Thursday Reads: SCOTUS=American Taliban

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American Taliban

Good Day, Sky Dancers.

As far as I’m concerned, the most important story today is that the corrupt U.S. Supreme Court is signaling the approaching death of reproductive rights for American women. I was so angry that I couldn’t sleep last night, and I’m not thinking too clearly this morning. As I’m sure you know, the Court allowed the insane Texas abortion ban to take effect around midnight on Tuesday, without explanation or comment. Late Wednesday night, the court released the justices’ opinions. The New York Times summarized all of them: Supreme Court, Breaking Silence, Won’t Block Texas Abortion Law.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s three liberal members in dissent.

The majority opinion was unsigned and consisted of a single long paragraph. It said the abortion providers who had challenged the law in an emergency application to the court had not made their case in the face of “complex and novel” procedural questions. The majority stressed that it was not ruling on the constitutionality of the Texas law and did not mean to limit “procedurally proper challenges” to it.

But the ruling was certain to fuel the hopes of abortion opponents and fears of abortion rights advocates as the court takes up a separate case in its new term this fall to decide whether Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision establishing a constitutional right to the procedure, should be overruled. It also left Texas abortion providers turning away patients as they scrambled to comply with the law, which prohibits abortions after roughly six weeks.

The “conservatives” were too cowardly to explain their votes, but the other four justices filed dissenting opinions

“The court’s order is stunning,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”

“The court has rewarded the state’s effort to delay federal review of a plainly unconstitutional statute, enacted in disregard of the court’s precedents, through procedural entanglements of the state’s own creation,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “The court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.”

Chief Justice Roberts wrote that he would have blocked the law while appeals moved forward.

54c8b036fb764f80403fcfd33e35bd8bec-texas-abortion-ban.rsquare.w1200“The statutory scheme before the court is not only unusual, but unprecedented,” he wrote. “The legislature has imposed a prohibition on abortions after roughly six weeks, and then essentially delegated enforcement of that prohibition to the populace at large. The desired consequence appears to be to insulate the state from responsibility for implementing and enforcing the regulatory regime.”

The chief justice underscored the tentative nature of the majority’s ruling. “Although the court denies the applicants’ request for emergency relief today,” he wrote, “the court’s order is emphatic in making clear that it cannot be understood as sustaining the constitutionality of the law at issue.”

Justice Elena Kagan criticized the court’s practice of deciding important issues in rushed decisions without full briefing or oral argument — on what Supreme Court specialists call its “shadow docket.”

“Today’s ruling illustrates just how far the court’s ‘shadow-docket’ decisions may depart from the usual principles of appellate process,” she wrote. “That ruling, as everyone must agree, is of great consequence.”

“Yet the majority has acted without any guidance from the court of appeals — which is right now considering the same issues,” she wrote. “It has reviewed only the most cursory party submissions, and then only hastily. And it barely bothers to explain its conclusion — that a challenge to an obviously unconstitutional abortion regulation backed by a wholly unprecedented enforcement scheme is unlikely to prevail.”

“In all these ways,” Justice Kagan wrote, “the majority’s decision is emblematic of too much of this court’s shadow-docket decision making — which every day becomes more unreasoned, inconsistent and impossible to defend.”

“Today’s ruling illustrates just how far the court’s ‘shadow-docket’ decisions may depart from the usual principles of appellate process,” she wrote. “That ruling, as everyone must agree, is of great consequence.”

“Yet the majority has acted without any guidance from the court of appeals — which is right now considering the same issues,” she wrote. “It has reviewed only the most cursory party submissions, and then only hastily. And it barely bothers to explain its conclusion — that a challenge to an obviously unconstitutional abortion regulation backed by a wholly unprecedented enforcement scheme is unlikely to prevail.”

“In all these ways,” Justice Kagan wrote, “the majority’s decision is emblematic of too much of this court’s shadow-docket decision making — which every day becomes more unreasoned, inconsistent and impossible to defend.”

d9d58583-0b79-4b7c-a049-b373e5393510-RBB_Texas_rally_for_life_65707Justices Breyer and Kagan joined Roberts’ dissent, and Breyer also wrote his own dissent. Zoe Tillman at Buzzfeed News: 

Breyer — who has spent the past year fending off calls from the left to step aside and let President Joe Biden appoint a successor while he has a Democratic majority in the Senate — wrote that it was true that the lawsuit raised difficult threshold questions about how this type of case could be handled by the courts. But he wrote that there had to be a way for courts to deal with an imminent violation of a party’s legal rights.

“There may be other not-very-new procedural bottles that can also adequately hold what is, in essence, very old and very important legal wine: The ability to ask the Judiciary to protect an individual from the invasion of a constitutional right — an invasion that threatens immediate and serious injury,” Breyer wrote.

Amber Phillips at The Washington Post: What to know about the Texas abortion law.

The law, which was passed in May and went into effect Wednesday, says that any pregnancy in which a heartbeat is detected cannot be aborted. That effectively means if you’re six weeks pregnant, you cannot have an abortion in the state of Texas, because that is around when most fetal cardiac activity can be detected. (Doctors opposed to this legislation say that is misleading language, and that the fluttering detected isn’t always necessarily a heartbeat so early in a pregnancy.)

The law makes no exceptions for rape, sexual abuse or incest.

The law does something else novel: It effectively incentivizes the public to police abortions. It allows people — anyone living in the state of Texas — to sue an abortion provider or anyone else they suspect is “aiding and abetting” abortions after that six-week mark. And the law sets a $10,000 award for any successful lawsuit to stop an abortion.

Taken together, those decisions allowed Texas lawmakers to essentially end abortions in their state, abortion rights activists say.

210831-MJF-texas-abortion-tase_jigpixOn the SCOTUS decision:

The court announced that a five-person conservative majority had decided to let the ban stand. The court’s most conservative justices, including the three President Donald Trump nominated, such as Amy Coney Barrett, decided to let the law stand. In a one-paragraph statement, these justices said there are “serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law,” but indicated that the way the law was set up, the court is unsure how to stop if from going into effect.

The three liberal justices, joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., dissented. Roberts said he would stop the law from going into effect because it is so novel and far-reaching.

The justices didn’t say anything about whether the statute is constitutional. They just said it will stay in place while that question is litigated.

That was an unexpected move that could signal the court is ready to strike down Supreme Court precedent created nearly 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade that guarantees a woman access to abortion services in the first half of her pregnancy before the fetus would be viable outside the womb,said Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center, which supports municipalities in cases before the Supreme Court.

“The justices know that this Texas law violates Roe v. Wade. They all know that,” she said. To keep the law in place, “that still doesn’t overturn Roe v. Wade, it just makes a really big statement about what they think of it.”

Phillips notes that other Republican-controlled states are likely to quickly pass similar laws effectively banning abortion. Read about it at the WaPo link.

Joan Biscupic at CNN: In the shadows: Why the Supreme Court’s lack of transparency may cost it in the long run.

Supreme Court justices tout judicial integrity and the importance of public confidence in their decisions, but the court’s midnight silence Tuesday while letting a Texas law that curtails abortion rights take effect — followed by a midnight order Wednesday — offers the latest and most compelling example of its lack of transparency and the cost.

The justices’ secretive patterns have gained new attention as confidence in all government institutions has waned. Witnesses before a bipartisan commission set up by President Joe Biden to consider court revisions — most visibly, the options of term limits and the addition of more seats — have targeted the justices’ secrecy and how it contributes to public distrust of the high court, along with the lopsided advantage the court gives to some litigants.

Such lack of transparency is only part of the context behind the Supreme Court’s silence in the closely watched Texas case. The emboldened conservative majority already is poised to reverse or at least undercut Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that declared women’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy. The court announced last spring that it would take up in the 2021-22 session a dispute over Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks. The Texas law goes much further, making it illegal to terminate a pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat is detected, which may be typically around six weeks.

Both laws sharply conflict with Roe v. Wade, which forbade states from interfering with a woman’s abortion decision before the fetus would be viable, that is, able to live outside the womb, at about 22-24 weeks.

The justices have made plain their concerns regarding public mistrust and misunderstanding of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts regularly declares that judges differ from elected lawmakers, and Justice Stephen Breyer protested in a speech at Harvard last spring that they should not be regarded as “junior-varsity politicians.” Breyer cited the court’s long-standing preservation of abortion rights as evidence of its nonpartisan, nonideological character.

Separately last spring, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch emphasized in a joint appearance, advocating civics education, the deep reasoning that underlies their opinions. They criticized those who would look only for a bottom-line judgment.

Yet no judgment — or word of any sort — came late Tuesday night, with the clock ticking, anxiety rising among both sides in Texas and a national audience watching.

Read the rest at CNN.

More opinions:

Gail Collins at The New York Times: Texas Is Trying to Overturn Roe v. Wade All by Itself.

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: The Supreme Court Overturned Roe v. Wade in the Most Cowardly Manner Imaginable.

Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: Opinion: Texas shows us what post-democracy America would look like.

Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Republicans Are Giving Abortion Opponents Power Over the Rest of Us.

Any man who expresses “concerns” about women in Afghanistan needs to explain why they aren’t concerned about women in Texas and ultimately the entire U.S. Or they need to STFU!

Hang in there Sky Dancers!!


We Have Choice

We’ve watched the Republicans flail in all directions, trying to find a message, a mission, an issue to drive them to victory in November.  It’s been tough going for the GOP with less than stellar candidates and the endless circus ride the public has witnessed.  Now down to four ‘iffy’ wannabes, attention has focused on flaws, egos, missteps and gaffes.  Uncle Newt appeals to the confederate South.  Ron Paul is loved by the Ayn Rand aficionados. Reptilian Rick Santorum cheers and warms the cockles of the Religious Right.   And Mitt Romney.  Poor Mitt is loved by virtually no one.

So, I can only imagine the excitement with the new-but-old controversy boiling over birth control and reproductive freedom.  The right to choose.  It sticks in the craw of the Republican Party, even as the loudest voices scream about liberty and individual rights.  This isn’t a question of abortion at this juncture.  We’re talking about the basics: contraception, the freedom to choose how many children we have and when we have them.  And privacy.  A woman’s right to decide these things herself in the privacy of her own space, heart and mind, with or without a husband, with or without government or religious leaders telling her, demanding she turn one way or the other.

To listen to the likes of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and the faux religious warriors, one might think that all religion, but particularly Christianity, has been put on the rack, whipped into humiliating submission or fed to the lions for the vile amusement of secular humanists.

Enough with the lying!  Enough with the bully pulpit exhortations with the emphasis on ‘bully.’

Demanding equal access to healthcare, expecting reproductive freedom and sexual/gender equality is not a Satanic plot.  It’s what reasonable people do and think.  We are not living in the Middle Ages [though I suspect many fundamentalists think of the era as ‘the good ole days].  If anyone doubts the politicization of women’s healthcare issues, please review the past week’s headlines, the unseemly expose of the Komen Foundation, more concerned about dissing Planned Parenthood than serving lower-income women with breast screenings.  Or the manufactured outrage of the Catholic Church hierarchy and their mouthpieces, who [sputter, sputter] decry the Administration’s insistence on equitable healthcare service as a vicious attack on religious freedom.

Really?  Twenty-eight states require organizations offering prescription insurance to cover contraception.   Ninety-eight percent of Catholic women use birth control and many Catholic institutions offer the benefit to their employees.

Let’s review some recent statistics:

Two-thirds of Catholics, 65 percent, believe that clinics and hospitals that take taxpayer money should not be allowed to refuse procedures or medications based on religious beliefs. A similar number, 63 percent, also believe that health insurance, whether private or government-run, should cover contraception.

A strong majority (78 percent) of Catholic women prefer that their hospital offers emergency contraception for rape victims, while more than half (55 percent) want their hospital to provide it in broader circumstances.

Yet despite these numbers, the Church, the Religious Right and the heat-seeking Republican establishment are foaming at the mouth, waving mummified fists in righteous indignation.

Make no mistake.  This is an old war.  I wrote about the struggles and absolute determination of Margaret Sanger a few days ago.  She fought these battles.  The arguments were identical; the accusations the same.  She fought the religious establishment, she fought the righteous, small-minded moralists 100 years ago.  If anything this should be a wakeup call: the defense of reproductive rights, which are basic human rights, need to be taken seriously, day-in, day-out.  Freedoms gained can quickly become freedoms lost. Gender equality, which is a matter of civil rights, should be supported with voices and votes pitched against the ugliness of bigotry and discrimination.

This is a power play wrapped in thin prayer and religious dogma.  It’s a desperate attempt by traditional religion to regain ground lost to modernity, a world where the old stories and myths have lost their power, their ability to control by fear, a world in which human dignity applies to all our members, a world where the mysteries of the Universe and our place in it is far grander than our words and imaginations can conjure.

We have choice.  We always have.  It’s time to put away childish things and become accountable, rational adults if we’re ever to deal with the problems facing us.  We can fearfully grasp the old ways, allow ourselves to be drawn into self-limiting dictums.  We can argue how many angels dance on the head of a pin with religious fanatics and the politicians who love them.

Or we can say, ‘No!’  We have that choice.


Margaret Sanger: A Rebel With A Mighty Cause

A Book Review; Review of a Life

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of catching Jean Baker, history professor at Goucher College, featured on BookTV.  Baker discussed her book ‘Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion,’ but more importantly connected the dots between the Right Wing’s attack on Sanger and the Pro-Choice, Family Planning movement.

A couple years ago while Glenn Beck hurled his diatribes, chalk boarding his twisted worldview on an unsuspecting public, he took Margaret Sanger to task.  Beck described Sanger as one of his ‘evil’ progressives, a woman dedicated to racism and the application of eugenics in America.

The attack startled me.  Why Sanger?  I knew she had spearheaded the whole idea of inexpensive, reliable contraception and that her family clinics and her own reputation had come under constant assault.  Anything and everything having to do with sexual behavior was taboo when Sanger began her work in the early, heady days of the 20th century. I also knew that Hillary Clinton had specifically mentioned Sanger as a personal hero.  At the time, I thought that was Beck’s aim—discredit Sanger, discredit Clinton.

Au contraire!

Though Hillary Clinton did, in fact, make it on the list of evil progressives [along with Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, FDR, even Lindsey Graham and John McCain], the attack on Margaret Sanger had and continues to have far broader implications.  This is particularly true in any discussion of birth control, abortion and/or family planning and in the midst of a concerted effort to push a fetal personhood amendment to the fore.

The recent dustup between the Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood is a case in point.  Women’s healthcare has become politicized.  We as women are discussed in a myriad of parts—our uteruses, our vaginas, our breasts, our reproductive capabilities.  Too often, our autonomy as full-fledged human beings, adults capable of thought and decision-making about our own destiny is dismissed, made secondary to the considerations of others.  Sadly, today’s opposition to female self-determination is the same that Sanger faced throughout her lifetime: men, who were convinced they had the right to an opinion and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and other religious institutions that felt and continue to feel perfectly justified to chime in, making moral declarations, complete with Biblical arguments and opinions.

Young 'Maggie'

Professor Baker claims [and makes a very good argument] that the attack on Sanger’s work is also directly related to the attacks now being waged—female autonomy, the ability for women to direct their own reproductive lives.  But Sanger had an especially hard road to travel, introducing her radical vision on the heels of the Victorian era.

Whatever’s old is new again!

While reading Baker’s new biography, I was startled by the similarity of the arguments, the pitfalls, the myriad of excuses to block any and all reasonable discussion when it comes to reproductive freedom.  That being said, it’s hard to contemplate a time when the very discussion of or writing about birth control was considered perverse, pornographic and could end in jail time.  Such was the case in the early 20th century.

Sanger’s efforts were so reviled by the status quo and Catholic Church that she was forced to leave the country for a brief stay in the UK or face arrest. She faced continuous harassment and was eventually arrested for her public, relentless stands. But ironically, this woman who had a spotty formal education, no training in public speaking would become by age fifty, one of the most influential women in the world.

Why?  Because she would not stop.  Because she was totally gripped by a single, burning idea–women were entitled to information [sexual or otherwise] and had a right to be empowered when it came to their own bodies.

Her background was fertile for dissent, her family a template for radical reaction.  Born Margaret [Maggie] Higgins in 1879 in Corning, NY., she was the sixth child of 11 surviving children.  Her mother, a devout Catholic, died at the age of 48, suffering with tuberculosis, the scourge of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

But here’s a factoid that Sanger’s critics rarely mention: her mother had eighteen pregnancies during her short life.

Eighteen!

Sanger’s father, a stone carver who royally ticked off the Church with his firebrand criticisms of Rome’s dictates, found it difficult to provide for his huge, ever-growing family.  The family was poor, shanty Irish poor, with too many mouths to feed and an increasingly sick mother, made all the worse by cramped, squalid surroundings.

Though her impossible dream had been medical school, Sanger went to New York City following her mother’s death.  There she trained as a nurse and midwife and spent several years attending patients on the Lower East Side.  The living conditions in the tenements were appalling—cramped, rat-infested, devoid of anything approaching basic hygiene.  She watched scores of young immigrant women die of pregnancy-related complications and botched abortions [many self-performed].  And she listened to scores of these women beg attending physicians [when available], pleading for help to prevent back-to-back pregnancies, birthing more children than they were able to feed or care for.  To no avail.   From that experience, that massive wave of human suffering, the idea of birth control and family planning was born.

Sanger took the remedy upon herself.  Because no one else dared.

A prolific self-taught writer, Sanger traveled across America and was invited around the world to speak to the issue of contraception, sex education and reproductive services.  Her work became the basis for health clinics dedicated to the health and education of women.  She was, in fact, the mother of Planned Parenthood.

Ahhhh.  No wonder she’s on the enemies’ list.

So what are the arguments against Sanger? Read the rest of this entry »


Senators Clinton and Murray take on the HHS Department

Yesterday, folks woke up to the new assault on birth control.  Shero’s Senator Clinton and Patty Murray are on top of this.   Both penis-impaired presidential candidates remain silent.   The is especially appalling because ONE of them was endorsed by NARAL.

From our Sheros:

“It is outrageous that the Bush administration is once again putting ideology over women’s health. Instead of undercutting access to contraception and family planning services, the Bush Administration should put prevention first,” said Senator Clinton.

“On the first day of his administration, the President reinstated the Mexico City global gag clause, a harsh, anti-family planning policy that hurt the world’s poorest women and children. Now, on his way out the door it appears that he is trying to limit women’s health care options here at home,” Murray said. “This misguided attempt to restrict health care services and limit access to contraceptives defeats our common goal of reducing the number of abortions in this country.”

Additionally, both Senators sent a joint letter to the Secretary that heads  the Health and Human Services Department:

Secretary Michael O. Leavitt
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Mr. Secretary:

It has come to our attention that the Department of Health and Human Services may be preparing draft regulations that would create new obstacles for women seeking contraceptive services.

One of the most troubling aspects of the proposed rules is the overly-broad definition of “abortion.” This definition would allow health-care corporations or individuals to classify many common forms of contraception – including the birth control pill, emergency contraception and IUDs – “abortions” and therefore to refuse to provide contraception to women who need it.

As a consequence, these draft regulations could disrupt state laws securing women’s access to birth control. They could jeopardize federal programs like Medicaid and Title X that provide family-planning services to millions of women. They could even undermine state laws that ensure survivors of sexual assault and rape receive emergency contraception in hospital emergency rooms.

We strongly urge you to reconsider these regulations before they are released. We are extremely concerned by this proposal’s potential to affect millions of women’s reproductive health.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely yours,
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
Senator Patty Murray

If Obama is serious about getting women’s votes, then he needs to get serious about standing up for women’s rights.  Where is the voice of the presumed democratic candidate for president on this issue?  It’s time for all women to get behind the movement to stop Obama’s  throne grab in Denver.