Louise McIntosh Slaughter was born on August 14, 1929, in Harlan County, Kentucky. She attended the University of Kentucky, where she earned a B.S. in microbiology (1951) and an M.S. in public health (1953). After completing her studies, Slaughter worked as a market researcher for a major chemicals manufacturer; served in the Monroe County (New York) legislature from 1976-79; was a regional coordinator to Democrat Mario Cuomo during his years as New York's secretary of state (1976-78) and lieutenant governor (1979-82); and served in the New York State Assembly (1982-86). In 1986, the voters of New York's 30th Congressional District elected Slaughter to the U.S. House of Representatives, where she subsequently served, until the end of her life, as a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Her District was renumbered as the 28th in 1992, and the 25th 2012.
In the 1980s Slaughter strongly opposed the Reagan administration's “immoral Contra war policy,” which provided aid to the Nicaraguan Contras in their battle against that nation's Marxist Sandinista government.
In 1991, Slaughter and six other Democratic congresswomen went to the Senate to demand a delay in the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, against whom attorney Anita Hill had levied accusations of past sexual harassment.
In August 2007, Slaughter was one of 90 Members of Congress who signed an open letter delivered to President George W. Bush, stating: “We will only support appropriating funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq during Fiscal Year 2008 and beyond for the protection and safe redeployment of all our troops out of Iraq before you leave office.” The letter was initiated by the Peace Pledge Coalition, an alliance led by such notables as Medea Benjamin, Bill Fletcher, Kevin Zeese, and representatives of the Progressive Democrats of America, Democrats.com, AfterDowningStreet.org, Velvet Revolution, and the Backbone Campaign. At that time, President Bush's “troop surge,” which ultimately turned the tide of the war and crushed the Iraqi resistance, was in high gear.
When the House of Representatives voted by a 345-75 margin to defund the notoriously corrupt community organization ACORN in September 2009, Slaughter was one of the 75—all Democrats—who voted to continue funding the group. For a list of other legislators who voted as Slaughter did, click here.
Slaughter served as chairwoman of the House Rules Committee from 2007-11.
Just days after a gunman's assassination attempt against Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in January 2011, Slaughter said that the Federal Communications Commission's 1987 abolition of the so-called Fairness Doctrine was “not working anymore,” and that it was now time to more strictly police the language used in political discourse generally, and on conservative talk radio in particular. “What I’d like to see is if we could all get together on both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans, and really talk about what we can do to cool down the country,” Slaughter said. “Part of that has to be what they’re hearing over the airwaves.”
In April 2011—four months after the wave election in which the GOP had regained control of the House of Representatives—Slaughter depicted Republicans as enemies of women's rights. “This is probably one of the worst times that we’ve seen because of the numbers of people who were elected to Congress,” she said. “I went through this as co-chair of the arts caucus. In ’94 [a previous wave election that favored Republicans] people were elected simply to come here to kill the National Endowment for the Arts. Now they’re here to kill women.... There is nothing in any of their bills that has anything to do about the health of the woman. You are allowed to have an abortion if you have been raped or it's a matter of incest, however you have to keep a receipt.... It's sort of like an old German Nazi movement: 'Show me your papers.'”
In 2012 Slaughter was a signatory to a J Street-orchestrated letter urging President Barack Obama to pressure Israel into accepting a two-state solution with the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank.
In November 2012, Slaughter was a member of the host committee for “Leading with Love,” an event celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Marxist-led National Domestic Workers Alliance.
Favoring “comprehensive immigration reform” that would provide an “earned path to citizenship” for the millions living illegally in the United States, Slaughter supported the Obama administration's controversial “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) program, initiated in June 2012 to guarantee that most DREAM Act-eligible individuals would be granted temporary legal status, work permits, and eligibility for numerous publicly funded benefits. Slaughter was one of more than 80 House members who, in a letter to President Obama, called for the reinstatement of Affordable Care Act eligibility to the “DREAMers” affected by DACA.
Slaughter likewise supported President Obama’s November 2014 executive action on immigration, known as Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), which authorized the granting of work permits, tax rebates, Social Security cards, and protection from deportation, to millions of illegal immigrants not covered by the DACA edict. The congresswoman asserted that Obama was “well within his constitutional bounds” in enacting DAPA, which she praised for “keep[ing] families together” and “expand[ing] protections for DREAMers so children brought here [to the U.S.] through no fault of their own have access to a college education.”
In October 2015 Slaughter tried to eliminate, from a piece of legislation, language intended to create a new government subcommittee to investigate alleged illegalities committed by Planned Parenthood. Moreover, she sought to replace that language with a provision to shut down the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which at that time was analyzing the Obama administration's failure to secure a U.S. diplomatic facility against a 2012 terrorist attack, and the administration's subsequent attempts to cover up that negligence.
Over the course of her political career, Slaughter's campaigns were supported by such organizations as the Council for a Livable World, the Democratic Socialists of America, EMILY's List, Planned Parenthood, and the Working Families Party.
On March 14, 2018, Slaughter fell and injured herself near her home in Washington, D.C. and suffered a concussion for which she was hospitalized. She died two days later.
For an in-depth look at Slaughter's voting record on key issues during her years in Congress, click here.