Advocates for women, reproductive rights, and LGBTQ equality paid tribute to the legacy of U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) after the death of the 16-term lawmaker late last week.
Slaughter was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986. In 2007, she became the first woman to chair the House Rules Committee. The powerful role put Slaughter in charge of setting procedures to consider legislation, and amendments, on the House floor for a final vote.
As a leader and founding member of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, Slaughter centered reproductive health-care access in her work on Capitol Hill. She redoubled her advocacy under the virulently anti-choice Trump administration.
One of Slaughter’s final actions was to call for the firing of Scott Lloyd at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Lloyd has weaponized his religious beliefs to deny abortion care to undocumented immigrant teenagers, including a teen who had become pregnant by rape.
“We are deeply disturbed by the Trump Administration’s constant willingness to ignore and bend the rules when it comes to women’s rights and reproductive health,” Slaughter and her caucus co-chair, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), wrote in a letter to the thus-far immovable HHS Secretary Alex Azar last month.
After Slaughter’s death, DeGette called her “a warrior for all the issues she cared about.”
“As a champion of women’s reproductive rights, she was especially proud to represent Seneca Falls, home to the first women’s rights convention in the United States,” DeGette said in a statement. “I’ll miss her wisdom and wit every day.”
Slaughter’s legacy dates back to her first years in Congress. In 1991, she was part of a core group of congressional Democratic women who successfully fought to allow Anita Hill’s testimony during Clarence Thomas’ U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
Two years later, the microbiologist led congressional efforts to create the Office of Research on Women’s Health within the National Institutes of Health. She also co-authored the original Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994.
Advocates for reproductive rights and health praised Slaughter’s legacy.
“Louise never shied away from an opportunity to speak out and protect a woman’s right to plan her future and control her body,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said. Physicians for Reproductive Health President and CEO Jodi Magee similarly praised Slaughter’s “deep devotion to women’s well-being.”
Slaughter was a longtime LGBTQ ally, breaking ranks with most of her fellow Democrats in 1996 to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act. Her congressional website described her this year as a “major force” in expanding VAWA protections to LGBTQ people, as well as to Native Americans and immigrant women, as part of the 2013 reauthorization of the law.
Slaughter had condemned efforts to expand so-called conscience protections—growing under Trump—that enable health-care providers to turn away LGBTQ patients and deny reproductive health care. She took to the House floor last year to slam Trump’s transgender military ban.
Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) praised Slaughter, a caucus member, as “a champion for the rights of all people, but particularly for the LGBT community.”
“From her leadership on issues from marriage equality to comprehensive nondiscrimination protections, Representative Slaughter fought arm in arm with our community every day,” he said in a statement. “Her wit, passion, and depth of experience will be greatly missed in our Caucus.”