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.

New Haven, CT

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX, a national legal education campaign against campus gender-based violence. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NPR. Through Know Your IX, she has organized with students across the country to build campuses free from discrimination and violence, developed federal policy on Title IX enforcement, and has testified at the Senate. At Yale Law, Alexandra focuses on antidiscrimination law and is a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. Alexandra is committed to developing and strengthening responses to gender-based violence outside the criminal justice system through writing, organizing, and the law. Keep an eye out for The Feminist Utopia Project, co-edited by Alexandra and forthcoming from the Feminist Press (2015).

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX.

Read more about Alexandra

Join the Conversation