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PAI Mourns the Loss of former Democratic Congressman Anthony Beilenson

Stories and Profiles

The board and staff of PAI mourn the loss of former Democratic Congressman Anthony Beilenson on March 5th at the age of 84. Congressman Beilenson was an active member of the PAI Board from 1997 to 2002. His service followed his retirement from Congress after having represented the Los Angeles-based 24th District of California in the House from 1977 to 1996.

During his 10-term tenure, Representative Beilenson was a leading supporter of international family planning, advocating for major funding increases for the program. He co-chaired the Congressional Coalition on Population and Development, a bipartisan group of House members that developed legislative strategy on key family planning initiatives during a time—seemingly long since passed—when family planning advocates could still count on the votes of several dozen Republicans on pro-family planning amendments.

Along with Senators Tim Wirth (D-CO) and Alan Simpson (R-WY) and House Republican colleague Connie Morella (R-MD), Congressman Beilenson helped author the first comprehensive population and family planning funding and policy legislation in the early 1990s, a sweeping bipartisan and bicameral vision for addressing some of the most fundamental challenges facing the planet. He was also a congressional delegate to the landmark 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo.

Widely-regarded for both his intellect and integrity and renowned for his independence, Representative Beilenson chose to confront and master some of the toughest political issues around, many still confronting our nation like the budget, immigration, and campaign finance, while sometimes also demonstrating a maverick streak in deviating from Democratic orthodoxy. He was also a leading environmentalist working to protect natural resources and preserve endangered species.

Prior to being elected to Congress, Mr. Beilenson served with distinction in the California State Legislature from 1962 to 1976. During his tenure in the state legislature, he notably authored the first reform of the state’s abortion laws in over a century in 1967, signed into law by then-Governor Ronald Reagan. He was also the lead sponsor of the legislation that created in California the most comprehensive state family planning program in the nation.

At a moment when the partisan divide seems like it cannot possibly get much wider, Congress could use a few more Tony Beilenson’s to tackle the vexing political challenges that prevent today’s legislators from finding reasonable, fact-based compromise. But as he presciently observed in announcing his decision not to seek reelection two decades ago, “Moderate, sensible, middle-of-the-road resolution of issues seem no longer possible.”

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