Friday, March 16 marked the end of an era for Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, and U.S. politics, after a sustained head injury took her life at the age of 88 years. An energetic leader of the New York State Democratic party, the first and only woman to chair the House Judiciary Committee, and a passionate champion for progressive change in the House of Representatives for over thirty years, Congresswoman Slaughter will be sorely missed.
Having grown up in rural Kentucky, Slaughter’s dedication to public service, and her unwavering commitment to ensuring protection for working families was well-respected. She studied at the University of Kentucky, and earned a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and a Masters of Public Health, focusing her thesis on bacterial drug resistance. Slaughter later noted that her studies shaped her agenda in the House.
While Congresswoman Slaughter achieved an exceptional amount of success, her most notable efforts advocated for women’s rights and public health. As a co-sponsor of the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993, Slaughter ensured that women and minority populations had fair opportunity to participate in federal health clinical trials – a privilege often reserved for white males. Slaughter continued to rally for vulnerable populations as co-author of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which was the first comprehensive federal legislation designed to end violence against women. Slaughter then proposed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act in 1995, and continued to ferociously rally until it was successfully enacted in 2008. This legislation banned discrimination by employers and insurers based on a person’s genetic information. While the 2007 Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) continues to be stalled in the House, the Congresswoman set forth an incredibly important and timely proposal that should not be lost with her. PAMTA aims to curb the widespread use of antibiotics in healthy cattle, pigs and chickens – a measure often used to promote growth in otherwise healthy livestock, however is a major contributor to the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. As the only microbiologist in Congress, Slaughter pushed for issues that were often overlooked, yet vitally important to the health and well-being of our nation.
Senate Minority leader and fellow NY Democrat, Chuck Schumer described the Congresswoman adeptly, “The ferocity of her advocacy was matched only by the depth of her compassion and humanity.” It is understandable why even her political opponents admired and respected her throughout her 16 terms of service.
HSP Executive Director, Jason Rao, with the late Congresswoman Slaughter.