Scene Last Night: Cosmopolitan’s Coles on Abortion Rights

Almost no Manolos or Cosmopolitans were at this party. The drink was the rum-based “Signature Cocktail,” available to guests who signed a pledge to fight for reproductive rights. The guests included Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, Louise Arbour, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and designer Nanette Lepore.

The occasion last night was a benefit for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which deploys lawyers to protect a woman’s access to abortion, contraception and maternity health care. Founded in 1992 and based in New York, the organization works in the U.S. as well as in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe, where it’s opening an office in Geneva in two weeks.

The Center’s budget this year is $22 million, plus $5 million in pro bono services from top law firms, said Nancy Northup, its president and chief executive officer. The budget has increased by $10 million since 2011, she added, “because people are seeing that the need is great, and that investing in law reform has the power to make change.”

The organization began holding a gala in 2012. Last night’s event raised almost $1 million.

In the U.S., abortion rights, once considered rock-solid after Roe v. Wade, are under threat in several states. In Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, just one abortion clinic in each state remains open.

Texas Ruling

“How many abortion clinics are left in Texas?” said Sonia Gardner, president of Avenue Capital and one of the hosts of the evening, along with Laurie Campbell of Bank of America. Daniel Loeb of Third Point and his wife, Margaret Munzer Loeb, were among the co-chairmen.

Texas is one of the battlegrounds. The Center went to the Supreme Court over a law in the state regulating abortion clinics and won a ruling earlier this month that allowed 13 clinics to reopen, joining the eight that had stayed open after the law was passed.

“I have three daughters -- I don’t want our rights to erode any more,” said Amy Metzler Ritter, a San Franciscan and new board member of the Center, who is married to venture capitalist Gordon Ritter of Emergence Capital Partners.

“If there were more women in leadership positions in Congress, this would not be an issue that we keep revisiting,” said Joanna Coles, editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, published by Hearst. “We’d put this issue to bed -- no pun intended -- and we could move on to other issues like national security and the economy.”

Midterm Vote

She also urged women to vote in the midterm elections. “This really is an issue that will be impacted if the Democrats lose the Senate.”

Coles was honored for the magazine’s coverage of the state battles over abortion rights. In the Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center, she was introduced by Willie Parker, a doctor at Mississippi’s only abortion clinic. Senator Blumenthal presented an award to Arbour.

Northup, at the lectern, invoked Hillary Clinton. “It’s important to come together in person so that we can reconnect ourselves to what Secretary Clinton has called the great unfinished business of the 21st century, and that is achieving equality for women.”

Many women at the event linked the right to abortion to women’s economic advancement. As Coles put it, “practically speaking, the single most important economic decision a woman will make is when she has her first child. If you get pregnant by mistake and you have your first child at 17, your life will turn out very differently than if you have your first child at 27 or 37.”

While established professional women composed the majority of guests, it was exciting to see some teenagers in the crowd. Nico LeMoal-Polumbo and Emma Patterson, both 16, said they’re founders and co-presidents of the Ms. World Feminism and Pro-Choice Club at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.

“We meet every Thursday,” said Patterson, a junior who studies art. “We discuss reproductive rights and also female circumcision, rape culture and the objectification of women.”

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