Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Roe v. Wade News Conference
January 22, 2004

Good morning. I am honored to join you here today.

Thirty-one years ago, the United States Supreme Court made “the right to choose” the law of the land. The words “Roe v. Wade” have become synonymous with this right.

It’s only appropriate today to celebrate the right to choose, and honor our state’s heritage in women’s rights. I am proud that our state has always led the way in reproductive rights for women. And proud that we’ve led the way in the broader struggle for equal rights for women.

As early as 1854, the first territorial legislature of Washington came within one vote of giving women the right to vote. In 1910, our legislature did enfranchise women, a full ten years ahead of the passage of the 20th Amendment.

Washington was the first state to legalize abortion through a vote of the people. That was in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade. And Washington citizens have reaffirmed the right to choose several times since Roe v. Wade.

We are a strongly pro-choice state. We have a long history of passing pro-choice legislation and pro-choice initiatives. We also have a strong track record of turning back anti-choice legislation and initiatives.

We are proud of this tradition. We know in this state that the right to reproductive choice is critical to women’s rights. It is central to the concepts of equality and self-government. Democratic government begins with the right to responsibly govern our individual lives.

Roe v. Wade gave the highest degree of constitutional protection to the right to choose. At times, violence and the threat of violence have cast a shameful pall over this freedom.

Such hateful, craven crimes are an abomination to all Americans and a threat to all of our freedoms. We must always protect against and prosecute such crimes to the full extent of the law.

We must also be vigilant in protecting against more insidious threats—the political erosion of the right to choose. We must always fight against insidious rules, regulations and legislation that seek to chip away at this right.

We are seeing such threats at the national level. And we are witnessing further threats to a woman’s right to choose being introduced this session in our own state legislature.

We must resist and defeat such efforts. In the name of every woman’s right to choose, we will. In the name of democracy, we will.

Together, we must and will prevail. We are fortunate in Washington to have strong, vibrant pro-choice groups to help lead this fight. NARAL Pro-Choice Washington has done a great job in safeguarding these fundamental rights. Several other dedicated groups are represented here today as well.

On behalf of the citizens of Washington, I thank all of you for being strong and effective advocates for the rights and health of women.

I also want to thank the state legislators who join us today—thank you for your tireless advocacy of reproductive rights for women.

Thirty-one years ago, Roe v. Wade made a woman’s right to choose one of America’s fundamental freedoms. We gather today to celebrate that decision—and to pledge our continued commitment to protect that fundamental freedom and all fundamental freedoms from compromise.

Thank you.

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