By Maura Ewing
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
A group of female lawmakers yesterday pledged to introduce a resolution in their 15 states designating a week in January for awareness of reproductive rights. Some hope it will provide a rallying cry to pro-choice advocates nationwide.
(WOMENSENEWS)--Alarmed by this year's barrage of attacks on reproductive rights and the cost to women's health, a longstanding women's rights advocacy organization is connecting female state lawmakers to push back through their own legislatures.
In July the Center for Women Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., held a strategic "convening" for 18 legislators representing 15 states. Some participants came from Kansas, Utah, Arizona and South Dakota; places where reproductive rights are under heavy assault.
The group of 18 made its first mark Oct. 18 by releasing a resolution to declare Jan. 22 through Jan. 28 a national awareness week for reproductive rights and to introduce the measure in their next legislative sessions.
The resolution notes that the United States has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality among all developed nations and that racial and ethnic health disparities are particularly pronounced in reproductive health.
Provisions of the resolution--such as funding for programs and how to implement the awareness week--are left up to individual legislators.
Leslie Wolfe, president of the Center for Women Policy Studies, a 39-year-old policy group, said the July kickoff gathering provided the women with the important chance to simply get to know one another.
"When they're meeting with their constituents they're in quite a different role than when they're planning with colleagues," said Wolfe in a recent phone interview.
The center now serves as the "national staff" for the newly formed network, said Wolfe. It will help provide participating legislators with a sounding board and help them coordinate their efforts.
Wolfe expects that many legislatures will refuse to pass the resolution for fear of negative backlash in an increasingly anti-choice political environment. But she hopes non-legislative advocates will embrace the week as well.
"I think it could be a rallying cry and could give people something to stand behind," she said.
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