How women’s liberation put thousands of female defendants behind bars

It may be coincidence that Hulu series The Dropout — the biopic about Elizabeth Holmes, former Silicon Valley phenom and founder of the fraudulent failed startup Theranos that promised 200 tests for one drop of blood — airs during the dropping of the second shoe: the trial of Holmes’ former romantic partner and Theranos Chief Operating Officer Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani.

Or it may be strategy. During her own courtroom showdown, Holmes raised an affirmative defense, alleging that Balwani abused her and exerted coercive control over her, influencing her decisions. Through his attorneys Balwani denies this, but we’re about to hear his side of the story. Ultimately, the jury invested little belief in the Theranos founder’s excuse. They rendered a guilty verdict in January, convicting Holmes of four of the eleven criminal charges.

She is set to receive her sentence in September and no one knows if she’ll be spared or not. Regardless of the result, Holmes’ case — specifically her defense of coercion by abuse — highlights the tension between women’s power and their culpability.
Approximately ten percent of all incarcerated populations — 231,000 as of 2019, according to the Prison Policy Initiative — are women. Even at that small percentage, the growth in the number is startling; it’s increased 700 percent in 40 years. Around 50 years ago, almost 75 percent of county jails didn’t hold any women at all.

It shouldn’t be that surprising. Until about 1980, women were not held responsible for many crimes they committed. A common law doctrine called coverture decreed a woman wasn’t really a legal entity and, as such, couldn’t really break the law because crimes are committed by persons and women were essentially property.

Coverture wasn’t limited to criminal defense; it allowed marital rape, a husband to take whatever property his wife had, and included a presumption of marital coercion when a married woman was charged with a crime. That presumption part is important; it basically required prosecutors to prove that a woman wasn’t under her husband’s control, a nearly impossible task since marriage, under this doctrine, subjugated the woman as a matter of course.

In fact, women were so subordinate that a state statute in Arizona directed authorities to hold the husband responsible if he caused his wife to commit a crime. Coverture didn’t license women to do just anything. The doctrine wouldn’t let her get away with murder or treason.

Between 1927 and 1956, 18 states repealed the statutes that absolved women of criminal liability by marital coercion. By the 1970’s, the defense made its way out of penal codes entirely.

Ironically, women’s liberation from coverture ended up incarcerating them. Marital coercion’s collapse coincided with the commencement of growth in women’s prisons; numbers of incarcerated women started to rise alongside a burgeoning women’s rights movement as these laws fell away.

The marital coercion doctrine was designed to prevent situations where liability exceeded culpability, but that’s what has happened since the defense went away; the pendulum of women’s liability has swung from virtually no responsibility for criminal acts to an equally unreasonable extreme whereby they’re overly responsible, liable for their own choices as well as others’.

Right now, more than half of women in federal prisons are sentenced for drug-related crimes. While possession is a federal crime, a dime bag or even a suitcase full of heroin for personal use would likely be pursued by state authorities. Women doing federal time for drug-related charges are probably connected to large scale drug operations run by men which means they’re usually convicted of conspiracy, which attributes criminal liability for another person’s actions. It’s a long way from coverture, altogether too far.

The United States is trying to find the exact equilibrium between determining women’s responsibility and an understanding of trauma. Many female defendants were boxed in by abuse. According to the Vera Institute for Justice, 86 percent of incarcerated women experienced sexual abuse, 77 percent had an intimate partner who was violent towards them, and 60 percent have histories of being “abused by caregivers,” which is social worker-speak for child abuse.

Knowing this, Congress has stepped in and continues to weigh how to best help women accused of crimes. Movements are underway advocating to release abused women from custody; activists believe abuse is so pervasive that incarcerating women amounts to criminalizing survival.

But as judges and advocates feel around for the right balance, a defense based on abuse presents an inevitable tradeoff: It entails a loss of agency. No girlboss says “He made me do it”; that’s a claim reserved for a Girl Friday. It may be that the more we understand trauma’s influence on crime, the more we concede women’s powerlessness.

I don’t know if the concession helps us in the long run. We can’t complain that power is so often unaccompanied by accountability and then try to escape consequences once we gain authority. That’s the societal flaw women are trying to fix — and it isn’t fair.

And sometimes judges view this lack of agency negatively. I had a cellmate who was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture a bomb and to commit arson. She drove the car as her husband and another woman threw Molotov cocktails into a bar after hours, following a dispute with its owner. When her attorney tried to explain how a history of abuse in her childhood and coercion by her husband had basically stripped her of her ability to make decisions, the judge replied: “That’s why she’s dangerous.”

Aya Gruber, professor of law at the University of Colorado School of Law and author of The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women's Liberation in Mass Incarceration, sees my former cellmate’s situation as an outlier. Gruber thinks that offering the specifics of how a female defendant withstood abuse can mitigate sentences and won’t backfire in the long run.

“I really think that it's more likely to produce lower sentences than higher sentences,” Gruber said, and she may be right. Courts may move toward a more nuanced understanding of women’s relationships that ends up empowering them — and releasing them from confinement. But if history is any lesson, we should understand that if patriarchy exculpates women, then smashing it like Holmes did might indict us.

Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent, and she later established a blog under the same name that earned several professional awards. Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.

Kyrsten Sinema, a traitor to the cause of women's rights, loses support of feminists

When Kyrsten Sinema first ran to be the Democratic senator from Arizona, her support from Emily's List seemed to be a no-brainer. The political action committee (PAC) is one of the biggest in politics, and historically is one of the major reasons for the remarkable influx of female leaders in the Democratic Party in the past few decades. The main criteria for supporting candidates — that they be female, pro-choice and Democratic — appeared, at the time, to fit Sinema beautifully. She claimed to believe "a woman, her family, and her doctor should decide what's best for her health" and that she stands for "health clinics like Planned Parenthood and opposes efforts to let employers deny workers coverage for basic health care like birth control." Emily's List was the biggest source of funds for Sinema's 2018 campaign, raising nearly twice as much money for her as her second largest supporting PAC. It is unlikely she would have won by her razor-thin margin without their support.

But, as it turns out, Sinema's claims to feminist values were all nonsense.

Sure, unlike Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, her fellow corrupt conspirator in shutting down the Democratic agenda in the Senate, Sinema continues to claim to be pro-choice. She has even voted the right way on the issue in those rare instances that votes even happen in the Senate, all while Manchin continues to vote for right-wing interference with reproductive decision-making. But when it comes to taking actions that would actually protect not just reproductive rights, but the equality of women generally, Sinema has become a major obstacle, with her stubborn insistence on supporting the filibuster, which Republicans use to shut down pretty much all meaningful legislation from the Democratic majority — including bills to protect abortion rights and enshrine gender equality into the constitution.

On Wednesday night, Sinema — as she's dramatically promised to do — is expected to side with the Republican minority against a bill meant to shore up democracy and protect voting rights against a coordinated GOP effort to dismantle fair and free election systems. Sinema claims, quite falsely, to support the voting rights bill, but insists on letting the Republicans have veto power over it, putting an arcane and anti-democratic Senate rule ahead of democracy itself.

In response, Emily's List and NARAL promised to pull their support from Sinema. Emily's List president Laphonza Butler released a statement explaining the decision by saying, "Electing Democratic pro-choice women is not possible without free and fair elections. Protecting the right to choose is not possible without access to the ballot box." NARAL president Mini Timmaraju concurred, stating, "Without ensuring that voters have the freedom to participate in safe and accessible elections, a minority with a regressive agenda and a hostility to reproductive freedom will continue to block the will of the majority of Americans."

Butler and Timmaraju are dead right. It's not just about reproductive rights, either. Without a healthy democracy, women's rights and gender equality in general are imperiled. There's a reason 19th century feminists focused their efforts on women's suffrage, a century-long fight that few, if any, of those who started it lived to see succeed. The fight for gender equality and fight for democracy are inextricably intertwined. The fight for one is a fight for the other.

It's also not a coincidence that authoritarians like Donald Trump also happen to be giant misogynists. From the beginning, the rising fascist movement in America has been fueled not just by racism, but by toxic masculinity and male anger at women's growing equality. Trump's 2016 campaign was built on a foundation of misogynist rage — not just at Hillary Clinton for daring to think a woman can be president, but at women generally for asserting their right to be treated as equals in the home and workplace. His popularity with the GOP base was cemented when he mocked a Fox News host Megyn Kelly with menstruation insults. He secured the religious right's support for promising to ban abortion.

But the election of 2016 also illustrated how democracy can protect women's rights. After all, Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes and with a 2 point margin over Trump. It was only because of the anti-democratic electoral college system — an ongoing and retrograde leftover from the era when women and people of color weren't allowed to vote — that Trump even had a chance. And there can be no doubt that, if 2016 had been a truly democratic election, both the country and women's rights would be in much better shape right now. At bare minimum, the Supreme Court wouldn't have three Trump appointees on it, and Roe v. Wade would not be slated for a near-certain overturn in June.

Authoritarian misogyny is hardly just an American phenomenon, either.

Throughout history and in our current day, there's been a strong link between hostility to women's rights and anti-democratic attitudes. The Nazis were notoriously sexist, insisting a woman's place was in the home and strengthening bans on abortion. Romania's communist dictatorship banned abortion and contraception. China's authoritarian government has forever been opposed to reproductive rights, first by banning the right to have more than one child and now, due to low population growth, by announcing plans to restrict abortion access.

To be certain, fighting for women's equality in a healthy democracy is hardly a breeze. There's literally millennia of patriarchal oppression that needs to be overturned, and lots of ingrained sexist attitudes held by the majority of Americans. (About 7 in 10 married women, for instance, still take their husband's name, including, however reluctantly, Hillary Clinton.) As noted, suffrage for women was a long and miserable fight that took literally a century. The Equal Rights Amendment, which was almost passed in the 70s, died after anti-feminists activists successfully lobbied against it.

Still, what democracy offers feminism is the chance to make the case: To argue for gender equality, to appeal to voters, and to build — sometimes painfully slowly — public understanding of why women's rights are so important. And, as miserable as that process can be, history shows it's better than the alternatives. Polls show strong majorities of Americans support abortion rights and even more believe contraception is acceptable. Stigmas against divorce, single motherhood, and sex outside of marriage have collapsed in the public eye after decades of feminist agitation for the right of women to be treated a full adults, instead of male property. Support for LGBTQ rights also rose, as a direct result from larger feminist discussions about the evils of gendered oppression. And a woman even won the popular vote in a presidential election — and if this was a truly democratic system, she would be president.

Sinema's support for the filibuster exposes how paper-thin her claims to support feminist values always were. Biden won because of women. He got 57% of the female vote, while Trump won 53% of men. The Biden agenda that Sinema is blocking is what female voters sent not just Biden, but Sinema to Washington to accomplish. And not just on voting rights, either. By supporting the bipartisan infrastructure bill but not the Build Back Better plan, Sinema helped ensure that 90% of new job creation will go to men, instead of the more diverse pool that Biden's larger agenda would have supported.

Voting rights is the issue that gave birth to the American feminist movement. By refusing to support voting rights, Sinema isn't just turning her back on her country and her party, but on the very feminist movement that permitted someone like her, a female senator, to even exist. Sinema may play-act the fun-loving feminist, with her kitschy dresses and loud wigs that stand out from the drab masculinist attire that rules the Senate. But as long as she stands with Republicans against democracy, she is a traitor to feminism and should be regarded as such.

Denver shooting spree suspect raged about 'female premarital sex' and 'male honor violence'

A Denver man suspected of killing five people on Monday night harbored "extremist views," law enforcement officials told ABC News.

Lyndon McLeod, 47, was fatally shot during a gunfire exchange with an officer after killing five people and wounding three others during a "shooting spree" that spanned four different locations, police said.

Federal law enforcement had McLeod on their radar before the shooting, according to ABC News. Multiple law enforcement officials told the outlet that federal law enforcement was aware that he "harbored extremist views" and had a history of psychiatric episodes. Law enforcement agents are now scouring his writings to determine what motivated him to carry out Monday's killings.

Police said they investigated the suspect last year and earlier this year in separate incidents but did not arrest him.

McLeod appears to have written about "alt-right philosophies," masculine supremacy and targeted violence against the "weak" online, according to the Daily Beast, where he used the alias Roman McClay to operate a "plethora" of social media accounts and release three books about a character named Lyndon McLeod who "commits 46 murders." He cited the books while criticizing a "weak" reporter who was confronted by boxer Mike Tyson in a 2014 YouTube video.

"This is basically the plot to my stupid book. Our entire society is made up of shitty little fucks who insult badasses & get away with it because law enforcement & social norms protect the WEAK from the STRONG. I'm over it," he wrote. "The weak better buckle up ... shit is about to get real."

In various Twitter posts, McLeod complained about "modern/liberal suppression" of "male honor violence" and raged against "female premarital sex."

Gabriel Thorn, a man who bought a home from McLeod five years earlier, told local news outlet KDVR that "there were numerous hidden gun safes in the walls."

"He just disappeared off the face of the earth when we bought the house," Thorn said. "My wife and I joke that he's changed his name and moved out of the country."

McLeod knew all his victims through business or personal relationships and likely targeted all of his victims, police said at a press conference Tuesday. The suspect first targeted a tattoo parlor in Denver, where he killed two women, including the shop's owner, and injured a man, according to The Denver Channel.

McLeod then opened fire at a location where he previously owned a tattoo shop as recently as 2017, according to ABC News, but no one was injured. McLeod then burglarized two homes, where he killed another man, according to police.

Police were able to track down the suspect's vehicle after the third shooting.

"Denver police officers identified a vehicle associated with this incident. There was a pursuit that ensued," Pazen said. "There was an exchange of gunfire between the individual, the suspect here, and our officers."

Pazen said that no one was injured in the exchange but the suspect disabled a police vehicle and fled to the nearby suburb of Lakewood. Lakewood Police responded to a shooting around 6 p.m. where the department said a person was killed at a tattoo parlor. Lakewood Police found the suspect's car at a shopping center, where he opened fire on police and fled to a hotel. The suspect shot a clerk at the hotel and shot and injured a female officer while fleeing the facility. The officer fired back, killing the suspect.

The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting with the investigation and police are appealing to the public for additional information.

"We need to dig in and find out what the motive was behind this," Pazen said.

Sarah Weddington, attorney who argued Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court, dies at 76

Texas lawyer Sarah Weddington, who successfully argued the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade, died Sunday at the age of 76. Weddington was just 26 years old when she brought a class-action lawsuit challenging Texas’s ban on abortions all the way to the Supreme Court. The court’s 1973 ruling set a precedent legalizing abortion nationwide that stands to this day. In 2012, Sarah Weddington spoke with KPBS Public Television about her long legal career.

Sarah Weddington: “You look back as I was growing up, and there were so many limits on what women could do. Women couldn’t even run full court in basketball. We got half court and two dribbles. We didn’t get credit unless our fathers or our husbands signed for us. Now most people get a credit card offer every week. We didn’t get to make decisions about our own reproductive. We didn’t get to go to law school. I was in the first group of women who went to law school. We didn’t get equal pay. And so, what we’ve been doing all these years is trying to push back barriers so that women could make more decisions.”

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court’s conservative justices appeared ready to dramatically roll back Roe v. Wade as they heard oral arguments on a challenge to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.

After Roe: The covert plan to provide abortion pills on demand – and avoid prosecution

This past Friday, the Supreme Court upheld Texas' near-absolute abortion ban and gave their blessing to the novel enforcement mechanism, a Stasi-reminiscent system that depends on private citizens surveilling their neighbors and claiming bounties on anyone caught "aiding and abetting" an abortion. Despite some misleading headlines caused by a confusing decision, the bottom line is, in Texas, bounty hunters can still stalk people seeking abortion and legally harass and bankrupt anyone who helps them.

The decision was surprising because the court is also widely expected to overturn Roe v. Wade outright in June. Soon over two dozen states — including Texas — are expected to have laws that allow police officers to simply arrest people for abortion. Friday's decision not only creates a mess of legal headaches in managing the bounty hunters, it opens the door for blue states to use similar systems as a back door ban on guns, something California is already moving to do.

So why did the Supreme Court not just leave it to the cops, which is how abortion bans were enforced in the pre-Roe era? The answer may lie in the one enormous technological advance that happened in the near five decades of legal abortion: The abortion pill.

Unlike in the pre-Roe days, when getting a safe abortion meant finding someone who could physically perform it, now pills can be used in the privacy of one's own home. As Dr. Daniel Grossman of the University of California at San Francisco told Salon, "online sites that are making the pills available" with "accurate information" and "good quality medication" allow for self-managed abortion to "be very safe and effective." Past images of the coathanger or the back alley abortionist could very well be replaced in the near future with pictures of a brown paper package purchased discreetly online — either from overseas pharmacies or, possibly, states where abortion will still be legal. This goes a long way to explain the right's interest in creating an army of snitches who will turn in their neighbors and friends for a $10,000 reward.

But some activists are betting on the pills as a way for abortion to not just be physically safe, but safe from law enforcement.

"We're having abortions. We're helping each other have abortions. You will never, ever stop us," Amelia Bonow of Shout Your Abortion told Salon. Her group, which started as an abortion storytelling project, responded to both the Texas abortion ban and to Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health — the case the Supreme Court is expected to use to overturn Roe this term — by focusing their advocacy on the pill.

During Supreme Court arguments over Dobbs earlier this month, Bonow and other activists stood on the Supreme Court steps and swallowed mifepristone, the first of the two-pill regimen to end an unwanted pregnancy. (Bonow reports she had minor but inconsequential bleeding afterward.) They put up art installations around the country and created a social media campaign, to highlight that the pills are "widely available online via telemedicine or by mail in all 50 states." They also set up a website directing users to sites that help patients find pills and use them safely. Some, like Aid Access, even have helpful videos explaining how to use the pills — and are hosted overseas, outside of the reach of U.S. law enforcement.

How to use abortion pills

Bonow promised more actions to come to make the pills easier to get and use. She is inspired not just by those pre-Roe underground abortion providers like the Jane Collective, but also ACT-UP, who challenged the medical gatekeeping that kept HIV drugs out of the hands of people who needed them in the 80s.

Experts in the history of illegal abortion, however, have their concerns. The pills themselves are "very, very safe," explained Dr. Carole Joffe, a UCSF colleague of Dr. Grossman's who wrote "Doctors of Conscience: The Struggle to Provide Abortion Before and After Roe V. Wade." Indeed, as she noted, there's extensive evidence that women are already doing at-home abortions this way. One major study shows that 7% of women 18 to 49 have attempted self-abortion.

However, "the huge difference between then and now is the legal surveillance," Joffe said. In the pre-Roe era, there simply wasn't "the extraordinarily well organized anti-abortion movement we have now, so people could take chances that I think will be much harder to take now."

Leslie Reagan, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor and author of "When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973" concurred. She notes that abortionists mostly got caught pre-Roe if a patient was injured and "interrogated by doctors and nurse and police" at the hospital. Now, however, "the potential for surveillance is so much higher with the internet and our phones." She also argued that the Texas law, which applies to anyone who "aids and abets" an abortion, could have a chilling effect on information-sharing about how to get safe pills.

Slate legal expert Dahlia Lithwick also believes the future will be worse, legally speaking, than the pre-Roe era because the religious right is far more interested in "punishment for women who endanger their pregnancies" than law enforcement was before 1973.

This isn't just conjecture. Women are already going to prison, after being accused of doing something to cause miscarriage or stillbirth. National Advocates for Pregnant Women has documented at least 1,254 cases of women being arrested or detained under such accusations. In one famous Indiana case, a woman named Purvi Patel was convicted of "feticide," with prosecutors using her text messages mentioning abortion drugs purchased online. Her conviction was later overturned because abortion is, at the moment, still legal. But if Roe is overturned, such convictions may very well stand, especially as states expand their anti-abortion laws.

Bonow is well aware of the legal dangers, especially for "the most marginalized among us," such as low-income and young women, women of color, and LGBTQ people. But that is why her group isn't just focused on sharing information on physical safety, but on "ways that people can mitigate their legal risk," such as using tech services that make online activity harder to trace.

"We need to talk about it because a whole lot of people are going to need to have illegal abortions," Bonow noted. Indeed, all prevailing evidence shows that banning abortion does little to actually stop it. On the contrary, countries that ban abortion tend to have higher abortion rates than countries where it is illegal. Her hope is that activists can fight "to make sure that you get what you need and evade criminalization in the process."

Doctors have a role to play in this. On Twitter, Dr. Grossman floated the idea of doctors providing advance provision of pills, in response to sex advice columnist Dan Savage suggesting stockpiling. "Advance provision of abortion pills before you need them makes a lot of sense," he wrote. "Mifepristone has a shelf life of about 5 years, and misoprostol has a shelf life of about 2 years."

As Grossman explained to Salon, some doctors already do this for patients who are traveling overseas for a long time, especially in places where the law or lack of resources makes the pills hard to get in a pinch. California has already moved to enhance patient confidentiality protections in anticipation of patients who obtain pills in their state for use in one where abortion is banned.

Dr. Grossman also suggested that doctors themselves need to be educated on how to better protect patients. Once abortion is banned, he notes, "some of this is going to fall on emergency department clinicians," because patients who show up with rare complications — or, in some cases, are just worried — after taking abortion pills at home.

"We need to get better about really figuring out what questions we need to ask and what we need to document in the medical record," he noted, because he worries that "the medical record could be used against the patient to potentially prosecute them."

Safety is, of course, the main impetus for these discussions on evading abortion bans. As long as people enjoy having sex — which will be forever — there will be a need for abortion, and the only real question is whether they are safe or not. But there is a political angle, as well.

Bonow sees the "visible culture of defiance and of rejection of these laws" as a way to build more political will, which is the only hope of ever overturning abortion bans. As Reagan noted, the "visible social movement and visible law breaking" of activists like the Jane Collective and Pat Maginnis, who would deliberately get arrested for passing out information on safe abortion in the 60s, helped build the momentum that led to Roe v. Wade in the first place. This could also help answer the question that has been plaguing progressive activists for the past year: How to defeat the growing sense of helplessness on the left.

The four pillars of activism that are always offered to people who want to help — vote, donate, legal protest, and calling your representatives — have done little to stem the rising tide of authoritarianism. Voting rights and democracy are still imperiled. Abortion is about to be banned across huge chunks of the country. Activists are going to have to get more creative about actions people can take if they want to shake folks out of their malaise. Perhaps campaigns like the Shout Your Abortion pill campaign can generate new ideas about how to resist, and restore hope that actions you take can still have a real impact on the world.

NY Labor Dept. investigates former Fox News reporter’s gender discrimination allegations: report

Melissa Francis is among the former Fox News employees who has had a legal battle with the right-wing cable news outlet, filing a gender discrimination lawsuit and alleging retaliation on their part. Now, according to Daily Beast reporters Diana Falzone and Justin Baragona, the New York State Labor Department is investigating Francis’ allegations.

Kevin Mintzer, Francis’ attorney, told the Beast, “Ms. Francis filed a charge with the New York State Department of Labor because Fox News has not changed and continues to discriminate and retaliate against women, including those who seek equal pay for equal work.”

The Beast, according to Falzone and Baragona, asked the New York State Labor Department for a comment on the investigation but was told, “The NYS DOL does not comment (confirm nor deny) on potential or pending investigations.” And a Fox News spokesperson would not comment on the probe either but told the Beast that Fox News “parted ways with Melissa Francis nearly a year ago.”

Francis is by no means the only female ex-employee of Fox News and/or Fox Business who has had a legal battle with them. Others have ranged from Gretchen Carlson and Andrea Tantaros, and Falzone herself is a former Fox News employee who filed a gender-based discrimination lawsuit against them.

Francis, a former actress, worked at CNBC before her association with Fox News and its sister channel Fox Business. She spent roughly eight years with Fox News, starting in 2012.

Falzone and Baragona note, “Last October, Francis was pulled off both her regular co-hosting slot on midday roundtable show ‘Outnumbered’ and her own mid-afternoon Fox Business Network program. At the time, Fox News did not publicly comment on her status, instead framing the changes as an example of the network going about its normal business.”

But on October 22, 2020, the Los Angeles Times’ Stephen Battaglio reported that Francis was gone from Fox News and Fox Business and was alleging “gender-based pay discrimination.”

Battaglio reported, “One person close to Francis says she has been fired. Francis had been working at Fox News without a contract for nearly a year. She had filed a gender-based pay discrimination claim against the company that has been in arbitration, according to one person familiar with the proceedings.”

According to Falzone and Baragona, the New York State Labor Department’s “ongoing investigation” of Francis’ allegations against Fox News/Fox Business started in March. The reporters note, “The news that New York’s labor department is investigating Fox News comes just a few months after the network settled with New York City’s Commission on Human Rights for $1 million over what the government deemed ‘a pattern of violating the NYC Human Rights Law.’ The settlement represented an effective admission to retaliating against staffers over sexual misconduct and discrimination claims.”

How the religious right tricked Americans into not protecting abortion rights

Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle is a classic anti-feminist hypocrite in the Phyllis Schafly mold. She is a woman who used all the benefits of feminism to secure a high-powered career for herself but now uses her power to attack the hopes and dreams of other women, whether by snarling at the #MeToo movement or scolding women to stay in unhappy marriages for the sake of "the kids." Unsurprisingly, this supposed "libertarian" is down on a woman's liberty to control her own reproductive capacity. In her entirely predictable pre-emptive defense of the Supreme Court's expected Roe v. Wade overturn next summer, McArdle claimed it doesn't matter, because Americans don't really care about the issue:

But it's also possible that if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, and throws the issue back to the states, the subsequent legislative wrangling will reveal that the answers to those questions rest less on gender than values — or lifestyle. Are you a college-educated professional who must time pregnancies exquisitely to optimize a career, or are you a low-wage hourly worker for whom other considerations matter more?

The invocation of the "college-educated professional who must time pregnancies exquisitely to optimize a career" (a category that McArdle herself belongs to) is a masterpiece of misogynist agitprop. It's a stereotype that Washington Post readers across all sorts of demographics and voting habits come together to hate, from aging Trump voters, mad that their daughters moved to the big city instead of marrying the boy next door, and young male Republicans, annoyed that their hot girl dating pool is so constricted to Lefty bros who pretend sexist slurs about "girl boss" and "vagina voters" are a searing critique of capitalist power that is, in reality, still mostly held by men. And even those who identify as feminists are being guilt-tripped by McArdle's implication that they care more about the cosseted women of the upper class than about working-class women.

But it is all based on a lie.

We're meant to picture abortion as a service that a sea of Elle Woods knock-offs schedule between high-powered business meetings and wine-soaked afternoon pedicures. In reality, however, the typical abortion patient is a low-income mother, disproportionately likely to be a woman of color. The Guttmacher Institute statistics on this fact are unequivocal: Three-quarters of abortion patients are classified as "poor" or "low income." Six out of 10 patients have given birth before. White women are only 39% of abortion patients in a country where 60% of the overall population is white. The reason for such disparities isn't mysterious.

Contraception is the best and, realistically, the only way to truly reduce the abortion rate. The better off you are, financially, the more likely you are to have easy and affordable access to contraception. The Elle Woods who haunt McArdle's imagination don't have as many abortions, because they got the IUD years ago. It's women who don't have that access who end up with unwanted pregnancies.

Unfortunately, McArdle has good reason to believe her ugly rhetoric will work: Most Americans are incredibly ignorant about abortion.

Like McArdle, their opinions on the issue are shaped not by facts, but by sexism and a prudish unwillingness to talk frankly about sex. They may be tacitly pro-choice, but they don't put much of a priority on the issue. Way too many people think abortion isn't about them, but about other people — people who are often stereotyped, as McArdle did, in derogatory ways that give voters permission to ignore the issue entirely. New polling from Politico and Morning Consult shows this. On one hand, voters mostly support abortion rights and "want the Supreme Court to leave Roe v. Wade in place." On the other hand, most aren't paying attention, as "nearly two-thirds either said they didn't know how likely the court was to overturn Roe or said the court isn't likely to overturn the precedent." (Most court observers are dead certain, however, a Roe overturn is coming in June.) Subsequently, only 32% of voters said that the issue will guide who they vote for.

This is in line with pretty much all previous abortion polling, which tends to describe Americans gently as "conflicted" about abortion, but in actuality shows that they just don't know jack about the issue. As Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux wrote in a refreshingly honest piece for FiveThirtyEight last week, "many Americans just don't like talking or thinking about abortion," they "don't know a lot about the procedure or restrictions around it," and "they want the country to find a quiet middle ground" — even though they have no idea what the hell a "middle ground" would even look like on the black-and-white issue of whether childbirth is forced or voluntary.

This incoherent mix of opinions on abortion reflects the larger incoherent mix of opinions on women's equality generally.

On one hand, Americans celebrate "girl power" and claim they want women to have equal access to jobs and education. On the other hand, a lot of Americans still put a lot of sexist expectations on women to be submissive and self-effacing. American society is, in fact, incredibly dependent on women's inequality, as the pandemic exposed. Without women doing unpaid domestic work, our society would fall apart. Instead of changing that fact, we instead have a weird mix of feminism and sexism. Girls are told they can be whatever they want, but women find they're still expected to take a backseat in both the workplace and the home. Add to that the fact that many Americans are still uncomfortable with the idea that women have sex for pleasure, which makes talking about abortion all that much harder. Even pro-choice Democrats always frame abortion as a "difficult" choice, reinforcing false assumptions that women either constantly long for maternity or feel bad about having had sex in the first place.

When people say they want a "middle ground" on abortion, I suspect most are picturing a situation where women who have abortions for the "right" reasons will get them — and "bad" women will not. But what makes someone "good" or "bad" is impossible to define, much less impossible to legislate. Everyone thinks their abortion is a righteous one, but many imagine those "other" women who get abortions are sluts and bimbos.

Republicans have taken advantage of this jumble of ignorance to bring us to this moment in time, when Roe is really, truly about to be nuked.

The Supreme Court justices lied their way onto the court, exploiting the fact that most Americans don't think anyone "seriously" wants to ban abortion. And they used people's ignorance about how common abortion is to convince Americans that it's someone else's problem. Worse, they leaned on sexist stereotypes to convince Americans that the "someone else" who needs abortion isn't someone they need to care about.

Once Roe is gone and abortion is banned across more than half the country, perhaps people will wake up. Maybe then it will be clear that the 1-in-4 women who has had an abortion in her life isn't some Karen who needs to be taken down a peg or a dumb slut who has it coming. People who have abortions are full humans with complex and empathetic lives. Indeed, someone you know and love has probably had one. But by the time Americans figure this out, it will likely be too late.

How some red state prosecutors could circumvent the criminalization of abortion in a post-Roe world

The year is 2022. The Supreme Court just issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a majority holding that some pre-viability prohibitions on abortions are legally permissible. Roe v. Wade is effectively no more.

That is a likely near future, according to legal experts.

Reproductive rights advocates have vowed to continue the fight for abortion rights in statehouses and lower courts if this comes to pass.

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump, whose Supreme Court nominations got us here, said that people who don’t want to continue a pregnancy may have to “go to another state” to obtain abortions. The anticipated Supreme Court decision would create no federal criminal law against abortion, but would enable states to criminalize it—and there are clearly some that would, and others that would not.

But what about the possibility of going to another county?

The incredibly broad discretionary authority of local prosecutors means that in anti-abortion states, individual district attorneys could decline to enforce post-Roe abortion bans by not charging cases in their county.

But red-state DAs who count themselves part of the so-called progressive prosecutor movement might need to be publicly circumspect about their intentions. Some of their peers have drawn a heavy backlash by issuing broad reformist proclamations.

Recent history shows that conservatives angry about progressive prosecutors not enforcing oppressive criminal laws only have a few sturdy legal options for crackdowns.

They can pass a law or state constitutional amendment giving governors broad, unqualified power to force locally elected prosecutors to bend to their will or get out of office. New York has this, but it is virtually never used in practice, likely due to the political firestorm it would create.

They can also go the state attorney general route, giving simultaneous jurisdiction to that official when a local prosecutor refuses to prosecute. That’s a path that Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares of Virginia, for example, is currently pushing. But like the first option, such laws would provoke significant resistance.

Prosecutors’ associations, which heavily lobby many state legislatures, tend to fight tooth-and-nail against any new limits on their discretion. Despite being staunchly prohibitionist, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Association, for example, went to bat for Indianapolis prosecutor Ryan Meares when the legislature wanted to give the state AG the ability to prosecute the marijuana possession cases he declined.

Based on recent court decisions, the strongest tool conservatives have is to allow governors to transfer cases to different prosecutors based on “good and sufficient reason.” That is how then-Florida Governor Rick Scott was able to rip away former Orlando State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s capital murder cases, after she declared she would never seek the death penalty.

But even that can be worked around, depending on how politically savvy the prosecutor is.

In 2017, when the Florida Supreme Court ruled on the dispute between Scott and Ayala, it noted that the courts can review governor’s actions under this statute for arbitrariness. In siding with Scott in the dispute, the majority opined that barring the death penalty, rather than “making case-specific determinations as to whether the facts of each death-penalty eligible case justify seeking the death penalty,” is equivalent to exercising “no discretion at all.”

However, there is no qualification of how detailed these “case-specific determinations” have to be, and no real way to evaluate a prosecutor’s good faith besides their own public statements.

In the abortion context, a post-Roe prosecutor could say they are open to prosecuting abortion cases, but that they have not come across a case that warrants prosecution under the law—in practice declining all such prosecutions on a “case-specific” basis.

In support of this idea, despite the decision in Ayala v. Scott, many elected prosecutors, including in Florida, seldom or never seek the death penalty. Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg had two terms of office under his belt before he finally obtained a single death sentence at the end of 2020. But Palm Beach County has seen close to a hundred homicides each year for the past decade, and Florida law makes death penalty eligibility for murder extremely broad.

Yet no governor retaliated against Aronberg. It is even questionable whether such action would have been legal, so long as the prosecutor had not made a statement contradicting claims of individualized determinations based on the facts.

Of course, relying on county prosecutors to take this path can only be seen in terms of mitigating a disaster. Followed strategically, this plan could nonetheless impact many thousands of lives.

Prosecutors with a conscience will need to operate smartly if they’re to reduce the many harms of the likely end of Roe—in many cases probably eschewing grand announcements and media attention in order to achieve more. It could be the quietly progressive prosecutor’s time to shine.

This article was originally published by Filter, a magazine covering drug use, drug policy and human rights. Follow Filter on Facebook or Twitter.

MAGA moms meet Madison Cawthorn's challenge: Why right-wing women raise their sons as 'monsters'

There's much to be learned still about the role that James and Jennifer Crumbley played in the mass murder their son, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, is accused of committing in Oxford, Michigan last Tuesday. But, at a bare minimum, we know that the couple indulged their son's unhealthy fascination with guns and violence, even buying the boy the weapon he allegedly used to kill four teenage kids. In the name of MAGA politics, Jennifer Crumbley has left a long digital trail of evidence demonstrating how she celebrated her son's gun worship. In 2016, she posted a long letter defending her decision to vote for Donald Trump on the grounds that she could not let Hillary Clinton "have control over my son's future." She thanked Trump "for allowing my right to bear arms," and bragged about how she's not scared of Trump's "big personality and quick temper." Finally, she signed the letter as someone who is "sick of getting f*cked in the ass and would rather be grabbed by the pussy."

Crumbley's husband shared the letter by writing, "My wife can be spot on. Sometimes."

In the cult of MAGA, women need to be kept in their place. Yes, even loyal women who worship toxic masculinity to the point of pretending that being sexually assaulted is no big deal.

On the day before Ethan Crumbley allegedly killed four people, he was caught in class looking at pictures of ammunition. His mother's response, in text: "LOL I'm not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught."

It is important to recall that in October, one of the more noxious trolls in the House's GOP caucus, Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, gave a speech aimed at the mothers of MAGA in which he encouraged the women to raise their sons to be "monsters." Cawthorn claimed that "[o]ur culture today is trying to completely de-masculate all of the young men," and argued that it's on mothers — who he called "the most vicious in our movement" — to counter this supposed emasculation by training their sons to be "monsters and lions." Predators, essentially.

That Cawthorn only addressed mothers is no mistake, of course. In MAGA-land, fathers who are present in their kids' lives are viewed as emasculated. And a lot of MAGA moms were hardly waiting for Cawthorn's instructions.

Take the relationship of Kyle Rittenhouse and his mother, Wendy Rittenhouse. Every step of the way, she's been a proud MAGA mom, treating her son — who shot three people, killing two, at a Black Lives Matter protest — like he's a hero, and blaming his victims for their own deaths.

"A lot of people shouldn't have been there," she raved to NBC News during her son's trial. "He brung that gun for protection, and to this day if he didn't have that gun, my son would've been dead."

Last January, Kyle Rittenhouse was spotted in a bar partying with his mother and a group of Proud Boys. As the young Rittenhouse flashed white supremacist signs, his mother stood by, clearly unbothered that her 18-year-old was drinking with a group of men known for promoting violence in the name of authoritarian politics.

Or take Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a prime example of a woman who waves a gun around in a bizarre psychological battle with her own tribe's belief in female inferiority. Boebert has been heavily criticized for her repeated shows of contempt for the idea of gun safety. But the worst moment was no doubt over the summer, when, as Zachary Petrizzo reported for Salon, Boebert released a video showing her 8-year-old son "singing, dancing and playing with cigarette lighters — while left alone in a room a few feet away from a high-capacity rifle."

By August, there were at least 259 unintentional shootings by children in 2021, which resulted in 104 deaths and 168 injuries. But raising boys to care about safety is viewed in the MAGA world as, to use Cawthorn's word, "de-masculating." Boebert has routinely blown off critics who point out how dangerous it is to leave loaded guns around, claiming they need to be "ready for use."

In a typical sexist fashion, Cawthorn framed his demand that mothers raise "monsters" in terms of female duty and even sacrifice. But, as these examples show, for a lot of MAGA moms, raising monsters is really more about living vicariously through their sons. And really, it's no wonder. In MAGA-land, being a woman sucks. Sure, as the Boebert example shows, plenty of MAGA women wave around guns and act the part of the tough guy. But at the end of the day, women are simply second class in the Trumpist movement. They are the pussy to be grabbed, not the pussy-grabber.

The ultimate example of the MAGA mom raising up a monster, of course, is the mother-and-son team that stormed the Capitol on January 6.

Video shows Lisa Marie Eisenhart and her son Eric Munchel in tactical gear, armed with zip ties, screaming nonsense about "treason" and vowing that they are done "playing nice" —apparently intent on kidnapping members of Congress. In MAGA mom fantasies, this is the ultimate goal: To not just raise a monster, but be able, through your monster son, to taste the power of political violence yourself.

It's a world where men are viewed as superior to women, and masculinity is defined in the most toxic way possible, in predatory and violent terms. Women can't be equal, so their only way to taste power is through men, especially their sons. That's what Cawthorn's speech was about: Instructing women to sublimate their "vicious" urges by raising boys who are themselves vicious monsters. All too many are already heeding the call.

There are several giant holes in the arguments against Roe v. Wade

In a sign of the utter bad faith shot throughout the conservative arguments for abortion bans, the lawyers defending Mississippi's pre-viability ban in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Clinic are claiming that women don't need abortion because — wait for it — of all the great social safety net programs supporting mothers that Americans enjoy these days.

Mississippi's lawyers argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday that "numerous laws enacted since Roe — addressing pregnancy discrimination, requiring leave time, assisting with child care and more — facilitate the ability of women to pursue both career success and a rich family life." The Washington Post also gave Mississippi attorney general Lynn Fitch space to make the breathtakingly dishonest argument that women pay no professional or economic penalty for unwanted childbearing. "[I]t has become easier for women to reach the very pinnacle of our success, economically and socially" without abortion, she writes, because, um, "[m]aternity leave and even paternity leave are commonplace." Just in case you were unsure she is a big, fat liar, she also throws in, "Men and women are sharing responsibilities in the home." (No, they are not.)

These arguments are such self-evident nonsense that there's little chance that the intent is to fool anyone. Rather it's about propping facile justifications for abortion bans that are, in reality, rooted in a misogynistic desire to punish women for having sex.

Even having to debunk these arguments feels debasing, so hats off to Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times, who took on the task. "The United States stands out for its absence of national paid leave," she writes, and child care "is unaffordable for nearly half of American families." In addition, "access to abortion for young women with unplanned pregnancies led to higher earnings, more education and a higher chance of being a professional or manager than seen in women denied access to abortion." Studies show, time and again, abortion access materially improves women's lives.

But even if the U.S. were the socialist paradise that Mississippi lawyers are pretending it is, that would not justify abortion bans.

Abortion is not an insurance plan to protect against career derailment. It's about very basic human rights: To control your body and to make very basic decisions about your life. As Julie Rikelman of the Center for Reproductive Rights argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, "For a state to take control of a woman's body and demand that she go through pregnancy and childbirth with all the physical risks and life-altering consequences that brings is a fundamental deprivation of her liberty." Yes, even if you get to go back to work afterward.

The abortion debate is contentious not because of inadequate maternity leave, but because it cuts right to the heart of the larger struggle over whether or not women should be regarded as full human beings. It's why even having this debate over maternity leave and social safety nets feels debasing. It's undergirded by this assumption that women are too dumb to know what they need and want and so need a little coercion to understand the endless supposed bliss that awaits them after they are forced to give birth.

Fitch has been heavily promoting the claim that having a baby is always the best thing, and if a pregnant person doesn't agree, it must be because she's stupid and needs correction. She even told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly host Catherine Hadro that banning abortion is a gift because "the mothers that will get the chance to really redirect their lives," and women "can have these beautiful children and you can have your careers." The premise is that all women are in a permanent state of wanting to have a baby, and if they say otherwise, it must be under duress.

But this idea that women never truly want an abortion is a total and demonstrable lie.

In the U.S., 6 out of 10 abortion patients have already had a baby. They are fully educated in the joys and challenges of motherhood, and that knowledge is informing their choice to abort this particular pregnancy. In countries that really do have the social safety net that Mississippi is pretending exists here, abortion has not vanished. The abortion rates in countries like France and Sweden are comparable to the United States, even though they have much more generous maternity leave and child care policies. Wealthier countries do have lower abortion rates, but that's because contraception access leads to lower overall pregnancy rates. But as long as there's unintended pregnancy, there will be abortion.

That's because a very basic, unchanging fact about human nature: People want to have a lot more sex than they want to have babies. Yes, even women. People have sex when it's not the right time for a baby. People have sex with partners who aren't the right fit to have a baby with. People have sex even when they've had as many children as they want to have. Contraception makes this safer, but it's not foolproof. Which is why you can throw as many maternity benefits as you want at women, but they will still need access to abortion.

Conservatives get away with this bad faith, because of a larger cultural prudery. There's a general unwillingness, even among a lot of progressives, to defend women's sexuality without caveat. Conservatives want to prop up this ideal of women as asexual beings who only have sex to please men and/or have babies. Abortion's popularity, however, exposes the truth: Lots of women have sex with men they don't want to have a baby with — either right now or ever.

Rather that just let women be, the Christian right wants to use abortion bans to punish women for not adhering to their sexist demands. Progressives should not let red herring arguments about maternity leave or child care distract us from that fact.

The Supreme Court shows off its contempt for women

Despite all the legalese about "stare decisis" and "reliance interests," the abortion rights hearing held at the Supreme Court Wednesday morning came down to one question: Can women's rights simply be disappeared, with the ease of shaking an Etch-A-Sketch?

Unfortunately, 6 out of 9 members of the Court seemed to strongly believe that yes, it's time to hit the reset button on that whole "treating women like full human beings" experiment after nearly 50 years, since Roe vs. Wade, of women having full human rights.Through the two hours of questioning in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health, one word came to mind to describe the stance of the conservative judges: Contempt.

Wednesday's oral arguments were full of contempt for women's lives, contempt for women's intelligence, contempt for women's privacy and contempt for women's very humanity. To be sure, Center for Reproductive Rights lawyer Julie Rikelman and Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar repeatedly emphasized that women are complex human beings who have as much a right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness as anyone. But it was like talking to a brick wall of misogyny offered by the Republican appointees on the bench. The Court now seems almost certain, as was requested by Mississippi Attorney General Scott Stewart, to overturn Roe v. Wade next year.

Perhaps the most repulsive moment of the morning came courtesy of Justice Sam Alito, who is always ready to act like the biggest mansplaining creep in the highly competitive field of GOP-appointed judges. In response to Prelogar's argument that American women have come to rely on abortion rights, Alito sneeringly argued that the South had also come to rely on "white supremacy" after Plessy v. Ferguson, but that didn't stop the court from overturning it in Brown v. the Board of Education. Yes, you read that correctly: Alito compared a woman's right to control her own body to upholding Jim Crow.

And this was far from the only bad faith comparison offered by the conservative justices.

At one point, Justice Brett Kavanaugh ran down a long list of cases he felt like overturned historical precedent, in the way he clearly would like to overturn Roe — including Brown and, more recently, Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that legalized same-sex marriage. Prelogar did her best to rebut this claim, pointing out that these decisions to overturn precedent expanded human rights, and overturning Roe would take them away. But the conservatives don't seem inclined to view women as humans with rights, and so ignored this crucial point.

Those were the most egregious, but the inability of the conservatives to imagine women as real people behaving in discernibly human ways defined most lines of questioning during Wednesday's arguments. At one point, Chief Justice John Roberts explored the possibility of setting the national abortion limits at 15 weeks, which is the current Mississippi law under debate, instead of overturning Roe entirely. He dug into Rikelman about how 15 weeks should be enough "opportunity for choice" for women seeking an abortion, even though it's actually only about 11 weeks since the missed period. The implication, of course, is that anyone who needs that long is somehow too lazy or stupid to deserve rights. (Though apparently not to lazy or stupid to be a mother!) But, as Rikelman pointed out, poverty and other abortion restrictions often drive women to spend weeks trying to find the time and money to abort. In addition, a huge number of medically indicated abortions happen after the 15-week mark.

Amy Coney Barrett, the token Aunt Lydia of the 6 conservative judges, kept circling around the argument that women don't need abortion rights, because "in all 50 states, you can terminate parental rights" after giving birth. It was a question that only makes sense if one assumes women are merely ambulatory uteruses, with no feelings or internal lives at all. In the real world, however, pregnancy is a difficult process, not just physically, but emotionally. Pregnancy isn't a houseplant you stick in the corner of your house and ignore until someone comes to pick it up. You carry it with your body. People ask you about it — indeed, as anyone who has been pregnant can tell you, it's basically all people can talk to you about when you're showing. It causes all sorts of hormonal and emotional reactions, and giving up a baby your body has created is notoriously wrenching, even for those who are ready to do it.

Barrett, who has kids of her own, should understand this. But other women don't seem to register as people to her. She even snickeringly compared forced childbirth to vaccination, as if a 3 second, risk-free shot has anything in common with the permanently life-altering experience of pregnancy and childbirth.

Realizing they weren't going to get very far with their conservative colleagues with arguments about women's humanity, the liberal justices largely focused on the issue of the court's reputation. The conservative justices have been openly defensive about (entirely correct) accusations that they are "partisan hacks," as Barrett unconvincingly swore she was not earlier this year. So the liberals centered much of their questioning around concerns that overturning Roe would further degrade the court's reputation in the public eye.

"Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?" Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked at one point.

But it's hard to imagine six justices are going to be that worried about being criticized in this way. They don't take women seriously as people, so it's unlikely they care much more for the opinions of people who do view women as full human beings. As with Kavanaugh whining and crying because he had to deal with a sexual assault accusation from Christine Blasey Ford, they are all likely to double down on their sense of grievance that they even have to waste time with the women-are-people crowd. Erasing women's rights will be as easy for them as stepping on ants.

The real history of US anti-abortion politics began in 1662 — and is bound to the legacy of slavery

Another week, another terrifying abortion case at the Supreme Court. Today, the Supreme Court considered Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which concerns a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban. Since 15-week abortion bans, and all pre-viability abortion bans, are unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade, the only reason to even hear this case is for the Court to strongly consider upholding the ban and overturning Roe. While anti-abortion activists have been working toward this moment since the late 1970s, it's no surprise they’re finding success in a moment of white backlash and growing white supremacy. The real history of abortion politics in this country should actually begin in 1662 with the first law codifying race and inheritable slavery.

The first 40 years of slavery in the North American British colonies treated slavery as it had been used previously in Europe. Slavery was mostly justified on the basis of religion or having conquered people and there were paths for slaves out of their enslavement. The slave system in Virginia completely changed with a 1662 law that made race and enslavement an inheritable condition through the mother. This law became the basis of the American racialized chattel system of slavery. It also clearly linked racial construction and the continuation of white supremacy to reproduction. Enslaved Black women would produce enslaved Black children while white women would produce free white children. The race of the fathers did not matter.

As a result of such a law, controlling the reproduction of women was vitally important both to produce more slave labor and to control white purity. White men had no downside to sexually abusing their slaves, as the resulting children would be considered Black. Alternatively, extreme social repercussions had to be placed on any white woman having sexual intercourse with a Black man, as the system could not tolerate Black kids being born free to white women.

Black women’s reproduction was a vital part of the American slave system, especially after the international slave trade was closed in 1808. Black women were forced to engage in sexual relationships with other slaves or were often sexually abused by their masters. Early gynecology was also created on the bodies of enslaved Black women because their value was so tied to their reproduction. During slavery, abortion became a tool of agency for enslaved Black women to not only control their own reproduction but also to resist the slave system.

READ: 'Intentional deception': Mark Meadows releases damning details about Trump ahead of hearing with Jan. 6 panel

For most of common law history, abortion was either explicitly allowed until quickening (when the baby moves) or ignored. Abortion, and most gynecological concerns, were the purview of women. While the laws might have only condoned abortions until quickening, there were rarely prosections for later abortions unless the abortion was a result of a violent assault against the mother. Abortions were performed by both tribal communities and early British colonies in the 1600s and used mostly safe herbal abortifacients. Anti-abortion laws began in the 1820s but only criminalized post-quickening. It wasn’t until after the Civil War that there was a focused movement to outlaw abortion.

The timing of a movement to criminalize abortion after the Civil War is not a coincidence. While Black people were enslaved, the supposed superiority of white people was evident through the difference in the legal treatment of the two races. However after the Civil War, Black people were no longer enslaved, and so white supremacy needed new tools to continue enforcing the racial hierarchy.

These efforts were dependent on a high white birth rate and strong prohibitions against interracial sex (for white women and Black men at least). The post-Civil War period also coincided with an increase of “less desirable” immigrants and concerns that ethnic minorities would take over cities if pure white women did not have enough children.

This period also saw changing gender roles with more women working outside the home and engaging in suffrage movements, thus threatening traditional households and lowering the white birth rate. Moreover, male gynecologists who had just built their field by experimenting on enslaved Black women also needed to discredit midwives and less medicalized avenues of healthcare.

READ: The Supreme Court shows off its contempt for women

Abortion was mostly ignored as it was the purview of women, but as male doctors took over gynecology, they encouraged legislative responses to abortion. These doctors also joined with eugenicist movements and warned that abortion could result in “race suicide.”

These efforts were successful. Abortion was criminalized in every state by 1910. This was the Jim Crow period in the South and the height of anti-immigrant fervor in the North. Not only was it important to ensure white women were having pure white babies to protect white supremacy, but white supremacist ideology was also dependent on there being a contrast to Blackness. More Black children not only meant more laborers but also were necessary to support the hierarchical view of the United States with white men on top. The threat of lynching was used to enforce strict racial boundaries between white women and Black men so white women’s reproduction could be controlled, and the pure white bloodline could be continued.

The success of the pro-abortion movement with Roe v. Wade in 1973 came only five years after Loving v. Virginia, which ended all bans on interracial marriage. While de facto segregation continued, de jure segregation had been outlawed and public places and schools were all theoretically integrated, even if that didn’t play out in practice. Nixon’s Southern Strategy capitalized on the conservative Christian values. Anti-abortion politics served as a more palatable political cause than anti-integration motives. The movements became inextricably linked.

Today, Republican politicians and far-right personalities are openly embracing “white replacement theory,” which is the newest name for the fear that there aren’t enough pure white babies being born. This eugenicist fear has the twist that a secret Jewish cabal is conspiring to encourage the non-white birth rate in order to harm white people.

READ: Democrats will have a 'boatload of material' to use against 'unhinged, out-of-step' Republicans in 2022: conservative

While the anti-abortion and white supremacist movements are clearly intertwined, many anti-abortionists now claim abortion is really a Black genocide and it is racist to support it. Their narrative relies on misinformation and a racist paternalistic view of Black people.

In reality, white supremacy can’t survive without an alternative Blackness to condemn. They use fear-mongering about Black welfare queens to get elected. Taking reproductive control away from white men and putting it in the hands of women and pregnant people of all races is the biggest threat to white supremacist patriarchy. Anti-abortion sentiment is always just white supremacy in disguise.

AOC slams 'desperate' Kevin McCarthy for allowing the ‘violent targeting’ of women of color in Congress

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is criticizing House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for refusing to deal with the members of his “Ku Klux Klan” caucus who are ignoring and allowing the “violent targeting” of women of color members of Congress.

The Democratic Congresswoman from New York, herself the frequent target of violent threats, pointed to this video of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar playing a death threat received after she was targeted by GOP Congresswoman Lauren Boebert:

“People truly don’t understand the scale, intensity, & volume of threats targeting” Congresswoman Omar, Ocasio-Cortez says.

“Kevin McCarthy is so desperate to be speaker that he is working with his Ku Klux Klan caucus to look aside & allow violent targeting of WOC members of Congress. This cannot be ignored,” she warns.

READ: 'Intentional deception': Mark Meadows releases damning details about Trump ahead of hearing with Jan. 6 panel

Congresswoman Boebert over the past week was exposed – on video – suggesting Rep. Omar is a terrorist three times, including in one video she herself posted to social media.

McCarthy has refused to take any action against Boebert.

Right-wing groups are already laying the groundwork for a post-Roe world

With the U.S. Supreme Court set to hear opening arguments Wednesday in a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade and threaten abortion rights for millions of people across the country, right-wing anti-choice groups are preparing to ensure that anyone who becomes pregnant in the U.S. is forced to continue the pregnancy.

The consideration of Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban represents a moment the anti-choice movement has been waiting for since 1973, when Roe v. Wade affirmed that pregnant people have the right to obtain abortion care until 24 weeks of pregnancy.

After a number of extreme forced-pregnancy laws passed by right-wing state legislatures were overturned by federal courts in recent years, Mississippi officials are asking the high court to overturn Roe v. Wade in addition to allowing their law—which includes no exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest—to stand.

Former Vice President Mike Pence called on the Supreme Court Tuesday to "make history" by overturning the ruling—a move that would swiftly put in place abortion bans in 12 states that have "trigger bans," including Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and in 14 other states that have severely restricted access to care.

Pence claimed in his remarks that "Americans are ready for an end to the judicial tyranny of Roe v. Wade"—despite the fact that only 27% of Americans back overturning the decision and 60% support upholding it, according to recent polling by ABC News/The Washington Post—and that the right to obtain abortion care should be left up to state legislatures.

Anti-choice groups including Students for Life of America and Americans United for Life are lobbying state-level lawmakers to pass new abortion restrictions and bans in the event that Roe is overturned.

"We've had a post-Roe strategy for the last 15 years," Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, told Politico Tuesday.

The strategy includes launching a $5 million anti-choice ad campaign that will run in 20 U.S. cities and working with federal Republican lawmakers to ban online sales of pills used for medication abortions, which reproductive rights advocates say more and more people facing unwanted pregnancies may rely on if Roe is overturned.

With red states passing extreme forced-pregnancy bills in recent years, states including Louisiana and Mississippi have seen skyrocketing demand for abortion pills that can be accessed by mail, according to international nonprofit group Aid Access.

"This is a window into what the world will look like if the Mississippi and Texas bans are allowed to go into effect," Abigail Aiken, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and lead author of Aid Access's study, told Politico in May. "The people who are looking for abortions will not just suddenly say: 'Oh, I guess it's illegal now, so I won't get one.' They will look for whatever options they can find, including those outside the law."

Pregnant people in states that have passed bans—including Texas, where a six-week ban was allowed by the Supreme Court to stand in September—have increasingly traveled across state lines in recent months to access care, overwhelming clinics in states including Oklahoma and Kansas. According to the Guttmacher Institute, patients seeking care in Louisiana would have to drive an average of 666 miles, one way, to see a provider if americ is overturned.

With right-wing groups rallying to strip Americans of their right to obtain abortion care should Roe be overturned, pro-choice advocacy groups prepared to demonstrate outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday, demanding not only that the law be upheld but also that the Senate pass the Women's Health Protection Act, which would keep abortion access free from medically unnecessary restrictions and create a statutory right for providers to provide abortion care.

"Abortion is healthcare, and the majority of Americans agree: We need to defend Roe v. Wade," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) earlier this week. "Congress can do that by passing the Women's Health Protection Act to protect access to abortion for everyone—regardless of their zip code. Let's get it done."

The warped history of self-defense law reveals a legacy of privilege

Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted last week of shooting three people, killing two of them, because, he said, he feared for his life.

Some are claiming this verdict suggests that the legal system will be more supportive of those claiming self-defense at criminal trials. The United States Supreme Court has signaled its interest in striking down a New York gun regulation, because of its concern for poor commuters in New York City who need to defend themselves.

So once the Supreme Court allows me to carry a concealed weapon while walking around New York City, it sounds like I would be justified in shooting someone anytime my life is threatened. Perhaps the next time a strange man follows me home, I should shoot him. Or if a catcaller says something about raping me or if I'm alone in a subway car and a man sits down next to me -- perhaps I should shoot them all.

All of these situations pose a grave risk and all of them have happened to me many times over. It also seems that the "reasonable (wo)man" standard would justify the use of deadly force in the name of self-defense, as I'm sure most women in those situations also fear for their lives. But I'm guessing a jury wouldn't be so quick to let me off and society would probably enjoy classifying me as a "crazy" woman with a man-killing agenda. After all, Aileen Wuornos was executed.

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Historically, there have been groups explicitly excluded from claiming self-defense if they killed the person harming them. Common law drew a distinction between "justifiable homicides" that served the public good and personal killings in self-defense, which were "excusable homicides." In excusable homicides, people had a duty to retreat before using deadly force. In justifiable homicides, the killer could pursue the person, like if they committed a crime. There was no duty to retreat if one was at home, but this really was about protecting the property rights of land-owning white men. The duty to retreat even outside the home eroded in the 19th century with westward expansion and with contemporary "stand your ground" laws.

Self-defense was conceived as a right to protect one's person but also as a clear protection of property. It created a problem for people who were also legally included in property. Enslaved people obviously had no right to self-defense. Women were often legally included in the property of fathers and husbands. Enslaved people and (married) women had limited rights over their person historically.

Theoretically, intentionally killing a slave was illegal in most jurisdictions, but in practice it was rarely prosecuted. Since slave owners had broad power to enact physical punishment, there was no right to self-defense. Similarly, while interracial sex was illegal in many jurisdictions, and certainly publicly distasteful, that offered no protection for enslaved women raped by their masters. In 1855, an enslaved woman named Celia killed her owner after he had spent five years raping and producing at least one child. While the sexual abuse was well known and began when she was bought at 14, 12 jurors had no problem sentencing Celia to death for defending herself.

For (white) women, coverture was the legal theory that married women were legally covered within the protection of their husbands. This meant they did not have separate property and didn't need to vote, but also that they did not have the same physical rights.

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Dating back to common law, there was no legal cause of action for men raping their wives. It wasn't until 1993 that marital rape was illegal in all 50 states. While theoretically women still had the right to defend themselves against their husbands killing them, this legal understanding made that defense much harder to use. Rape was a legal cause of action for women if their rapist was not their husband, but it was rarely prosecuted in the 19th century. The more common charge was "seduction" in which a woman claimed a man convinced her to have sex with him under the false pretense that he would marry her. It was much harder to claim self-defense if courts didn't recognize your rights to bodily autonomy in the face of male violence.

Obviously today, self-defense is theoretically available to everyone in this country, and rape is a recognized cause of action for married and unmarried women. Unfortunately, the history of self-defense being the purview of white men still influences the legal culture in this country.

It's much harder to successfully claim self-defense for Black people when just owning a gun makes them seem guilty of something to many white people. Courts are also less likely to apply stand your ground laws to Black defendants, but there is an assumption that it is understandable for white defendants to be scared of Black men.

Self-defense laws are less likely to protect women defending themselves against abusers. Most require using deadly force only if she's in "imminent" danger. That means if women take an opportunity to kill their abusers when she's calm, she can't claim self-defense.

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Courts often don't let women use stand your ground laws to support self-defense claims because they kill men they have an ongoing relationship with or even with whom they share a legal residence.

Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years after firing a warning shot in the vicinity of her abuser. It's possible that up to 90 percent of women in prison for killing a man had previously been abused by him. Women serve significantly longer sentences for killing intimate partners than men do despite the likelihood of killing the abuser.

Whatever people say about Kyle Rittenhouse, it's clear most of us can't shoot people anytime we feel threatened and get acquitted based on self-defense. Maddesyn George, a native woman who killed a white man who'd raped her, wasn't allowed to use a self-defense claim in federal court because prosecutors said she was the "initial aggressor."

Chrystul Kizer is fighting for her life in the same jurisdiction as Rittenhouse. In 2018, Kizer, then 17, killed a known sexual abuser after she had been trafficked. At first, a judge ruled she couldn't claim self-defense but his decision was overruled on appeal. The prosecution is still fighting that decision, claiming the killing was premeditated and the Wisconsin Supreme Court will decide if Kizer can claim self-defense as a trafficking victim.

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There are countless cases of women who survived and were punished by the criminal justice system for defending themselves.

The Rittenhouse verdict isn't a victory for self-defense. It's just another example of white men having different rights from the rest of us.

Justice Alito's comments about abortion reveal what right-wingers really think about women

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over SB8, a new Texas law that set up a bounty hunter system that empowers private citizens to use lawsuits to prevent abortions. Going in, most observers expected the Republican-dominated court to be eager to uphold this law. In a twist, however, multiple conservative judges — including Donald Trump appointees, Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Amy Coney Barrett — seemed skeptical.

To be sure, it's not because the conservative justices care about human rights, but because they care about their own power and look askance at a law designed to evade legal review by federal courts. Now the expectation in legal circles is that the court will throw out the Texas law and open the door to banning abortion through a Mississippi case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which is a straightforward challenge to Roe v. Wade.

Most of Monday's arguments were centered around impenetrable legalese about "ex parte young" and "sovereign immunity." But through the thicket of lawyerly jargon about who has what legal power here, a picture did emerge of the actual moral and political argument Republicans are making about abortion rights. It all boils down to one very basic, insulting premise: Women are simply too stupid to be allowed rights.

Throughout arguments, Solicitor General of Texas Judd Stone and Justice Samuel Alito, both Federalist Society-linked far-right Republicans, casually spoke about women as if they were incapable of handling the choice to have an abortion. When asked about who could be suffering "extreme moral or otherwise psychological harm" over someone else's abortion, for instance, Stone invoked the tragic tale of a mansplainer who is horribly abused by a woman who decides to ignore his opinion.

An individual discovers that -- that someone -- that a close friend of theirs who they'd spoken with about -- about pro-life issues and about abortion has chosen instead to have a late-term abortion in violation of S.B. 8, and they were very invested in the -- basically, in that child's upbringing and the child's coming into being.

Oof! Can you imagine the nerve of this hypothetical woman? After someone goes to all that effort to browbeat her about how much he hates abortion, she up and decides that she is going to abort a pregnancy anyway! One can feel Stone's heart breaking for the mansplainer denied his god-given right to boss women around.

And if that diatribe weren't sexist enough, Stone had to slide in that little jab about "late-term" abortion. It's been a common talking point for GOP defenders to claim that the law gives women plenty of time to get abortions. The implication is that only dum-dums can't get it done on time, and therefore they deserve forced childbirth. But this supposed "six weeks" to decide is utter nonsense. While the media keeps calling the Texas law a "six week" ban, it is, at best, a two-week ban, as that's the length of time since the missed period indicating pregnancy.

Alito, on the other hand, decided to insult women's intelligence from another angle, portraying women as mental children who are being manipulated by sinister abortion doctors and therefore need to be protected from having choices. Alito repeatedly invoked the specter of a bird-brained woman who didn't realize until after the fact that the abortion — the one she scheduled, went through and paid for — meant she wasn't going to have a baby. He spoke of a woman who wants to sue "the doctor who performed my abortion because it caused me physical and/or emotional harm," conjured up a woman who "sues an out-of-state doctor" for "for physical or emotional harm suffered as a result of the abortion," and asked of a woman who "sues a doctor who has flown in from another state to perform the abortion."

As Justice Sonia Sotomayor gently pointed out, there are already "common law torts" that cover "emotional infliction of harm, breach of contract, medical malpractice." So if a woman was actually forced or tricked into an abortion she didn't want, she can already sue for damages. Alito, however, wasn't interested in the real world. He wanted to wallow in an elaborate sexist fantasy, where women routinely get abortions without understanding such a procedure means they won't get to have the baby. Wouldn't the mansplaining hero in Stone's tragic tale have told them?

Alito was riffing on a sexist notion that has been rampant in the anti-choice world for decades. Women are naturally too dumb to make choices, the argument goes, and therefore end up awash in regret after foolishly letting the "abortion industry" take their babies away. This myth persists despite ample evidence that the opposite is true, and that a whopping 99% of patients report, five years after the fact, that their abortion was the right choice. In fact, most women who get abortions are already mothers, so they understand intimately what the other choice already looks like.

Alito's line of argument isn't just misogynist. It's also worrisome from a legal perspective.

The last time the Supreme Court chipped away at abortion rights, in the 2007 Gonzales vs. Carhart decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy justified upholding a federal ban on an abortion procedure used to end pregnancies in the late second or early third trimester. Even though most of those abortions are done for medical reasons, as Dahlia Lithwick noted in Slate at the time, "His opinion blossoms from the premise that if all women were as sensitive as he is about the fundamental awfulness of this procedure, they'd all refuse to undergo it."

Kennedy's argument wasn't just false and condescending, it also set up a legal precedent for the idea that women are too dumb to understand what abortion is and therefore need to be kept from having one for their own good. No doubt Alito was thinking of that as he kept harping on this fantasy of the woman tricked by a doctor into getting an abortion. It's looking unlikely the court will uphold the Texas law, but there's a good reason to worry that they will use the Mississippi case to end the legal right to abortion, citing the myth that women are too stupid to be trusted with rights.

Here's what Republicans really mean when they say they're fighting for 'parents' rights'

Today's Election Day in Virginia. The top issue is reportedly "parents' rights." I had some thoughts about that but first wanted to see arguments in favor laid out in full. My friend Bill Scher is watching the governor's race for Washington Monthly. I asked if he knew of an article capturing the position. He said, "An honest one?" I guess enough said about that.

Juan Williams got ahead of me. He's a news analyst for Fox. He's also a Black conservative, which is not a white conservative who happens to be Black. In his latest for The Hill, Williams said "parents' rights" in Virginia is code for white power. "It is a campaign to stop classroom discussion of Black Lives Matter protests or slavery because it could upset some children, especially white children who might feel guilt."

He added:

"Unlike their earlier defense of Confederate monuments, the "Parents' Rights" campaign message at first glance looks to have zero to do with race. That puts Democrats on the defensive. They are in the uncomfortable position of calling the attention of suburban white moms to divisive racial politics being used by Republican Glenn Youngkin's campaign."

Put these together — it's a dishonest argument and it's designed to put Democrats on their heels. But that's where I think I might be able to help. Those "suburban white moms"? They're the respectable white people I spend so much time talking about. They care for their kids. They fear for their kids. No one should blame them. But they need to know there's something scarier: men talking about parents' rights. Williams is right. It's code for anti-Black. But as a conservative, a Black one, he seems rather blind to the other awful truth. It's anti-woman.

First, remember what I said Monday. There's always someone willing to make the goals of the authoritarian collective, which is what the GOP has become, seem respectable. In Virginia, that's gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin. He's very good at respectability politics. Right now, he's riding an anti-Black backlash, but he's casting himself as a kind of warrior for "suburban white moms" and their kids.

He's not. What he's doing is rationalizing the thing "suburban white moms" need to fear, which is this: a long effort to restore America to its original, Godly and "constitutional" order by which white Christian men stand atop, ruling over everyone else, including their women. Indeed, the first goal of authoritarians is putting women back in their place in the natural orders of power, which means making them, once again, dependent on a man for their health, safety and good fortune.

What does this have to do with "suburban white moms"? Parents hold a special place in the natural order of things. There's God over Mankind, men over women and — right before you get to white people being over everyone else — there's parents over children. The "over" here is important to bear in mind, because whoever's "over" is the one in charge. Whoever's "under" is expected to obey. Otherwise, it's a perversion of the natural order of things, which must be punished.

In the world of the authoritarian collective, which is what the GOP has become, there's no democracy between and among the natural orders of power, because there is no such thing as political equality. None.

Efforts to reform the natural order of things, which is to say, for instance, efforts to enshrine greater rights and privileges for women on account of being created equally, are met with fierce opposition. Efforts can't be, according to the authoritarians, driven by morality, because morality isn't about doing unto others what you would have done unto you. Morality is about authority. It's about obedience. A woman asking for equality is a woman asking for punishment.

What does this have to do with public education? Public education is the greatest tool invented for flattening the natural order of things, creating space for demands for political equality, where there was no space before when morality was about obedience instead of morality. An educated girl is one who might question the authority of her father before questioning the authority of her husband. (Forget about LGBTQ rights, because in the authoritarian world, LGBTQ people do not exist.) Public education doesn't punish girls for asking for political equality, as it should. Instead, it validates, supports and drives their hunger for it.

So when Youngkin says the first thing he's going to do is use the power of the state to censor information and police thought ("I will ban critical race theory"), what he's saying is he's going to use the power of the state to restore the natural order of things — to bring Virginia back to its original, Godly and "constitutional" order by which white Christian men stood atop the hierarchy, ruling over everyone else, including their women. When he says he's gonna fight for parents' rights, the parent doesn't include moms. Just men, and their women.

This is what "suburban white moms" need to know. Whether they believe it or not is another question. No one appears to be saying what needs saying, which is that "parents' rights" isn't only code for white power. "Parents' rights" is about protecting the "rights" of men.

The Texas abortion ban faced tough questions at the Supreme Court — even from Trump-appointed justices

The Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday on the Texas law that effectively bans most abortions. Questions from two of Trump's appointees, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, signal a skepticism of the law's constitutionality.

The Texas law has a novel means of enforcement. The state does not enforce the law, but rather allows private citizens to sue anyone who abets an abortion and for them to collect $10,000 if they win, effectively placing bounties on abortions. The enforcement mechanism allows the bill to dodge judicial review. Anyone who wishes to challenge the constitutionality of the law would usually sue the state, but because private citizens are the enforcers, the law intentionally leaves it a legally gray area. Justice Kavanaugh took issue with that particular provision and pressed Texas on it.

"Can I ask you about the implications of your position for other federal rights?"

Kavanaugh referred to a brief from the Firearms Policy Coalition, which said that the law might have unintended consequences and backfire on conservatives. The firearm rights group said that gun control advocates might be able to copy the language of the abortion law and apply it to Second Amendment rights.

Texas Solicitor General Judd Stone represented Texas and told Kavanaugh that Congress would be able to pass laws bolstering rights to protect them, such as free speech rights and Second Amendment rights. Kavanaugh responded, "Well for some of those examples, I think it would be quite difficult to get legislation through Congress."

Kavanaugh also asked Stone about a hypothetical law that would allow private citizens to sue anyone that sells an AR-15 for $1 million. But Stone dodged his questioning and responded "whether or not federal court review is available does not turn on the nature of the right."

Barrett also took issue with the enforcement mechanism. The law leaves in the air whether or not citizens can bring new lawsuits against abortion providers.

"You cannot get global relief," Barrett said to Stone. She then asked him if the law was "on an individual by individual basis." Stone said Barrett was correct and that there was no limit to how many private citizens can sue.

Meanwhile, Barrett showed sympathy to the abortion providers' arguments, asking Marc Hearron, who represented the abortion providers, if the law allows a "full airing" of the providers' constitutional rights. The law forbids providers from using the right to an abortion as a defense until they have been sued.

In September, the Supreme Court denied an injunction filed by abortion providers to stop the Texas law from going into effect, which anti-abortion activists cheered. But Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University, told The New York Times that because the court agreed to listen to arguments, "someone who was not on the fence is probably back on the fence."

How the Texas abortion law’s faulty legal text could self-destruct

The ghastliness of the new Texas abortion law is difficult to express in words. It prevents women from aborting their pregnancies after six weeks and creates legal avenues for the punishment of those who assist a woman in her efforts to obtain an abortion. Texas has opened a multidimensional Pandora's box that threatens marginalized communities across the country.

A future without Roe v. Wade has been thrown more sharply into focus. The emergence of abortion bounties in Texas begs the questions of where else these bounties might be collected and which other constitutional rights may be subject to vigilantism. The Supreme Court, which now has a decisive conservative majority, refused to weigh in on the constitutionality of the new law. Many have described the Supreme Court's decision as both secretive and "cowardly" for its arrival in the dead of night and with minimal explanation. Whatever the label may be, the decision by the Supreme Court has left American women within Texas and throughout the country more vulnerable than they were just a few months ago. While lawyers may be responsible for constructing the Texas abortion law, lawyers may also be best positioned to thwart its aims even as it remains good law.

The Texas law permits abortion bounty hunters to sue those who "knowingly [engage] in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion." A $10,000 bounty at a minimum awaits successful plaintiffs on the other side of litigation.

Navigating lawsuits requires meeting deadlines, responding to motions, submitting discovery requests, advancing legal arguments, and understanding rules of civil procedure and evidence. Such complex tasks, which must be completed in order to succeed, will undoubtedly require legal representation. Crucially, however, because the lawsuits are challenged in civil court, plaintiffs have no constitutional right to free legal representation. Abortion bounty hunters seeking their bounties will turn to private attorneys in Texas for legal assistance. Principled lawyers throughout the state should decline to take these cases.

Lawyers who refuse to represent abortion bounty hunters could mitigate the harms specifically prevented by abortion bounties without having to wait for the legislative process or the judicial process to work. The calculus is simple: Abortion bounty hunters who are rebuffed over and over again may eventually decline to litigate. Those who decide to represent themselves are far less likely to be successful in court. If this practice is carried out successfully by lawyers, it might serve as a deterrent for those inclined to engage in abortion bounty hunting.

Some may argue that this proposal is unethical and unprecedented in itself. On the contrary, this is simply lawyering. Discretion is inherent in the legal profession. Lawyers decline cases consistently. Personal ethics can factor into those decisions.

Furthermore, there is a precedent for selective lawyering. At the dawn of the civil rights movement, civil rights lawyers meticulously selected cases that they thought would be best suited to challenging racial segregation and discrimination. The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, which led the legal assault on racial disparities during the movement, strategically confronted school desegregation, from Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada to Brown v. Board of Education, believing that deconstructing this form of racism was necessary to unsettling state-sanctioned discrimination. Just as the civil rights movement called for lawyering that could be dynamic, aggressive, and persistent in taking cases, responding to the political moment created by the Texas abortion law may call for the same kind of lawyering in declining cases.

To be sure, there are other, perhaps more conventional, efforts underway to oppose the Texas law. The Department of Justice challenged the constitutionality of the Texas law in federal court on October 18. While the Supreme Court again refused to "immediately block" the Texas law, it could take months for this case to wind its way through a federal docket and reach a final conclusion. Congressional Democrats are working to protect abortion rights with legislation, but, with the pace at which federal legislation progresses, such a bill could take years before it even comes to a vote in Congress. There is no guarantee that after the 2022 midterm elections Democrats will even be in a position to usher such legislation through Congress. Polling on the Democrats' chances of retaining control of Congress at this point certainly does not give the party much to be excited about. Furthermore, as a corollary, there is no guarantee that a Democratic president would occupy the White House to sign such a bill into law after 2024.

Each of those avenues is premised on the luxury of time. The harms of the Texas law could spread in the meantime. Countless women are being deprived of their constitutional right to abort their pregnancies. Indeed, some Texas facilities that perform abortions temporarily stopped performing abortions altogether out of fear of the legal liability that they could incur as a result of the law.

Fear could also prevent women from seeking abortions in the first place out of concern that they might expose their families and friends to legal jeopardy. And while the law brings fear to some, it could bring profit to others—abortion bounty hunters who stand to earn millions of dollars off of Texas women, their loved ones, and anyone who (knowingly or unknowingly) helps them obtain an abortion. Other states could adopt similar schemes. Republican officials in Arkansas, Florida, and South Dakota have expressed interest in using the Texas abortion law as a model for new abortion legislation in their states.

Lawyers who decline to represent abortion bounty hunters have the power of relative immediacy on their side.

Undoubtedly, there will be those who want to pursue abortion bounties, so there will also be lawyers who will help them do so. Lawyers who refuse to help plaintiffs collect abortion bounties, should similarly be prepared to help defendants pro bono.

The new abortion law will most directly harm low-income women and women of color. Because those who are likely to help facilitate a woman's abortion will inevitably be members of her social network, they are also likely to be in the same socioeconomic bracket due to social forces like redlining and intergenerational poverty. Even those who may help a woman get an abortion without knowing her, like rideshare drivers, are likely to be low-income as well. In other words, the burden of this law will fall most heavily on some of the most vulnerable Texans. These defendants would have the hardest time affording legal representation and the most to lose financially if they are legally required to pay bounties. Indeed, what makes the abortion law so insidious is that it leverages economic inequities to frighten women into maintaining unwanted pregnancies and intimidates those who would otherwise help them. Representing these defendants pro bono could simultaneously strike a blow for abortion rights and weaken the grip of classism.

The cruelty of situating the battle for abortion rights in the civil court system could lead to the downfall of the Texas abortion law. Because the success of the law effectively hinges on navigating the legal system, lawyers are best positioned to oppose it. They could single-handedly blunt the impact of the Texas law.

Ebony Slaughter-Johnson is a freelance writer and a writing fellow for Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute. Her work has appeared on AlterNet, U.S. News & World Report, Equal Voice News and Common Dreams.

This article was produced by Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

'The State’s gambit has worked': Justice Sotomayor decries the court's refusal to lift the Texas abortion ban

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a lone dissent on Friday as her colleagues once again refused to block the Texas abortion ban, even under a request from the Department of Justice.

The court did agree to take up the matter for oral arguments swiftly. On Monday, Nov. 1, the court will hear from both sides in the case on the question of whether the U.S. administration can intervene and temporarily block the law from going into effect as the cases proceed.

But Sotomayor, as she has previously, argued that the court should have issued an injunction blocking the abortion ban from being enforced immediately. The law is already having massive effects on the constitutionally protected right to obtain an abortion in Texas, she argued, and yet a majority of the justices is allowing the state to use procedural loopholes to undermine the court's own ruling precedents.

"The State's gambit has worked," she wrote. "The impact is catastrophic."

To circumvent existing law protecting the right to get an abortion, Texas legislators enacted a scheme the prohibits abortion after six weeks — well before a pregnancy may have even been detected — but outsources enforcement to the courts and citizens. The ban, known as S.B. 8, allows anyone to sue those who assist in an abortion for $10,000. Because of this unique enforcement mechanism, a majority of the Supreme Court's conservative justices have said that the issues are too complex to warrant an immediate injunction against the law.

This decision, Sotomayor argued, is a betrayal of the court's authority — and it is having the practical effect of infringing on the rights of people seeking abortions. She explained:

On a human level, the District Court relied on credible declarations that described the threat of liability under S. B. 8 as "nothing short of agonizing" for abortion care providers. ... Providers are "seriously concerned that even providing abortions in compliance with S. B. 8 will draw lawsuits from anti-abortion vigilantes or others seeking financial gain." ... Patients are "devastated" to learn they cannot access care, and the "turmoil" caused by the Act leaves them "panicked, both for themselves and their loved ones." ... Even among the few women who are able to receive abortion services in Texas, S. B. 8 pushes patients "to make a decision about their abortion before they are truly ready to do so."
To be sure, the court agreed, "[p]regnant people from Texas are scared and are frantically trying to get appointments" in other States. ... The court found, however, that many patients are unable to seek out-of-state care based on financial constraints, dangerous family situations, immigration status, or other reasons. Id., at *42. These individuals "are being forced to carry their pregnancy to term against their will or to seek ways to end their pregnancies on their own." ...
The court also found that patients who are able to leave Texas have encountered restrictions and backlogs exacerbated by S. B. 8, citing evidence of the Act's "stunning" and "crushing" impacts on clinics in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. ... An Oklahoma provider, for example, reported a "staggering 646% increase of Texan patients per day," occupying between 50% and 75% of capacity. ... A Kansas clinic similarly reported that about half of its patients now come from Texas. Id., at *44. The District Court found that this "constant stream of Texas patients has created backlogs that in some places prevent residents from accessing abortion services in their own communities.

"I cannot capture the totality of this harm in these pages," she continued. "But as these excerpts illustrate, the State (empowered by this Court's inaction) has so thoroughly chilled the exercise of the right recognized in Roe as to nearly suspend it within its borders and strain access to it in other States."

Most legal observers expect that the court is well on its way to formally overturning Roe and Casey, the precedents recognizing a right to get an abortion, or to so drastically alter the interpretation of this right that they may as well have been overturned. But it's widely believed the court will use an upcoming case about a Missippi abortion law if it truly does intend to make major changes to its precedent. It's much less clear how the court will handle the Texas case after oral arguments.

‘Male chauvinist pig’ was the ultimate feminist insult during the 1960s — and they are ‘alive and kicking’ in 2021: historian

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the term "male chauvinist pig" was the ultimate insult from feminists. It isn't a term that is used a lot among modern-day feminists and Millennials. But Texas Tech history professor Julie Willett, in an article for Mother Jones' November/December issue, stresses that "male chauvinist pigs" are alive and well in 2021.

"It would be hard to deny today that the male chauvinist pig is still alive and kicking, running amok in his own filth," Willett argues. "The election of Donald Trump and his 'grab 'em by the pussy' regime mixed misogyny, mockery, and race privilege with delight. (Former New York Gov.) Andrew Cuomo's domineering behavior in politics echoed his sexually belittling actions in private. Both were proud of being jerks, personally and professionally, and both got called 'male chauvinist pigs.'"

The term "male chauvinist pig" had a lot of bite during the Gloria Steinem/Betty Friedan era of feminism. And the Archie Bunker character on Norman Lear's 1970s sitcom "All in the Family" was a textbook example of a fictional "male chauvinist pig" in pop culture.

Willett, author of the book "The Male Chauvinist Pig: A History," discusses the origins of the term, noting that before the 1960s, racists were sometimes described as "White chauvinists" — and 1960s-era feminists applied the "chauvinist" concept to women's rights.

"In the 1960s, as feminists — many of them red-diaper babies — created their own networks, they adopted the language to name patriarchy," Willett recalls. "Pig was an obvious addition, an old insult for those holding corrupt power. Its historical links to racialized policing perhaps led to 'pig' as a moniker for White police terror."

Willett notes that while the Black Panthers, during the 1960s, used the "pig" concept to attack racists, feminists applied it to sexists.

"Huey Newton of the Black Panther Party said…. 'pig' was chosen to show 'grotesque qualities' and create a 'detestable' picture 'that takes away the image of omnipotence' of the White power structure," Willett notes. "The male chauvinist pig thus captured feminist fury as intertwined with other movements on the left: against nationalism, against racism, against capitalism and against cops. As activist Robin Morgan explained in the underground newspaper Rat in 1968, women wanted to target 'all the good old American values.' The insult did just that."

Willett adds, however, that some men — for example, the late far-right talk radio host Rush Limbaugh — considered it a badge of honor to be called a "male chauvinist pig."

"This embrace of what was meant to be derogatory rendered the real complaints of women unserious," Willett observes. "By the 1990s, Rush Limbaugh proudly called himself a pig. He could take a joke; why couldn't the women he called 'feminazis?' Cuomo, similarly, dismissed his female accusers as humorless, allowing him to frame his own actions as benign. Cuomo's political demise may indicate that this tactic no longer works, that the chauvinist pig has been put in his place. But then again, they say Trump could run in 2024."