deter illegal activity and, when a crime has been committed, help apprehend those responsible.
Specifically, under the Clinton administration, the Attorney General, and the Justice Department have:
- Prosecuted violators of FACE, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it a federal crime to "use force, threat of force, or a physical obstruction," to "intentionally intimidate or interfere with someone obtaining or providing reproductive health services";
- Created a National Task Force on Violence Against Reproductive Health Care Providers;
- Provided U.S. Marshal protection to abortion providers in the wake of extreme acts of violence;
- Placed two anti-choice terrorists on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list;
- Participated in local law enforcement educational programs on FACE; and
- Dispatched federal law enforcement officials to communities where local law enforcement officials were not enforcing the law.
As the only organization which has been collecting statistics on the incidents of violence and disruption against abortion providers for close to 25 years, the National Abortion Federation has documented that when laws are enforced, incidents of extreme violence decrease. Conversely, in communities where the laws are not vigorously enforced, acts of violence increase.
Throughout his career, Ashcroft has allowed his extreme position on a woman's right to choose, which would outlaw abortion even in cases of rape and incest, to influence almost every aspect of the jobs he has performed, both in the state of Missouri and as a U.S. Senator. For a quarter century, he has consistently placed the goal of banning abortion at the forefront of his legislative agenda, and has even brought political retribution against those who have opposed his extreme agenda.
In Congress, he has successfully led the fights to defeat the confirmations of those whose ideology he does not support. He has stated, "Those who devalue life must not be placed in authority over policies affecting our most vulnerable. I have repeatedly, and in many instances alone, fought President Clinton's anti-life nominations and appointments including activist federal judges and Surgeon General nominees Henry Foster and David Satcher."
During the time that Ashcroft served as a Senator, and a head of the Republican Party in Missouri, a known anti-choice extremist, Tim Dreste, was elected by Republican Party officials in Missouri to the Missouri Republican State Central Committee, the policy-making body of the party. That year, 1996, Dreste asked the state GOP to add to its platform a murder penalty for abortion providers. The state Republican Party also provided funds to Dreste in his race for state representative. Dreste was finally ousted from the state committee in 1999, after embarrassing the committee by being one of the defendants who lost a federal lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood in which the jury awarded $107 million in damages. Twelve defendants, including Dreste, were found guilty of making illegal threats. Dreste was cited for distributing "Wanted" posters of abortion providers that threatened violence against them. Other defendants in the case were tied to the Nuremberg Files website that lists doctors' names, with lines through those who have been killed by anti-choice extremists. Ashcroft only called on Dreste to resign from the committee after being pressured to do so. Additionally, Ashcroft's rhetoric on the subject of abortion matches that of some of the most violent members of the anti-choice movement.
The dedicated women and men who risk their lives to provide safe reproductive health care to women deserve nothing less than an Attorney General who will vigorously enforce the laws of the land. Our examination of John Ashcroft's record leads us to conclude that his extreme ideology has rendered him unable to fulfill that mission.
We urge all Americans, regardless of their position on a woman's right to choose, to oppose Ashcroft's confirmation as Attorney General because his extremist views are out of touch with mainstream America and would interfere with his vigorous enforcement of the law.
The National Abortion Federation is the professional association of abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to ensuring that abortion remains safe, legal and accessible.