Senator Frank Lautenberg, champion for reproductive health, dead at 89

Senator LautenbergSenator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) died early this morning at the age of 89. Think Progress has compiled a great list of ten of the World War II vet’s progressive triumphs. Some of his distinctly feminist achievements included:

4. Wrote the domestic violence gun ban to protect women and children by keeping spousal and child abusers from owning guns. Gun safety advocates are now seeking to strengthen the law…

6. Wrote the Responsible Education about Life (REAL) Act, which provides funding for comprehensive sex education, and the Access to Birth Control (ABC) Act that would prohibit pharmacies from denying access to birth control. As he said on the floor in March of 2012, “So I want them to have doctors making decisions, not some employer who has a self-righteous moral view that he wants to impose on my daughter, my granddaughter, my wife.”

7. An original cosponsor of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows people to take time off work to care for sick children or parents.

8. Coauthored and helped secure funding for the Ryan White CARE Act, provides servi[c]es to over half a million people living with HIV/AIDS and offers treatment for low-income, uninsured and under-insured patients.

Lautenberg’s death is a tragedy both because of his many years of service and all he had left to do during this final term before his planned retirement. Two weeks ago, the Senator joined Democratic colleagues to introduce the Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women’s Services Act of 2013 in both the House and Senate. The bill, which NARAL Pro-Choice American president Ilyse Hogue is “thrilled” to see moving forward, would stop crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) from explicitly or implicitly advertising abortion services to pregnant patients in order to bring them to the “clinic” and convince them not to terminate.

In April, Lautenberg had introduced another reproductive health bill, this time to protect the abortion rights of Peace Corp volunteers. Currently, the program offers no coverage to volunteers seeking abortions, and the Peace Corp Equity Act seeks to provide care for sexual assault survivors. Of course, all volunteers should have access to a full array of reproductive health services, but because of the Hyde Amendment, federal funds can only be used to provide abortions in cases of rape and incest. While constrained by existing law, the Peace Core Equity Act is an important first step.

Today, we lost a progressive champion for reproductive health. Let’s honor Senator Lautenberg’s legacy by making sure the policy he didn’t live to see enacted is signed into law as soon as possible.

Washington, DC

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at During her four years at the site, she wrote about gender violence, reproductive justice, and education equity and ran the site's book review column. She is now a Skadden Fellow at the National Women's Law Center and also serves as the Board Chair of Know Your IX, a national student-led movement to end gender violence, which she co-founded and previously co-directed. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she is the co-editor of The Feminist Utopia Project: 57 Visions of a Wildly Better Future. She has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice at campuses across the country and on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN, and NPR.

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at

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