Press Advisory

More Than a Choice

A Progressive Vision for Reproductive Health and Rights

A Progressive Vision for Reproductive Health and Rights

Featured Speakers:
Jessica Arons, Director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program, Center for American Progress
Rev. Debra Haffner, Co-Founder and Director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing
Dr. Pablo Rodriguez, Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of RI and Associate Professor of OBGYN at Brown University Medical School
Malika Saada Saar, Esq., Founder and Executive Director of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights
Rhonda Waller, Ph.D., CEO, ADURA

Moderated by:
Melody Barnes, Executive Vice President for Policy, Center for American Progress

The Center for American Progress was established to address the domestic and international policy challenges facing our country in the 21st century.  Protecting and ensuring reproductive health and rights are among these important challenges.  In a political atmosphere that is increasingly hostile to reproductive health services, it is imperative for progressives to articulate an integrated and comprehensive agenda for reproductive health and rights that reflects our commitment to freedom, opportunity, justice, and human dignity.  Please join the Center for the release of its position paper, More than a Choice: A Progressive Vision for Reproductive Health and Rights, and a discussion of the agenda laid out in the paper.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006
2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Admission is free

Center for American Progress
1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
Map and Directions
Nearest Metro: Blue/Orange Line to McPherson Square or Red Line to Metro Center

To RSVP please visit:
For more information call 202-741-6246


Jessica Arons is the Director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress. She also is a member of the Center’s Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative. Most recently, Jessica served as a staff attorney fellow with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. Prior to working at the ACLU, she practiced labor and employment law at James & Hoffman, P.C. Following law school, she clerked for the Honorable Elizabeth B. Lacy on the Supreme Court of Virginia. She also worked at the White House and on the 1996 Pennsylvania Democratic Coordinated Campaign prior to law school. Jessica is an honors graduate of Brown University and William and Mary School of Law. At William and Mary, Jessica was an Associate Editor of the William & Mary Law Review, Managing Editor of the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, and a Board Member of the William & Mary Public Service Fund.

The Reverend Debra W. Haffner is the co-founder and director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing (  A sexologist for more than thirty years and the chief executive director of SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States for twelve, Rev. Haffner was ordained in 2003 as a Unitarian Universalist minister.  She is the author or co-author of five books, the endorsed community minister at the Unitarian Church in Westport, Connecticut, and offers more than 50 lectures each year on the relationship of sexuality and religion.  She writes a daily blog at

Dr. Pablo Rodriguez is a 20-year veteran of the reproductive rights struggle. He provided medical testimony before the Senate for the passage of the FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) law and was the lead plaintiff in the case against the so-called “Partial Birth Abortion Ban” in Rhode Island. In addition to being the CEO of Women’s Care, Inc., he is the Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of RI, Associate Professor of OBGYN at Brown University Medical School, and Associate Chief of OBGYN at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, RI. He was recently elected incoming chair for the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals and has been a board member of the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the National Abortion Federation, and NARAL Pro-Choice America. He is currently host of “Nuestra Salud” a daily reproductive health radio talk show in Spanish.

Malika Saada Saar, Esq. is the Founder and Executive Director of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, a national legal and advocacy organization for families struggling with the intersecting issues of economic marginality, substance abuse, access to family-based treatment, and the child welfare and criminal justice systems. The Ford Foundation recently honored The Rebecca Project for Human Rights’ achievements with the “Leadership for Changing World” award. Ms. Saada Saar and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights’ co-director Imani Walker were also selected by Redbook magazine for the Mothers and Shakers 2005 Award. Ms. Saada Saar is the founder of “Crossing the River,” a written and spoken word workshop for mothers in recovery from substance abuse, and the former director of Family Rights and Dignity, a civil rights project for low income and homeless families in California. She has been featured in Essence Magazine, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Redbook magazine. Ms. Saada Saar received her B.A. from Brown University, M.A. in Education from Stanford University, and JD from Georgetown University in 2001.

Rhonda Waller, Ph.D. is the former executive director of Healthy Babies Project, Inc. in Washington, DC, an agency dedicated to decreasing infant mortality in the District of Columbia and empowering parents and parents-to-be through health education, parenting education, home visitation, and supportive services. Dr. Waller recently ended her tenure as executive director of Healthy Babies Project, Inc. in Washington, DC and founded ADURA, LLC an organization that provides services such as grant writing, organizational development, leadership development, program planning and evaluation, and advocacy to and on behalf of organizations nationally.  Dr. Waller firmly believes in empowering families with the tools needed to advocate on their own behalf and to succeed in life.  Her passion for reproductive health rights, maternal and child health, and early child development, coupled with her ability to reach out to her clients, staff, and colleagues with genuine compassion and the desire to serve, contributes to her history of success with non-profit community based organizations.   

Melody Barnes is the Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund where she coordinates and helps to integrate all of the Center’s policy work, from the policy departments, fellows, and the Center’s network of outside policy experts. From December 1995 until March 2003, Ms. Barnes served as chief counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee. As Senator Kennedy’s chief counsel, she shaped civil rights, women’s health and reproductive rights, commercial law, and religious liberties laws, as well as executive branch and judicial appointments. Ms. Barnes’ experience also includes an appointment as Director of Legislative Affairs for the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and serving as assistant counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights. During her tenure with the Subcommittee, she worked closely with Members of Congress and their staffs to pass the Voting Rights Improvement Act of 1992, which was signed into law. Barnes began her career as an attorney with Shearman & Sterling in New York City and is a member of both the New York State Bar Association and the District of Columbia Bar Association. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of The Constitution Project, EMILY’s List, The Maya Angelou Public Charter School, and The Moriah Fund. She received her law degree from the University of Michigan and her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated with honors in history.

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”