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Honoring Betty Benjamin

Location: Washington DC


Mr. DAYTON. Mr. President, today I congratulate and honor my friend, Betty Benjamin from Minneapolis, who last Saturday celebrated her 80th birthday. She has lived an extraordinary and outstanding 80 years.

Raised on a farm near Redwood Falls, MN, Betty studied social work at Hamline University, where she met her future husband, Robert Benjamin, a pre-med student from Pipestone, MN. During the mid- to late 1960s, Betty was busy raising her family, but somehow she found time to become a committed leader in the local movement to reform the existing abortion laws. Recognizing her determination and natural leadership, her friends and colleagues asked her to become the president of two women's organizations; the Edina League of Women Voters and the Minnesota Organization for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. The latter organization later became the Minnesota Chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League.

When Betty became the leader of Minnesota's pro-choice community, abortion was an illegal procedure. Driven by her professional experience as a social worker and her deeply held belief that women should have the freedom to make their own decisions about their own bodies and lives, Betty was committed to see the abortion laws repealed. With her family by her side, Betty dedicated everything to the movement-her time, her energy, and even her home. To save valuable resources, the organization met in a spare room at the Benjamins' house in suburban Minneapolis for more than 5 years. Opening her home to other abortion rights advocates allowed Betty to stay connected to the statewide, grassroots organizing plan she shaped. At one point, Betty organized a Board of Directors that featured a resident from each of Minnesota's 67 legislative districts. Most importantly, making the organization's base of operations her home enabled Betty to be a loving and devoted mother. And what a role model she was to her three children! Day after day, she demonstrated the values of hard work and persistence and that one person can truly make an imprint on social policy.

While the organization eventually outgrew the Benjamins' spare room, Betty has never outgrown the organization and the fight. A steady source of inspiration and encouragement to all in the movement, Betty continues to serve on the Minnesota NARL Foundation Board of Directors.

At 80 years of age, Betty's activism and passion still spill out of the boardroom and onto the streets. Two weeks ago, she flew from Minneapolis to Washington, DC, to participate in the largest march ever for women's reproductive rights. Once again, she stood strong with her fellow Americans, this time over a million, to protect the rights she fought to secure for women more than 30 years ago.

I stand here on the Senate floor today to honor Mrs. Betty Benjamin on her 80th birthday and to thank her for her continued commitment and dedication. May God grace us with her presence and her passion for many years to come.

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