This morning, on the 37th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, former state Democratic Party Chairwoman Judith Hope emailed an open letter to Harold Ford Jr., attacking the would-be senator for his record on abortion rights.
“Being pro-choice means you stand up and fight for a woman’s right to her own medical decisions, even when it is not popular,” said the letter. “You are not pro-choice, you do not share our values and, as such, you will find yourself lacking support from pro-choice women in New York.”
Among the scores of signatories were former Manhattan Borough president Ruth Messinger, City Councilwoman Letitia James, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples, and State Senators Liz Krueger and Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
The letter said Mr. Ford “played politics” when he ran for Senate in 2006, noting his now-famous declaration that he was “pro-life“—a position Mr. Ford has justified as one that used the language more broadly to highlight the hypocrisy of his Republican opponents.
Mr. Ford’s spokesman, Davidson Goldin, quickly emailed a statement in reply: “It’s so disappointing to see yet another party boss scrambling to protect the unelected senator by maliciously distorting Harold’s record. Harold has always supported abortion rights and will always support abortion rights. That’s why Planned Parenthood has always supported him.” The letter cited a quote from Jeff Teague, the president of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, who told the Daily News “it is wrong to characterize him as anti-choice.”
In the letter, Ms. Hope and her co-signatories pledged to support Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who volunteered for pro-choice organizations even before garnering 100 percent rating from NARAL and Planned Parenthood during her legislative career.
“Please know that we will work tirelessly to promote Senator Gillibrand’s strong record on choice and to expose your revisionist one,” they wrote. “Senator Gillibrand is our champion and we will work hard to ensure that she continues as Senator from the great State of New York.”
Here’s the letter in full:
To: Mr. Harold Ford Jr.
Over the years we have had the opportunity to serve in many capacities – as public officials, community leaders, and advocates for the causes we believe in. All of us have worked extremely hard to promote women’s equality and to ensure reproductive rights for women. We are proud that New York is one of the most pro-choice states in the country and we support politicians committed to this standard. Based on your own words and deeds, you simply do not measure up.
Your views as a Member of Congress, a candidate, and a political commentator do not match your current claim that you are pro-choice. Being pro-choice means you stand up and fight for a woman’s right to her own medical decisions, even when it is not popular. You played politics with a woman’s right to choose in your Tennessee Senate race – proudly calling yourself pro-life and spending campaign money on ads to showcase your anti-choice record. Recently, in the New York Post, you decry the “pro-life” label, but when it suited your political ambitions in 2006, you stated clearly that you are “pro-life” and that you “don’t run from that.” You certainly seem to be running from it today.
Senator Gillibrand, on the other hand, LONG before she sought political office, proudly volunteered with pro-choice groups. As a member of Congress she had 100% voting records with NARAL and Planned Parenthood. We never had any need to question where she stood on protecting a woman’s right to choose, even when she ran for election in a relatively conservative district. Now as Senator, she has continued the fight for choice, having stood boldly against the dangerous Stupak amendment in the health care debate. She is, and has always been, our unwavering advocate.
This, Mr. Ford, is why women across the state, and indeed around the country, and pro-choice groups such as NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and WCLA – Choice Matters, have spoken out so strongly against your possible candidacy. It is not about bullying. It IS about making our voices heard. You are not pro-choice, you do not share our values and, as such, you will find yourself lacking support from pro-choice women in New York.
Please know that we will work tirelessly to promote Senator Gillibrand’s strong record on choice and to expose your revisionist one. We will make sure that the pro-choice people of New York State know that, with your words and with your votes, time and time again, you have not stood with us on the critical value of a woman’s right to choose.
As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said: “Everyone is entitled to his (or her) own opinion, but not to his (or her) own facts.” The facts are clear: you have not been straight with us and you are not an advocate of a woman’s right to choose. Senator Gillibrand is our champion and we will work hard to ensure that she continues as Senator from the great State of New York.