Pro-life leader says abortion rights don't empower women
Charmaine Yoest, president & CEO of Americans United for Life, during in interview at the New Hampshire Union Leader on Friday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
Yoest is president and CEO of Americans United for Life, a national pro-life organization that focuses on the legal arena. The group is working to change states' laws, including in New Hampshire, and reverse the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.
"We believe that abortion is about human rights for human beings," she said.
An evangelical Christian, Yoest is married and has five children. She counts herself "part of that generation that feels betrayed by the feminist movement."
"Pro-life women have got to be a dynamic part of the conversation in rebutting this argument that we need abortion to be powerful in our culture because I find that to be a deeply offensive argument," she said.
Yoest came to the pro-life cause later than most.
She has a Ph.D. in politics and a resume that includes serving as vice president at the Family Research Council and as senior adviser to Mike Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign.
She took the helm at AUL in 2008 and wryly notes her "good timing."
"Don't you like joining a pro-life organization two months before Barack Obama is elected President and the economy goes south?"
"We're seeing an absolute tidal wave of pro-life legislation coming across the states in the last two years."
Rep. Kathleen Souza, R-Manchester, has already filed a Legislative Service Request for a bill to license outpatient abortion clinics.
AUL is also working on the national level, he said, filing amicus briefs in Oklahoma and Arizona cases that could end up before the Supreme Court.
Yoest is trying to change the conversation.
"Abortion is about two people. A baby is destroyed in an abortion, but so is the woman. She's deeply, deeply affected by it, and that must be an essential part about any discussion about abortion."
In a recent Gallup poll, 52 percent said they believe abortion should be "legal only under certain circumstances." Twenty percent said abortion should be "illegal in all circumstances" and 26 percent said it should be "legal under any circumstances."
"In any good murder mystery, you want to follow the money, right?" Yoest replied. "And the truth of the matter is that Planned Parenthood gets a million dollars a day in federal, state and local taxpayer money."
Jennifer Frizzell, senior policy adviser for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said in New Hampshire, "Less than 20 percent of the money we get for providing health care services to low-income individuals and needy women and families comes from federal funds." The rest is from insurance and Medicaid reimbursement, fundraising and donors, she said.
Yoest said she hopes Roe v. Wade will be overturned in her lifetime. But she said there's an equal chance it "becomes irrelevant."
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