AuCoin was a leader in the fight for abortion rights in the House of Representatives. After Roe vs. Wade, Congress frequently introduced legislation to restrict the funding and access to abortion in the US. AuCoin consistently opposed these measures, often speaking out against them on the House Floor and at National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) events.
On August 2nd, 1989, AuCoin gave what became known as his “Take Names and Kick Ankles” speech. The statement was in response to an amendment proposed by Representative Robert Dornan, Republican from California, to prevent the use of public funds for abortion in the District of Columbia. From his seat on the House Appropriations Committee, AuCoin led the debate, declaring that Congress could no longer pass anti-abortion policy without political backlash. He announced, “Those of us who defend a woman’s freedom of choice are drawing a line in the sand today, a line of decency, a line of fair play, and a line of serious politics…. The pro-choice movement is mobilized. And from this day forward, it is going to take names and kick [pause] ankles”. After his speech, the House voted down an anti-abortion amendment for the first time in 10 years.