It was a late night last night for the U.S. Senate. In the past, when anti-choice politicians controlled the process, that would have meant something dreadful would have happened to women's freedom and privacy.
Previous Congresses were famous for votes at 3 a.m., hoping their shenanigans would go unreported and slip under the public's radar screen.
But, pro-choice Americans, I am pleased to report different news: Last night, the Senate rejected two anti-choice amendments, but the razor-thin margin by which we won these votes is a reminder of why elections matters.
To what amendments am I referring?
Well, you can depend on anti-choice politicians to lack creativity and imagination, and last night was no exception.
In a blatant attempt to entangle the budget resolution in anti-abortion politics, Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) offered an amendment intended to codify a controversial Bush administration regulation, put in place in 2002, which allows states to make an embryo or a fetus -- but not a pregnant woman -- eligible for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The amendment failed 46-52. Last year, a coalition of pro-choice and pro-life senators defeated a similar Allard proposal -- but last night we picked up a few new senators. The tide is moving in the right direction!
As I said, the same stuff over and over again.
And speaking of items off the anti-choice shelf, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) put forth an amendment modeled after the so-called "Child Custody Protection Act" [PDF] (CCPA). This divisive and controversial proposal would prohibit anyone other than a parent -- including a grandparent, aunt, adult sibling, or member of the clergy -- from accompanying a young woman across state lines for abortion care if the home state's parental-involvement law has not been met.
Here is another sign of progress: the Senate's rejection of CCPA late last night, by a tie vote of 49-49, is a major milestone for pro-choice Americans.
Our message of how this proposal jeopardizes the health and safety of young women who can't reach out to their parents for fear of violence, or in cases of rape or incest, really got through this time, thanks to our allies in the Senate for making the case to their colleagues.
We applaud our pro-choice friends in the Senate who blocked these anti-choice measures. They stood up against the divisive attacks which were simply trying to distract the public from our nation's true priorities like fixing the economy or making health care more affordable.
Pro-choice Americans made tremendous gains in the 2006 elections and restored pro-choice leadership in Congress, but anti-choice members still outnumber pro-choice lawmakers in both chambers. Until the numerical composition of Congress matches America's pro-choice majority, we will continue to see dangerous and divisive assaults on the values of freedom and privacy.
It is fantastic that new senators, such as Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jon Tester (D-MT), and James Webb (D-VA), who defeated anti-choice incumbents in 2006 continue to show why elections matter, vote by vote.
So, celebrate today -- we won by a whisker -- and then volunteer tomorrow for a pro-choice candidate for the House or Senate.
Follow Nancy Keenan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NARAL