Tag Archives: Roe v. Wade

Roe v. Wade: Celebrating 40 Years

22 Jan

roe40thstampOn January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court finally ruled that women in this country could legally govern their own bodies with the landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade.  Sadly, 40 years later, we are witnessing a vicious attack on women’s health with people like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdoch and their ilk working to take full control over women’s bodies.

Another concrete example of recent monstrous misogyny is Republican Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi. His stated goal is to shut down the last clinic in the state that provides safe and legal abortions. On Thursday, Bryant said:

My goal, of course, is to shut it down. Now, we’ll follow the laws. The bill is in the courts now, related to the physicians and their association with a hospital. But, certainly, if I had the power to do so legally, I’d do so tomorrow.

Here we see some serious white male privilege at work. Bryant and all of the anti-choice folk seem far more interested in protecting the fetus while demonstrating complete disdain once the child is born.  Furthermore, we have a serious class issue at hand.  For women of financial resources, the law becomes immaterial, for they can travel someplace to have a safe and legal abortion.  What about women without resources? Why do Bryant and his ilk get to decide what is best for women in our country? Those who are anti-choice should be free to live their own lives according to their beliefs; they do not, however, possess the right to impose their beliefs on others through abusive practices.

The power of the courts to clarify rights and interpret law is vital. We should celebrate significant decisions like Roe v. Wade or Brown v. Board of Education. But we live in a participatory democracy and must remain vigilant. On many issues there will be disagreements and those who feel their views should triumph over established rights. As we take time to celebrate great decisions, we must also strive to ensure that the fruits of those decisions remain available to all Americans, regardless of class, location, race, or any other factor.

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Celebrating Thurgood Marshall

30 Aug

On this date in 1967, civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall became the first African American appointed to the Supreme Court. In his 24 years on the Court, he was a stalwart defender of the oppressed, a strong voice for social justice, and a strong voice for the evolutionary model of Constitutional law clearly intended at the founding of our country. He wisely observed in a U.S. Bicentennial speech:

the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and major social transformations to attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights we hold as fundamental today.

Born in 1908 in Baltimore, Marshall was the son of a railroad porter and a teacher and the grandson of slaves. His parents instilled in him a deep appreciation of American citizenship and the rule of law in a just society. He graduated from Lincoln University, where he was a member of the first black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. He intended to go to law school at his hometown University of Maryland, but was turned away because of their strict segregation policy. He instead went to Howard University School of Law, graduating first in his class in 1933. Three years later, he represented Donald Gaines Murray in a case that forced Maryland to eliminate the policy that had kept him from its law school.

Marshall undertook that case as part of his work with the NAACP. He quickly rose to become their Chief Counsel. At the age of 32, he won his first case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Chambers v. Florida, a due process case involving undue police pressure on four African American men. He went on to argue 32 cases before the Court, more than anyone else, winning a stunning 29 of those cases. The most famous of those, building on his success in Maryland, was Brown v. Board of Education. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, resorting to a recess appointment when a group of southern senators held up his confirmation. After four years on that bench, he was tapped by President Johnson to become the first African American U.S. Solicitor General. During his time in that role, he won an enviable 14 of the 19 cases he defended.

Strong-willed and successful, Marshall recognized that the American dream is not accomplished solely by personal determination.

None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.

He also knew how much minority oppression worked against too many Americans, saying

A child born to a Black mother in a state like Mississippi… has exactly the same rights as a white baby born to the wealthiest person in the United States. It’s not true, but I challenge anyone to say it is not a goal worth working for.

With the famous observation that it was “the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place,” LBJ put Marshall forward for the Supreme Court when Justice Tom C. Clark retired. He served on the Court for the next twenty-four years, compiling a liberal record that included strong support for Constitutional protection of individual rights, especially the rights of criminal suspects against the government. He was a staunch opponent of the death penalty, believing it a violation of the Constitution. He participated in every dissent of death penalty cases during his time on the Court.

Justice Marshall also understood that equal rights apply to all, extending his work for racial equality to other oppressed communities. He joined in a spirited dissent of Bowers v. Hardwick, the 1986 decision that infamously upheld Georgia’s anti-gay application of its ludicrous sodomy laws. He also wrote influential opinions on labor rights, securities law, and taxation. He famously wrote a dissent in Personnel Administrator MA v. Feeney, saying that a law that gave hiring preference to veterans over non-veterans was unconstitutional because of its inequitable impact on women (Yes, standing up for equality for women was okay back then). A constant defender of individual freedom, he famously observed:

If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his house, what books he may read or what films he may watch.

Marshall also supported a women’s right to govern her own body and helped with the passage of Roe v. Wade. He was a stalwart defender of women’s rights and the right to choose.

In poor health, he retired from the bench in 1991, noting his dissatisfaction that his successor would be selected by George H.W. Bush. Those fears were sound. In a display of wanton tokenism, Bush appointed the integrity-impaired far right demagogue Clarence Thomas. That substitution heralded the beginning of the Court’s descent from defenders of individual rights and the rule of law to the Roberts’ Court’s flagrant obsequiousness to corporate power and individual greed. The Fecal Five on today’s Court would do well to listen to Marshall’s words:

Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men’s minds.

Fortunately, Marshall’s legacy lives on, with many of his opinions holding the force of law even today. His true successor on the bench was appointed by the first African American President when President Obama appointed former Marshall law clerk Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Marshall died of heart failure in 1993. His papers were given to the Library of Congress and — unusually but according to Marshall’s wishes — made open to scholars and researchers immediately. Many tributes and memorials to Marshall exist around the country but none are so strong as the legacy of the law he believed in, defended, and helped to shape for the betterment of all Americans.

Rape

28 Aug

The GOP Owns Your Vagina

Thank you to my friend JoAnna, a fierce advocate for oppressed voices, for inspiring me to write this article. Now that the Republican Platform includes Akin’s “Legitimate Rape” and the repeal of all rights gained by the LGBT community, Tom Smith (R), Senate Candidate from Pennsylvania, is just following his party’s platform when he adds his comments to the overwhelmingly misogynistic tea (Kool Aid). As reported in the Huffington Post, he believes:

Rape is like having a baby out of wedlock… although he condemns Akin’s comment, he agrees with Akin that abortion should be banned without any exceptions, including for rape and incest victims.

How is that disagreeing with Akin? He has been hanging around Romney and Ryan for too long.

I simply do not understand how any woman could vote Republican right now.  The party platform says specifically that they are going to try and overturn Roe v. Wade with their “personhood” amendment.  That “Rape is just like having a child out of wedlock,” “that women can’t get pregnant because of a ‘legitimate’ rape.”   How is this not a War on Women?

I would also beg the question as to how could any self respecting LGBTQ person vote Republican when it is now part of their platform and Romney signed a pledge to:

  • Support and send to the states a federal marriage amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman,
  • Defend DOMA in court,
  • Appoint judges and an attorney general who will respect the original meaning of the Constitution,
  • Appoint a presidential commission to investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters,
  • Support legislation that would return to the people of D.C. their right to vote for marriage.
  • Repeal all rights gained by the LGBTQ community.

Don’t fear, homos! My friend Jodi Sisson just notified me that Todd (I can’t even spell biology )Akin has hope for you: breast milk cures homosexuality! There’s some science for you.

They may call this the Republican Party, but let’s face it, this is a Fascist Party serving up some noxious tea. Their leadership is the greatest supporting argument for birth control I can think of.

My suggestion for all of these white purportedly heterosexual men wanting full control of every vagina in the land–get castrated!

One of the Voices of Social Justice: Author Susan Carlton

8 Aug

Author Susan Carlton

Welcome to the next installment of SJFA’s Voices of Social Justice Series.  I first met my dear friend Susan nearly a decade ago.  I had the great honor of teaching her daughter Jane as a 6th grader.  Jane is all grown up now — amazing that we are now the same age. I was immediately drawn to Susan and her family because of the wonderful energy they all have.  Susan has such a sense of activism and social justice, fighting for equality for all.  We see this in her latest historical novel for young adults called Love and Haight, which has been nominated for both an Amelia Bloomer Award and a YALSA Award .  Susan was kind enough to visit with me about the book. What motivated you to write Love and Haight?

It started out—well I always wanted to be a hippie, but I was born a little too late.  I had a long time fascination about what it would be like to be a hippie.  It started as a valentine to that time and place. I grew up in San Francisco.  I thought about what it would be like to be  a 17-year-old girl who was pregnant but did not want to be pregnant and it takes place before Roe v. Wade. The novel is more about making adult choices than about abortion and deciding what choices are right for her.

I know you graduated from Lewis and Clark College, but went to Reed College as well.  Reed is known for being exceedingly progressive.  Is Dr. Reed in the novel named for Reed college because he is so progressive?

Reed is the school and the progressive doctor both, but I  totally created him from my mind.  I graduated from Lewis and Clark in communications and political science. I took dance classes at Reed.

Did you intentionally anthropomorphize the different medical facilities?

Yes, they do take on the feel of actual characters.  As a woman you enter a clinic and it does become a kind of home.  The way it looks, the way it feels, the way it smells make such a huge difference on how you feel about the place.  I spent a great deal of time in hospitals when my daughter was quite sick.  I had time to think and reflect about these places as more than just a cipher—these are very important places.

Was there a particular part of the book that was very difficult to write? (Spoiler Alert! You may want to skip the next paragraph if you have not read the book already.)

I found the idea of how women had to jump through so many hoops to get the permission from a committee — that this was going on in my lifetime.  The most difficult part to write about was the actual procedure itself.  There are very few books that actually talk about abortion.  I thought if I’m going to talk about her having an abortion it was important to make it real.

Had you contemplated an alternate ending?

Initially it was Chloe’s mother that was having the abortion and Chloe was looking at issues around her sexuality.  Eventually, I felt that since I’m throwing a hot potato into the mix, I should just address the 17-year-old having an abortion.  I wanted it to end with you are not judged by a single decision.  Even if it is difficult,  you can make a hard decision and still have a happy life [Susan says emphatically].

When asked about women like Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin who are so anti-woman, Susan replied that: 

What is so interesting is that we are here 40 years later and things are so much the same. It is not just women like Bachmann and Palin — it is our culture.  There is a movie I saw about five years ago called Knocked Up and they don’t even use the word abortion.  The word abortion is so toxic in our culture. It is not just the extremists, it is also just mainstream.  For Chloe, she had people who supported her, even her mother was not judgmental.  What good can come of shame? It is so counterproductive.  It seems that what many people need is acceptance and celebration and not shaming.

I could not agree more.  Shaming does nothing helpful or productive.  Susan, thank you for your strong voice and for your literature and activism. I only hope that Love and Haight becomes mandatory reading in schools across the country.  I strongly encourage everyone to buy a copy of Love and Haight.  Click here to read a great book review from the Examiner.

Jan Brewer v. Roe v. Wade

16 Apr

Is there anyone whose rights I still need to trample?

Sadly, we have another Stepford wife perpetuating the war on women.  Our Jan Brewer(R. Arizona) who suffers from internalized misogyny, has signed a bill that in many ways challenges Roe v. Wade and sends the message that women are not able to govern their own bodies.   The absurd law states that:

…gestational age as beginning on the first day of a woman’s last period, rather than at fertilization. In practice, that means the state has banned abortions after about 18 weeks.

The absurdly named Women’s Health and Safety Act moves the cutoff threshold for abortions so early that it prevents most medical testing that would inform a woman about the health and viability of a fetus. This is bad enough, but the bill also effectively ends another common, medically sound practice.

Medication abortions, which are nonsurgical and usually performed within the first nine weeks of pregnancy, and account for between 17 and 20 percent of all abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-rights advocacy group. While women often take the pills at clinics and in their homes, the bill now mandates that a medical provider must have hospital privileges within 30 miles of where the procedure takes place. Many times clinics or homes are not within 30 miles of hospitals, and the distance prevents providers from other cities or even states from caring for women, says Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute. Another factor that could contribute to what Nash called a “shutdown” of medication abortions is that the law requires abortion pills to be administered using outdated protocols, confusing providers and obscuring proper use of the drugs.

This bill continues the alarming trend of right-wing legislatures (Arizona’s is one of the most draconian) and tea-soaked governors doing everything they can to thwart the established law of the land regarding abortions. Since taking office, Jan Brewer has proved hostile to every vulnerable population she comes across. How sad that this latest action provides more cover for the Republican obfuscationsists to say “how can it be a war on women when a woman supported it?” Bigots and villains have no better allies than the self-loathing, and Jan Brewer clearly loathes everyone.  We tried to reach Gov. Brewer for comment, but she was busy directing her minions to build a wall around Arizona to keep out Latinos.

In My Lifetime…

8 Jan

One of my heroes!

In my lifetime, I have seen the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the start of the Vietnam War.  I remember watching on our black and white television the killing of 4 college students and the wounding of 9 others at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard.  I witnessed the resignation of Richard Nixon, minutes before he would have been impeached. Presidents Ford and Reagan both survived assasination attempts, Reagan just barely. Ironically, the attempt on Reagan led to the Brady bill and some real, rational progress on gun control.

Fortunately, I also witnessed Roe v. Wade.  Finally, women were told by the U.S. Supreme Court they could be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies–what a novel idea. To be gay and to have been alive during the Stonewall Riots feels like a gift from history now. Through Affirmative Action and social pressure and protest the face of corporate and government leadership is much more diverse than it was when I was born, though we still have a long way to go.

I have seen the boom of space exploration, starting in my lifetime with the 1969 Apollo moon landing. Who would have imagined an international space station? The entire space shuttle program went from planning to launch to being grounded in my lifetime. I remember the excitement of each launch and the shock and disbelief that met the tragic fates of the Challenger and the Columbia.

Of course, the events of 9/11 forever changed the world and helped to give George W. the amplified tool of fear.  While we saw the world come together as a united globe for a couple of days, the legacy of 9/11 seems to be fear, and the vilification of Muslims.

Technology has changed in ways that make our lives almost unrecognizable. I remember the our very first microwave oven when I was in high school and the very first time I saw color television. Many people today carry more computing power in their telephones than existed in a typical business when I started grade school. The Internet has totally changed commerce, government, journalism, and social interaction, for better or for worse. Computing power and quick connections can be useful, but they also lead to snap judgments and a sense of urgency that impairs our better selves.

While I have witnessed a great deal in a relatively short period of time, I do worry about our country going exponentially backwards regarding civil rights and liberties.  The rise of the Tea Party and the blatant racism we have seen since President Obama took office have been mortifying.  Watching the GOP presidential candidates often shoves me into a dark and misanthropic abyss.  Where are the voices of the progressive movement? Why do we vilify the Occupy Movement? When do we take our country back from the religious right hypocrites?

Action item: We have the ability to move forward. We have the ability to change systems and end the intersections of oppression.  We have to get out and use our voices and we have to VOTE!

Bigot of the Week Award: November 4, Mitt Romney

4 Nov

Bigot of the Week

Just when I thought I could not dislike Mitt Romney anymore than I already did, he makes a pathetic misogynistic move to earn my utter contempt.  This week, Romney told Faux News that he would support a  “personhood” constitutional amendment, thus earning him this week’s BWA.

For those TSM readers that are not already aware of how dangerous and misogynistic the proposed “personhood” idea is, allow me to explain.  The anti-woman, anti-choice folks are trying to give a fertilized human egg the status of a legal person, calling the egg “personhood”.  “Personhood” would also effectively ban IUDs, the morning-after pill, in-vitro fertilization, and all abortions; there are no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or in cases where the life of a woman is at stake.  Basically, “personhood” would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Let us not forget the connection between misogyny and homophobia.  Romney is on record stating he is against marriage equality, civil unions, domestic partnerships, the repeal of DADT, and wants to use tax dollars to defend DOMA.  These are not the qualities for the leader of the “free” world.

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