- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

With her sultry Jessica Rabbitt voice, actress Kathleen Turner sends chills up men's spines. Last week, that rich, raspy sound aroused the "Body Heat" of a roomful of freedom-loving women.
Without a woman's right to reproductive choice in this country, Ms. Turner boldly said, America's claim to love freedom is hypocritical and "we are liars."
"The first question that should be asked of any political candidate is, 'Are you pro-choice?' and we must make it clear that they will be defeated if they aren't, and all those who have the courage to protect women's rights will be supported," she said.
Ever provocative, Ms. Turner then posed a more pointed question to more than 600 women attending the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington "Champions of Choice" luncheon at the Washington Hilton on Friday: "Are the terrorist tactics used against our clinics less wrong than the terrorist tactics used against our nation?"
Ms. Turner followed other speakers who noted that U.S. abortion clinics have been bombed and clinic workers have been wearing masks and gloves to open mail for the past five years.
Jatrice Martel Gaiter, president and chief operating officer of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, said, "After 65 years, our staff, board, doctors and clinicians are still working in a hostile environment. Since Sept. 11, our relentless opposition has seized the opportunity to step up their tactics."
Those post-Sept. 11 tactics include letters containing white powder that arrived at Planned Parenthood clinics in Maryland, Virginia and the District, that stated: "You have been exposed to anthrax. We are going to kill all of you." They were signed by the "Army of God." The powder proved harmless.
Then Ms. Gaiter turned her sights southward to the Old Dominion.
"In Virginia, the survival of our lone clinic [in Alexandria] hangs in the balance due to the new legislative restrictions targeted at the elimination of reproductive choice, including birth control, sex education, abortion," Ms. Gaiter said, "and depending on who wins the governor's election [next week], we may end up with a ban on holding hands."
Karen A. Raschke, president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, strongly suggested during a brief interview that voters have "a very clear choice" of gubernatorial candidates between "someone who believes in freedom and someone who for some inexplicable reason is trying to curtail women's freedom."
Though Virginia's gubernatorial candidates have steered away from confrontational social topics in this race, abortion marks one of the few issues where a stark contrast exists between Democrat Mark R. Warner and Republican Mark L. Earley.
Mr. Earley opposes abortion except to save a woman's life. Mr. Warner supports a woman's right to choice.
Mr. Earley proposes legislation that will require a minor to get parental consent before having an abortion, which is different from the state's parental notification requirement enacted in 1997 that he also strongly supported. Mr. Warner supports parental notification for minors, but he opposes prior parental permission.
Mr. Warner would seek to repeal the 24-hour waiting period passed by the General Assembly earlier this year while Mr. Earley was the state attorney general.
Ms. Raschke said Ms. Turner's short speech crystallized the pro-choice issue for her in terms of the freedoms we value but so often take for granted.
"We have a deeper understanding of freedom, especially after Sept. 11, that we are fighting for freedom freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of choice," said Ms. Raschke, who is also a lobbyist for the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy in Richmond.
Pro-choice prospects in the Old Dominion were also broached during an autumn tea hosted by the Women of Color for Warner at the Vienna home of Derryl and Charlene Horn on Sunday. Lisa Collins, a health care advocate, listed the many reasons, including his pro-choice stance and his focus on education among the reasons Mr. Warner would better serve the needs of Virginia women as the next governor.
Then Ana Maria Rosato, Warner campaign chairman for women, asked the 70 or so black, Asian, Hispanic and Arab women to sign up to work the phone banks that will target female voters in the few days remaining until the Nov. 6 election.
While these Virginia women were mostly Democrats, Ms. Gaiter singled out several Virginia Republicans for choice during Friday's luncheon as she called for a bipartisan, multigenerational coalition to help the organization continue to provide "accurate sexuality education, affordable health care and abortions that are safe, legal and rare."
Susan Hass Bralove, board chairman for the local Planned Parenthood chapter, reminded those present that the group's mission should "know no political boundaries."
No matter your political preference, Jessica Rabbit is right about one thing: To be American is to be free. To be free is to have choice. To be pro-choice is to be pro-freedom. Ah, how sweet is that sultry sound?

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