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Posts Tagged ‘reproductive rights’

by Julia:

So I’m less than a month away from starting law school. In the tradition of other law school bloggers, I’m gonna withhold (for right now) where I’m attending in the fall for the sake of related Google searches. If you’re really curious, any of the clues I give away in the Top Five will easily lead you to the answer. Rest assured, I’ll reveal this information soon, and anyone who knows me even remotely knows where I’m going. Anyway, I’m obviously excited to start this new chapter in my life, so I’ve been spending a fair amount of time recently perusing the site of my law school for various fun tidbits – course offerings, clinics, student organizations, etc. These factors were huge in deciding where I would ultimately attend school (location and $$$ were obviously up there, too), so it was a nice reminder to return to these traits that led me to choose my school a couple months back.

For fun, I also decided to look at the sites of some of the other schools I considered, but ultimately turned down, and compare their student programs/curricula. Some of the juxtapositions were too good, and needless to say, I’m super pleased with my decision.

Top Five Reasons My School is Better (at least for me):

5) Five of the professors featured on one of my favorite blogs, Feminist Law Professors, teach at my school. This is cool not only because of celeb status, but also because these profs offer some awesome classes and bring an ever-needed feminist perspective to the law. I’m happy that my views will not just be tolerated at my school, but hopefully welcomed with such a feminist-heavy faculty.

4) I have some great clinical opportunities in front of me. From immigration to domestic violence to older prisoners to vaccine injury to public justice, I’m confident that a lot of my interests in legal practice will be nurtured and guided by these clinical offerings.

3) My school has a large criminal justice reform project which aims to encourage re-entry programs rather than incarceration. With the US per-capita incarceration rate rivaling China (not to mention the mass incarceration of black men), this is a problem that needs to be addressed from both inside and outside of the legal fields.

2) Most large law schools have pretty diverse course offerings, especially when you reach the upper-level elective courses. Indeed, course offerings at one of the other contenders on my list were certainly enticing (so many Critical Legal Studies courses!) Nonetheless, my school’s size allows for a great diversity of courses. Hopefully I’ll be able to take some of these:

Feminist Legal Theory, Law and Literature (I’m looking at you, Dostoevsky/Kafka/Morrison, and others), Law and Psychiatry (Kevorkian!), Comparative Constitutional Law (mm, Scandinavia), Space Law and/or Law of the Sea, Seminar in Government Procurement of Intellectual Property, Law in Cyberspace (I’m really starting to get into the whole Intellectual Property field…), Employment Discrimination Law, Sexuality and the Law, Gender Discrimination and the Law, The Law of Democracy, White Collar Crime, Consumer Protection Law, Campaign Finance Law, etc.

1) My school has an active Anarchist Collective. A neighboring school has University-sponsored clubs for enthusiasts of beer, bridge, chess, board games, wine, Gilbert & Sullivan (actually…?),  and militia-building, but the only club which doesn’t receive funding from the University or the Student Bar Association is the club advocating reproductive justice. Law school fail. Meanwhile, my school fully funds the AC (mentioned above), a Feminist Forum, (a separate!) Law Association for Women, (and yet another “lady org”!!) Law Students for Reproductive Justice, Students for Drug Law Reform, The Innocence Project, and the Equal Justice Foundation, among many others.

But yea, we’ve got an Anarchist Collective. At the very least, this will provide me an insta-group of like-minded peers. I’m 100% ready to bridge the gap between my activism in college and my legal studies – can’t wait to forge ahead with that combination of skills.

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by Elizabeth

Planned Parenthood has released a fabulous video response to the notorious Tim Tebow Focus on the Family advertisement that is slated to air during the Superbowl. The Planned Parenthood ad features former college and professional football player Sean James and gold medalist Al Joyner delivering a beautifully feminist message:

“Only women can make the best decisions about their health and future…We celebrate families by supporting our mothers. By supporting our daughters. By trusting women.”

This message of choices– and the acknowledgment that Mrs. Tebow’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy was a choice itself- is clearly a direct response to the criticism the Tebow ad received.  Sure, Focus on the Family is anti-choice, but the push to pull the ad is counter-productive. What both Focus on the Family and  Planned Parenthood are expressing is the need to “protect the right of women like Pam Tebow to make their private reproductive choices.” And hurrah to Planned Parenthood for doing so in a positive, pro-choice manner!

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by Elizabeth

“Gosh, I step away for a couple of years and there’s no telling what’s going to happen,” Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor joked recently in a speech at Georgetown University. Following Tuesday’s decision to strike down bans on corporate spending in elections, it seems that truer words have never been spoken.

Last Sunday’s Politics Daily online show, Woman UP, discussed O’Connor’s palpable absence on the Court, a feminist issue in two senses. First, without O’Connor’s the Court has made several 5-4 decisions with remarkable implications for women’s rights in America. Further, O’Connor’s early retirement to care for her ailing husband sparks a familiar dialogue on women as caretakers, often at the expense of their careers. The Woman UP panel, consisting of Jill Lawrence, Patricia Murphy, Emily Miller, and Bonnie Erbé, made evident that SCOTUS would have very different dynamic– and certainly a better one– had O’Connor not been made to retire.

The very first woman on the Supreme Court, O’Connor was a law school graduate who’d been offered secretarial jobs. But as a Reagan nominee who Grew up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest, O’Connor was often criticized for never quite fitting the image of a modern feminist. Her husband was known to have spent his days in her chambers while she worked, and O’Connor herself notably delayed her career until her three sons were in school. On her clerks’ door she left a Xerox of her hand with a note that read, “For a pat on the back, lean here.”

But O’Connor was a justice who, after listening to colleague Antonin Scalia constantly rail against affirmative action, responded, “How do you think I got my job?” A pioneer and most often the swing vote, she helped to protect several key policy issues for women’s rights. Though O’Connor allowed certain limits to be placed on access to abortion, she supported the fundamental right to abortion protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, she used a test she had originally developed in City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health to limit the holding of Roe v. Wade. Though the decision limited the scope of its protections, Casey upheld Roe; writing the plurality opinion for the Court, O’Connor famously declared, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.”

O’Connor’s decision to retire in 2006 inevitably disappointed some.

Some criticized her decision to step-down because of her husband’s health as anti-feminist. Others lamented the loss of the crucial, protecting fifth vote. In 2007, O’Connor told Newsweek that she had did not intend for her career on the high court to end as it did, noting that she probably would have worked until she died or became incapacitated, like most (male) justices. “Most of them get ill and are really in bad shape, which I would’ve done at the end of the day myself, I suppose, except my husband was ill and I needed to take action there,” she said.

While, I certainly wish she had stuck it out, O’Connor’s resignation and heavily weighed absence are a reminder that even for the women of country’s nine elite, life/work balance is an elusive concept. As the Woman UP panel contends (and about which they argue whenever defensive and ignorant-seeming Emily Miller speaks up), is that no male judge has ever been forced to early retirement because of his wife or family. Indeed, it seems those “family issues” that force so many male politicians into resignation are really, well, just their own stupidity in having extramarital affairs.

Though we can’t say for sure that women would have been absolutely protected if O’Connor had kept her seat, Jill Lawrence outlines four contentious 5-4 decisions from 2007 alone that likely would have changed with O’Connor’s vote. Among them are the Lily Ledbetter decision and the Gonzales partial-birth abortion ban.

O’Connor has been quite vocal about last week’s 5-4 decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which overturns federal restrictions on corporate campaign contributions. She says the ruling essentially reverses the 2003 opinion she helped write and threatens the independence of state courts. She told CNN, “It has the effect of turning judges into these politically elected figures in arms races, if you will, by people with the means to support them.”

Even though O’Connor refused to identify herself as a feminist, her decisions and beliefs suggested a jurisprudence we certainly miss.  O’Connor, who will be 80 in March, was, and is, at the top of her game- and as Jill concluded her piece, “that makes it all the more painful that she’s on the sidelines.”

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by Elizabeth

As Julia mentioned, today is the Fifth Annual Blog For Choice Day and we’ve been given the task of answering “What does ‘Trust Women’ mean to you?”

Here’s my go at it-

As I reflect on the meaning of Dr. Tiller’s favorite slogan on this 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it occurs to me that this is not about abortion. It was never was about abortion. It never will be about abortion. What we are fighting for– and what Dr. Tiller simply, silently, and courageously requested through the pin on his lapel–was choice,  freedom, autonomy, equality,  trust.

Our nation, one made by and for adult citizens, has become one imagined only for fetuses and children, where a mass cultural fixation has turned women into children and babies into citizens. All citizens are not created equal and our rights are not freely granted. This is evident in the legislation that forces women to view ultrasound images, get consent from a parent or spouse, or wait twenty-four hours after having traveled hundreds of miles before they may terminate their pregnancy.   This can be seen in the ability of pharmacists to deny a woman her birth control. This is obvious in the literature of Crisis Pregnancy Centers and pro-life organizations which falsely and frighteningly suggests that women are more likely to contemplate suicide after having an abortion.  It is clear in the prevailing attitudes, practices, and policies make clear that women are not, and should not be, responsible for themselves.

But to trust women and their ability to decide what they want with their bodies is not a simple matter if more choices do not exist. Beyond abortion, we need the opportunity to educate, to provide safe homes and communities, to access health care, to have affordable childcare, to see  family planning or STD clinics, and to receive equal pay for equal work.

We must not only trust women to make decisions but we must also afford them with the opportunities to do so. I trust women to make the decision that they feel is best for themselves, their families, and their lives, but that decision can only be a real decision when choices exist.

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by Elizabeth

The U.S. military has dropped its controversial new policy which called for punishing soldiers in northern Iraq for becoming pregnant or impregnating another soldier.

Under the order, which went into effect on Nov. 4,  any soldier who became pregnant or impregnated another service member– including married couples serving in the same unit– could face a court-martial and jail time as issued by Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo.  The Major General cited existing Army policy as justification; presently the military is required to remove a pregnant soldier from a war zone within 14 days of learning of her pregnancy, creating a disruptive vacancy for units on mission.

Even as of last week, a poll of 15,395 respondents on NBC’s site suggested that many Americans saw no issue with the pregnancy ban. When asked, “Do you agree with the Army general in Iraq banning pregnancy among emergency personnel?” a whopping 69% answered yes. Only 29% said no, while 2% remained undecided.

While there are obvious dangers surrounding pregnant soldiers, the measure was yet another by the United States military which left me wondering if it’s even Constitutional to so blatantly and institutionally exclude or debilitate women. Apparently, it’s not.

The change in policy comes just two weeks after Independent military newspaper Stars and Stripes first reported on the issue, inviting scrutiny:

Among the critics were four Democratic senators who wrote a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh, asking him to rescind the pregnancy restriction.

“This policy could encourage female soldiers to delay seeking critical medical care with potentially serious consequences for the mother and child,” said the letter signed by Barbara Boxer, Barbara Mikulski, Jeanne Shaheen and Kristen Gillibrand. ”We can think of no greater deterrent to women contemplating a military career than the image of a pregnant woman being severely punished for simply conceiving a child. That defies comprehension.”

Cucolo said this week said that seven soldiers – four women and three men – had faced administrative punishment for violating the pregnancy rule. Though he spent much of the last week defending the policy,  he now has “no intention of court-martialing the violators.”

Still, the military remains plagued by a myriad of gendered issues. Women serving in Iraq are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire; menstruation is an acceptable justification for keeping the Navy SEALs a boys-only club; and patriarchal criteria determine which soldiers make the cut.

While repealing this policy is certainly a step in the right direction, the military might want to consider providing access to birth control and abortion if it really wants to encourage responsible family planning among its soldiers. As ThinkProgress notes, Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would also likely lessen military attrition. For now, though, it remains that a few horrific amateur abortions and the loss of thousands of gay soldiers are a small price to pay for the illusion of purity.

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