Women’s Equality Day
3rd Annual Celebration & Award Ceremony
Commemorating the 84th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage

The Michaelian Building, White Plains, New York
Thursday, August 26, 2004


Keynote Speech
given by
Elizabeth Rex, Ph.D.
Co-Founder and President of The Children First Foundation

Introduction

      It is truly a great honor to be here with you today to commemorate and celebrate the 84th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote.
        I have always been proud to be a Woman, but only recently have I also been proud to be a Feminist.  I graduated from Barnard College (Columbia University) in 1972, the year abortion was legalized in the State of New York, and back then I had no interest whatsoever in feminism because the “feminist” movement had been hijacked and supported the legalization of abortion. In preparing my speech for today’s important event, I feel as if have finally and truly "come home". Women's Equality Day Reformed now allows the voices of the early feminists to be heard-- uncensored, undistorted -- as they eloquently defended and protected women and unborn children from discrimination and the tragedy of abortion.
      In my speech today I want to first take you back in time to hear the early anti-abortion feminists condemn abortion, especially forced abortions, in their own uncensored words. They wanted women and the unborn to be legally protected from abortion and foresaw the hidden and horrendous epidemic of coerced abortions in America which is now the bitter and evil fruit of thirty plus years of legal abortion.
        Then -- just as day follows night -- I would like to briefly tell you about the inspiring story of the Choose Life License Plate movement, which is providing hope and funding for desperate women and children who absolutely "deserve better than abortion". The Children First Foundation is part of the Choose Life License Plate grassroots effort right here in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and in so many ways CFF is seeking to continue the incessant work of the early feminists to protect the rights of both women and children from the scourge and tragedy of abortion. How? By raising funds and greater public awareness about the many benefits of the adoption option and the Safe Havens Laws that help and protect desperate women and vulnerable unborn and newborn infants.
        Finally, I will close with a few words about "Gags Rules, First Amendment Follies and Muzzle Awards" right here in good ol’ New York.

1. Early Feminists were Staunchly Anti-Abortion

        Thanks to the important educational outreach activities of both Feminists for Life and Women's Equality Day Reformed I have amazingly "discovered", in the words of Serrin Foster, President of Feminists for Life, that:

"(T)he anti-abortion laws enacted in the latter half of the eighteenth century were a result of the advocacy efforts by feminists who worked in an uneasy alliance with the male-dominated medical profession and the mainstream media. The early feminists understood that, much like today, women resorted to abortion because they were abandoned or coerced by boyfriends, husbands or parents or lacked the financial resources to have a child on their own. So they sought legal protection from abortion." (Serrin Foster, FFL Celebrates Women's Right to Vote on the Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, 8/20/04)

        Early feminists of the women's movement did not view abortion as a solution to, but rather as an abhorrent consequence of, the oppression and disenfranchisement of women. In criticizing abortion, they were fully aware of the serious risks -- both physical and emotional -- which it imposed upon women and unequivocally held abortion to be "ante-natal murder," ante-natal infanticide" and "child-murder."  Their early efforts not only focussed on the prevention and elimination of the circumstances which led women to seek abortions, but that they also supported legal sanctions against the proliferating abortion trade, as it was called back then.
        Early feminists also believed that the liberation of women from positions of social inequality and sexual dominance would lead to increased protection for the unborn. Just listen to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who in 1868, clearly argued that the liberation of women was needed to stop the killing of children before and after birth (Emphasis added below):

"We are living to-day under a dynasty of force; the masculine element is everywhere overpowering the feminine, and crushing women and children alike beneath its feet.  Let woman assert herself in all her native purity, dignity and strength, and end this wholesale suffering of helpless children. With centuries of degradation, we have so little of true womanhood, that the world has but the faintest glimmering of what a woman is or should be." (The Revolution, 1868)

        Another early feminist, Sarah Norton, also condemned in no uncertain terms the sexual double standard that permitted men to satisfy their desires with impunity while leaving women with the choice of being despised for bearing an unplanned child or for denying that child the right to live. She wrote the following scathing commentary in 1870:

"Is there no remedy for all this ante-natal murder? (…) Perhaps there will come a time when the man who wantonly kills a woman and her babe will be loathed and scorned as deeply as the woman is now loathed and scorned who becomes his dupe; when the sympathy of society will be with the victim rather than with the victimizer; when an unmarried mother will not be despised because of her motherhood; when unchastity in men will be placed on an equality with unchastity in women, and when the right of the unborn to be born will not be denied or interfered with." (Woodhull's and Clayflin's Weekly, November 19, 1870) (Emphasis added)

      Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the early feminists inspired two more generations of women before women's suffrage was finally attained. Women’s Right to Vote in 1920 was an enormous victory for the Equality of Women. For these visionary women, however, the right to vote was an important means to an even more important end: to protect women and unborn children from abortion.

2. The Elliot Institute: "Forced Abortions in America: The Hidden Epidemic"

       But has Roe v. Wade – often touted a symbol of women’s equality by many who like to call themselves “feminists” – actually promoted or perverted the tireless work and goal of the early feminists to protect women and children from the evils of abortion? The answer is obvious.
        According to a report recently issued by the Elliot Institute in July 2004, forced abortions are now pandemic in the United States due to the legalization of abortion by the Supreme Court. "Forced Abortions in America: The Hidden Epidemic" is a riveting 21-page report that documents case after case of women and young girls that are forced to undergo legal abortions at the hands of their boyfriends, parents, sexual molesters, school officials, employers and others who use threats, abuse and even physical violence to get them to abort against their will and without any regard for their feelings or desires.
       Examples include a homeless woman who was denied shelter until she submitted to an unwanted abortion, a teen who was ridiculed by a school counselor and bussed to the abortion clinic, a daughter who was pushed into an abortion clinic at gunpoint by her mother, a 13-year old who was returned to her molester after her abortion, three sisters who were raped repeatedly by their father and forced into abortions for nearly a decade, a wife who miscarried after her husband jumped on her stomach to force an abortion, a waitress who was fired after refusing to have an abortion. These are but a handful of the hundreds of appalling, documented stories of abuse, violence and manipulation that are found in the Elliot Institute's 21-page special report, "Forced Abortion in America." The report estimates that 30 to 60 percent of women having abortions feel pressured to do so by other persons. While the abortion lobby continues to refer to abortion as a "woman's choice," in many if not most cases, women are made to feel as if they have no choice but to abort.
      The report also examines how pregnant women who refuse to abort face even greater levels of abuse and violence intended to intimidate or force them into an abortion or cause miscarriage. Violence against pregnant women has now escalated to the point that the leading cause of death among pregnant women today is homicide and the report details dozens of horrendous cases of women who have been shot, stabbed, choked, burned, or bombed for refusing to abort!
        "Abortion is not about a woman's freedom to choose according to her conscience," the report reveals, "studies show that most women decide against their consciences. Their 'decision' is often based on the demands or threats of others--even when it violates their own moral beliefs and desire to keep the baby." (Emphasis added)

3. The History and Importance of the Choose Life License Plate

        I personally believe that there is hope for women facing crisis pregnancies and, strange as it may initially sound, it involves a cute license plate with two words: Choose Life. It is a license plate with an important message that is raising public awareness and substantial funding to reach out, serve and protect desperate women and their unborn children from the scourge of abortion. The Choose Life license plate took four long years to get rolling in Florida back in August 2000, but in just four short years since then, it has raised over $3 million dollars to help women choose life and adoption – instead of abortion -- for their unplanned, unwanted pregnancies or newborns.
        It is such a great story. For many years Florida offered specialty license plates that support a range of special interest groups including universities, sports teams and environmental and social causes. Then, in 1996, Marion County Commissioner Randy Harris had the idea to create a license plate to raise funds, and awareness, in support of women in crisis pregnancies who would choose life and adoption instead of abortion. Commissioner Harris began a grassroots campaign to collect $30,000 for the application fee and 10,000 signatures to initiate the program. To raise the funds and secure the necessary signatures, a non-profit corporation, Choose Life, Inc., was formed.
        On February 4, 1997, the effort was launched and in less than one month, by March 1, 1997, the $30,000 application fee was delivered along with 14,500 signatures to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles. The legislation authorizing the plate took another two years to get past committee, and even though the bill received overwhelming bi-partisan support, it was unexpectedly vetoed by then Governor Chiles. On June 10, 1999, however, Florida’s new governor, Jeb Bush, signed the bill into law, and Florida’s Choose Life license plate became the first official license plate in the world that supports adoption as an alternative choice to abortion.
        Unfortunately, the battle was not over.  In November 1999, before the plate could go on sale, the National Organization for Women filed a lawsuit against the State of Florida in an attempt to prevent the state from distributing the Choose Life license plate. The lawsuit languished in Palm Beach County for eight months until the state’s legal efforts finally prevailed and the Choose Life plate was released to the public on August 11, 2000.  A year later N.O.W.’s lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice in November 2001.
        Today ten different states have successfully approved Choose Life license plates: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana and Oklahoma. To date over 60,000 Choose Life license plates have been purchased nationwide in order to promote life and raise millions of dollars every year – year after year! -- for the important work of pro-life crisis pregnancy centers, maternity homes and non-profit adoption agencies that so generously help pregnant women choose life and adoption instead of abortion.
        If our early pro-life feminist foremothers were alive and living in one of these ten states today, I am quite sure they would all have a Choose Life license plate on their cars!

4. The History and Purpose of The Children First Foundation

         As many of you may already know, the history of The Children First Foundation is intimately linked to the history of the Rex family. My husband, Charles, and I will be forever grateful to two young birthmothers who maturely chose adoption as the best plan for themselves and their unplanned pregnancies. Their courageous and loving decisions to choose life and adoption helped us turn our marriage into a loving family.
        The Children First Foundation was “conceived” in the year 2000 and, with hard labor, was finally “born” in the year 2001. While exploring ways to raise money for crisis pregnancy centers, we saw the picture of the Florida Choose Life license plate on the front page of the National Catholic Register. It had just raised a mere $300,000 back then, and I managed to track down Russ Amerling to ask him about applying for a Choose Life license plate in New York.
        The great news is that in September 2003, CFF successfully sponsored the Connecticut Choose Life license plate which is now on the road and available for purchase. The unfortunate news is that -- after years of hard work, time and money -- both the New Jersey Choose Life plate and the New York Choose Life plate have been unlawfully rejected.
        To defend CFF's First and Fourteenth Amendment civil rights, the Alliance Defense Fund has filed federal lawsuit against New Jersey’s Governor McGreevey and the NJ MVC (on May 6, 2004) and another federal lawsuit against New York’s Governor Pataki and the NYS DMV (on August 4, 2004). In the words of CFF’s attorney Michael Johnson:

“This is a clear-cut case of unlawful discrimination. New York Department of Motor Vehicles officials and their superiors have apparently decided that it’s just fine to deny The Children First Foundation’s applications simply because they don’t like the organization’s message. We intend to demonstrate that it’s not fine with the Constitution.”

        Although CFF is a non-partisan, charitable organization that promotes and supports adoption and Baby Safe Havens, the New York DMV unlawfully rejected CFF’s specialty plate claiming the absurdity that a significant segment of the population would consider our plate to be “patently offensive” because it includes the words “Choose Life.” CFF submitted a revised design that kept our Choose Life logo but added our web site address, FUND-ADOPTION.ORG, at the bottom of the plate to better reflect CFF’s pro-adoption purpose. This second design was also rejected on the same grounds. CFF submitted yet a third design, using a new CFF domain name, SafeHavens-Adoption.org, at the bottom of our plate following the tragic news that yet another abandoned baby had been discovered dead in a New York City sanitation truck. The following week, CFF’s attorney received a letter from the Legal Counsel of the DMV stating that the DMV had suspended their Custom Plate Program until further notice. Rather than allow CFF’s specialty plate on the road, the Governor and the DMV had decided to shut down their popular Custom Plate Program! Who would have thought that the words, “Choose Life,” would strike such fear and terror into the hearts of so many who proudly call themselves “pro-choice”? As Mr. Johnson later said, “The state was clearly deciding to insert its own political correctness in to the approval process instead of respecting the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”
       Another real tragedy that has occurred simultaneously that must not be overlooked is the role of the media in this travesty. While the rejection of CFF’s New Jersey Choose Life plate was extensively covered by New Jersey newspapers, radio and television, not one of them carried a single story regarding CFF’s revised applications or our federal lawsuit in New Jersey. Likewise, why has there been no media attention whatsoever in all of New York regarding the DMV’s unconstitutional actions which have effectively censored the Freedom of Speech of every non-profit organization in the state of New York until further notice? The answer, of course, lies in the old saying that “There are none so intolerant as those who preach tolerance.”
        Inspired by the example of the early feminists, CFF will continue to fight for the protection and defense of women in crisis and their unborn children. We will never give up and we will, ultimately, succeed in our mission of promoting a good alternative for both women and their unborn children.

5.  Gag Rules, First Amendment Follies and “Muzzle” Awards

       In light of this, I want to personally thank the media who are here today covering this important event. Just as the inalienable Right to Life is arguably the foundation for every other human right, in many ways the First Amendment is arguably the foundation for every other constitutional amendment. For too many years powerful and well-funded forces -- from individuals and organizations, to politicians and the media -- have blatantly censored and distorted "pro-life" free speech on the important social issue of abortion.
         Discrimination, censorship and other First Amendment “follies” are, unfortunately, not new.  They also dominated politics back in the days of legal slavery when for eight long years, John Quincy Adams fought the notorious "Gag Rule".  The original "Gag Rule" was a parliamentary device introduced by pro-slavery members of Congress and passed by the U.S. Congress in 1836 that tabled without discussion any petition regarding slavery that had the support of the American Anti-Slavery Society.  Adams tirelessly fought this notorious Gag Rule until he finally obtained its repeal in 1844.
         Here in good ol' New York, a new pro-abortion “Gag Rule” has been the "unofficial" but “unquestionable” rule and policy for years -- both in politics and in the media -- regarding the pro-life side of the abortion debate.  One of the reasons we are gathered here today -- as Feminists – is to say loud and clear to the media and to our elected officials: Question abortion! Reject the Gag Rule! Remove the pro-abortion “muzzle” from legitimate, constitutionally protected "pro-life" Freedom of Speech here in New York and all across the nation!
         I will end my speech today with a brief word about an important national “award” that publicly censures unscrupulous censors: the Jefferson Muzzle Award.  Since 1992, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has celebrated the birth and ideals of Thomas Jefferson by calling attention to those that in the past year forgot or disregarded Jefferson’s admonition that Freedom of Speech “cannot be limited without being lost.” This year, a 2004 Jefferson “Muzzle” was “awarded” to the Arizona DMV for rejecting a non-profit organization’s application for a Choose Life license plate stating:

“Motor vehicle license plates have become one of the most highly visible of forums. While it is true that a state is not required to allow specialty license plates, if it chooses to do so it must act in a manner that is neutral to political and social viewpoints. Regardless of one's view on the abortion issue, the government cannot exercise unbridled discretion in determining the topics that are appropriate for public discourse. For creating a public forum but then trying to control the topics discussed in it, the Arizona State License Commission earns a 2004 Jefferson Muzzle.” (www.tjcenter.org)

       Today I ask Governor Pataki and the NYS DMV and Governor McGreevy and the NJ MVC to please remove the “muzzles” they have unlawfully placed on CFF’s nonprofit organization plate. CFF has not hesitated to file federal lawsuits to defend pro-life Freedom of Speech in New York and in New Jersey, and, we will feel duty bound to nominate both Governors as well for 2005 Jefferson Muzzle Awards should they continue to violate the First Amendment by unlawfully censoring CFF’s Choose Life license plate in their respective states!

6. Conclusion

        In conclusion, I ask you to "dream" with me. The Children First Foundation longs for the day when over 100,000 pro-life citizens throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are able to "Take a Stand for Life" by purchasing Choose Life license plates. For just $25 each year, 100,000 Choose Life license plates in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut could someday raise $2.5 million dollars every year -- year after year -- to help support the heroic, compassionate and generous work of crisis pregnancy centers, maternity homes and Baby Safe Haven Programs throughout the entire tri-state area. Florida is already doing it, and so can we. “And if we can make it here… we can make it anywhere!”
        CFF strongly believes that adoption truly deserves broader public understanding, appreciation and support as a positive, mature, life-giving choice for women with unwanted pregnancies. More adoptions -- more smiling children -- are the heart, soul and goal of CFF.
        On behalf of The Children First Foundation, the pro-life organizations we support, the desperate women who are helped and the newborns who are lovingly adopted, I want to thank the organizers of Women's Equality Day Reformed and all of you here today for allowing me the opportunity to speak. Together we will carry on the great unfinished agenda of the early feminists by courageously and vigorously promoting and supporting life and adoption, two good choices that protect and defend the rights of both women and children and that frees them both from the violence and tragedy of the abortion holocaust.
      Thank you and may God bless our efforts to continue -- and achieve -- this great unfinished mission of the feminist movement.