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If the Supreme Court upholds Texas abortion bounties, expect hilarity to ensue.

I keep trying to write about Texas and the future of Roe v. Wade, and I keep needing to rewrite my thoughts because of all the twists, turns and drama in the news cycle – not just in the Supreme Court but across the Divided States of America.

For example, you may have heard this morning that in Virginia, anti-choice candidate Glenn Youngkin won the election to be the state’s next governor. Mr. Youngkin boasts many unremarkable characteristics as a Republican male, including not just a striking resemblance to Brett Kavanaugh, but also a desire to ban library books that just so happen to feature black, minority or LGBT characters, or really any book that might help with illuminating the experiences of anyone who doesn’t look like him.

However, Mr. Youngkin did demonstrate one remarkable characteristic as an otherwise generic Republican: He barely spoke about his position that women should be stripped of their constitutional right to abortion. Way back in June, when Mr. Youngkin was speaking at far-right fundraisers, audience members asked of him why he wasn’t talking abortion. He openly said the quiet part out loud: “I’m gonna be real honest with you, the short answer is… I can’t. [It] won’t win my independent votes that I have to get.” Bro, imagine having positions so toxic that you can’t even campaign on them openly.

But that was actually pretty smart, because it just so happens that the great majority of Americans would prefer that constitutional rights such as Roe v. Wade not be overturned. And when we say a vast majority, we mean 70 to 80 per cent, according to a poll taken just one week after Texas passed its S.B. 8 abortion ban. For comparison, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the most popular celebrity in the world, with an approval rating of 83 per cent. That’s right, Roe is as popular as The Rock.

I presume it’s because most Americans actually think women are people and deserve rights, though I understand controversy still exists around this radical left-wing feminist view. I say this because despite the popularity of women’s rights and the Republican claim that they’re the party of “LAW AND ORDER!!!”, other states seem intent on following Texas’s unconstitutional behaviour. Florida and Ohio have proposed copycat abortion bans, although Ohio is at least trying to be original by being even more extreme. Whereas Texas’s S.B. 8 supposedly bans abortions after six weeks, coincidentally before women know they’re pregnant, Ohio is proposing to ban all abortion, period. South Dakota’s governor claims she’ll eventually introduce a similar proposal, and based on the composition of state legislatures, we expect 14 states will introduce S.B. 8-style abortion bans.

Now S.B. 8 is before the Supreme Court, where the justices are debating whether the Constitution still applies to women. Today is 3 November, and we’re looking at a Court where the previous President lost by 3 million votes, yet was able to appoint 3 of his own justices, or one-third of the Court. Coincidentally, one-third of all the male justices have a history of allegations around sexual assault and abuse. And one of those justices, Clarence Thomas, has now served for 30 years and is the longest-serving justice on the entire Court. It makes you wonder what Anita Hill thinks about that. And it makes me wonder what American women think of a Court full of far-right sexual predators debating the rights women should have.

Plenty of pundits have pointed out how clever Texas’s abortion ban, S.B. 8, is. Everyone’s heard of outsourcing, right? We always hear about how outsourcing is annoying, how it hurts American families, how it results in bad service and generally makes American customers more irritated than a Karen who sees Black Americans being Black in public (or Black at Starbucks).

Well, Texas looked at all that and decided outsourcing was a good idea anyway. The way that S.B. 8 works is that its authors know that a traditional abortion ban, enforced by state officials, would be too blatantly illegal, similar to Mark Zuckerberg claiming he has a right to profit from hate speech. To avoid being instantly blocked by courts, Texas designed S.B. 8 so rather than officials enforcing the ban, enforcement is outsourced to private citizens, who can earn $10,000 for suing Texans that they suspect of involvement with abortion, even if the person suing doesn’t live in Texas.

Yeah, you can make jokes all day about how Texas conservatives are so obsessed with government intruding in their lives that they hired private citizens to intrude for them. However, that’s low-hanging fruit. After all, this is the same Texas that wants to force schools to teach “both sides” of the Holocaust, to avoid being too critical of white supremacy.

Let’s examine the implications of a Texas victory in the Supreme Court. Suppose the U.S. Supreme Court upholds S.B. 8. Some of the implications are more obvious, like Roe becoming effectively meaningless, red states passing identical bans, and abortion increasing in blue states as abortion refugees travel there for their procedures. But what are the less obvious implications for Americans outside the 25 per cent of women who have abortions by age 45?

Let’s start with the pro-life party’s favourite American right of all: Guns for killing. If the Supreme Court upholds the legality of bounty hunters against abortion, then the result would be a legal framework for… bounty hunters against gun owners. Under that framework, a state could pass a law where you can sue someone suspected of owning a gun or helping a neighbour to own a gun, and if you win, you get $10,000, plus your legal fees. After all, the state isn’t technically banning gun ownership. The state is just hiring citizens to intimidate gun owners, that’s all.

This isn’t a pure hypothetical. The justices explicitly asked the Texas Solicitor if he could think of any reason states couldn’t enact similar laws against guns if S.B. 8 were upheld, and he was forced to admit yeah, it was possible. The justices even pointed out that by his logic, states could pass laws allowing bounty hunters against free speech or religion too. Imagine a “democratic” nation where people can sue people for saying something negative about our national treasure, Dwayne Johnson, or a country where people can sue people they suspect of promoting Rastafarianism.

These may sound like silly examples, but with the track record of the GOP, we can expect that a victory for S.B. 8 would encourage, say, Missouri to legalise bounty hunters to sue people suspected of criticising Rush Limbaugh, the Nazi sympathiser who defended white supremacists in Charlottesville but is considered such a hero to Missouri lawmakers that they have a statue of him in the capitol. We could also expect to see states legalising bounty hunters against Americans suspected of being Muslim, though I suppose I should stop giving ideas to Trump if he runs in 2024.

For these reasons, one would expect an impartial Supreme Court to rule against blatant undermining of the Constitution and overturn S.B. 8. However, we know the Supreme Court isn’t impartial, so none can accurately predict how the justices will rule on this case. We know from the 2014 Hobby Lobby case that the Supreme Court allows laws that legalise discrimination against women and LGBT people. Thanks to Google, I’m old enough to remember 1966’s Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, where a South Carolina restaurant claimed it had a religious right to discriminate against Black customers. The courts told South Carolina to bugger off then. Today’s Supreme Court refuses to extend the same protection to women or LGBT Americans, thanks to “sincerely held religious beliefs”.

Where does that leave Americans who can’t count on the Constitution or the courts to reliably protect them anymore? We have no magic bullets in our arsenal, only one mainstay: The right to vote. Anybody who cares about constitutional rights already knows why voting matters, and thanks to Google, I’m able to recall some choice words to remind you of what voting meant to past generations

“Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights.

“Give us the ballot and we will fill our legislative halls with men of good will.

“Give us the ballot and we will place judges on the benches… who will do justly and love mercy.”

The January insurrection shocked a nation. It didn’t shock prochoice advocates.

For outside observers, the attempt to overturn American democracy on 6 January might come as an eye-opening surprise. But for anyone who’s paid attention to the news or cracked open a newspaper, it was the natural conclusion to the decades-long mainstreaming of American extremism and its normalisation of both violent rhetoric and violent action. Its contempt for reality and basic facts is built on a bedrock of lies, conspiracy theories, and threats of terror against its political opponents.

But long before lies, conspiracies and terrorism came together in that very public January attempt to overturn a democratic election, American extremists honed their playbook for successful violence and politics through the anti-choice movement. Long before American extremists weaponised lies and alternative facts to delegitimise everything from vaccines to facemasks to election results, they devoted years to perfecting their strategies and terrorism through their anti-choice attacks on women’s rights.

I’m not talking about the fact that so many anti-choice leaders and convicted terrorists participated in the January insurrection. Everyone’s already heard the jokes about how anti-choice superstar Abby Johnson spoke at the Capitol insurrection, before later turning around and claiming it was organised by antifa once she realised the legal consequences. You likely wouldn’t be surprised if you knew convicted clinic bomber John Brockhoeft also participated in the insurrection, just months after shaking hands with anti-choice leaders in Ohio – the same leaders who claim their movement opposes violence. Let’s face it, picking on these idiots is low-hanging fruit.

Nor am I talking about the role of the anti-choice movement in providing the blueprint for radicalising half of America to oppose not just abortion but masks, medical experts, and democracy itself. Sure, we know that decades of demonising medicine and government alike laid the groundwork for American conservatives to believe the pandemic is a myth and masks are a socialist plot. From there, we saw the anti-choice playbook redeployed in service of radicalising Americans, through lies and conspiracy theories, to believe coastal elites are using vaccines and antifa to secretly declare war on white people, take away their guns, and steal an election.

But as we think back to the armed militias and white supremacists who stormed the Capitol, waving Confederate flags that 400,000 Union soldiers gave their lives to keep out of Washington for 160 years, one may believe the anti-choice movement’s playbook of radicalisation and terrorism gave birth to the racist militias that stormed the Capitol.

That is not correct. Racist militias were the ones that gave birth to the modern anti-choice movement. The movement did not recruit militias to turn its violent rhetoric into violent action. Militias birthed the modern anti-choice movement through their paranoia that Jews and immigrants would soon supplant America’s white Christian identity.

In the 1980s, white extremists like the KKK began developing wanted posters for abortion providers, publicising their personal details and encouraging their assassination. The anti-choice movement quickly adopted and popularised this tactic. As multiple abortion providers died as a result, militias like the White Aryan Resistance organised rallies in support of the killers, claiming such killings “protected Aryan women and children”. When Operation Rescue popularised the use of protests to threaten and intimidate patients and providers alike, it recruited enthusiastic protesters from white nationalist groups like the American Front.

Perhaps today’s anti-choice movement knows that associating with the same violent militants that it claims to denounce is a bad look. If so, the movement hasn’t shown much evidence that it’s ashamed. Cheryl Sullenger was convicted in 1987 of attempting to bomb a clinic on the West Coast. She now serves as Operation Rescue’s senior vice president. Previously she served as senior policy analyst, where she provided information that assisted Scott Roeder in his assassination of Dr George Tiller. Most recently, anti-choice extremists like Derrick Evans have begun openly deploying the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia opposed to racial equality, to provide armed “protection” for anti-choice extremists.

The anti-choice movement has devoted half a century to perfecting its playbook for radicalising violent rhetoric into radical violence. Because most of its victims have been marginalised women and the medical professionals trying to help them, society has been able to ignore the anti-choice movement’s escalation from attacking women to defying democracy itself. Police and even presidents sneered at the concerns of prochoice advocates who warned that far-right radicals were fuelling anti-choice terrorism and anti-government militias alike. In January, we saw how our failure to acknowledge those canaries in the coal mine led to an attempt by armed white supremacists to overthrow our democracy.

On 20 January, Joe Biden became the first President to acknowledge white supremacy in his inaugural address, promising to tackle it with the full force of his federal government. But our fight against American extremism will outlast Joe’s presidency. The forces that literally overran our democracy have had half a century to mainstream themselves from the fringes into the White House itself. For prochoice advocates, their work has become more than fighting for reproductive rights. It is now about protecting our nation.

On Modern Feminism in Late 2019

I’m sure most of us here are onboard with the idea that women are people, deserving of rights.

My own background is in reproductive healthcare, so I can see how women’s health and women’s rights go hand in hand like Michelle and Barack. But even if I didn’t have a degree in healthcare (and student debt to prove it), you don’t need to be a stable genius to see the link between human health and human rights. In a world with 195 nation-states, not a single nation that fares poorly in women’s rights have ever fared well in women’s health.

In fact, a lack of women’s rights is the most reliable predictor of failures in societal wellbeing. For instance, I doubt anyone is surprised to know that Indiana, one of the worst states in America for women’s equal pay, also has one of the highest rates of maternal death and infant mortality in 2019. I doubt anyone is shocked that Indiana experienced one of the worst outbreaks of HIV in the past decade under then-Governor Mike Pence, a misogynist who brags of denying opportunities to female staff for religious reasons.

But let’s think beyond Midwest enclaves like Indiana, beyond the immorality of thugs like Pence. Let’s think of the reluctant social justice warriors like Kathleen O’Donnell. She served in the National Guard and then tried living with her wife in Montana, only to be told by her landlord, “Oh, I don’t rent to your kind here”. Then she was terminated from her job at a car company for being gay. If that sounds familiar, it’s because her case is now before the Trump Supreme Court, which will decide if firing LGBT employees is constitutional.

I’m sure Kathleen will get a completely fair hearing – just like Marie Gallagher, whose school in New York completely ignored her sexual assault on campus. Not even her family knew, until last year a news crew filmed her confronting Senator Jeff Flake over his vote for Predator Kavanaugh. You may remember she said to his face, “I was sexually assaulted, and nobody believed me. I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they should just stay quiet, because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them.”

That, of course, is what the male Senator did. Fun fact: As of 2018, one-third of men on the Supreme Court are now alleged sex criminals.

Ultimately, the impact of state-sanctioned violence extends beyond American women. This summer, Yazmin Juarez testified before Congress about how the Trump administration detained her 1-year-old daughter and left her to die from an infection she contracted in her lungs. As Yazmin recounted to Congress, “Vinimos a Estados Unidos – we came to America, where I hoped to build a better, safer life for my daughter… Unfortunately, I watched my baby girl die, slowly and painfully.”

Look, these women I’ve mentioned have never met. They have nothing in common, except for the human desire to build a better future. In fact, I imagine none of them expected to face the assaults on their dignity that they’ve endured since the aftermath of 2016. Whether it was the Department of Education repealing Obama-era protections for campus rape survivors, or Predator Trump authorising businesses to deny birth control to women, I think all of us expected more from a society that styles itself as a beacon for human rights and justice.

Now these women and their allies find themselves with targets on their backs, not for what they’ve done but for what they’re not. They’re not straight, white males. They don’t have Confederate statues erected in their honour. They don’t have dirt to offer on the President’s opponents. In the American government’s eyes in 2019, they’re nothing. In the words of the President, “These aren’t people. These are animals.

That’s the bad news for women. The good news is that these women have allies. Those allies are each other.

They might not know each other. Yet the movements that inspire them recognise the intersectionality between their struggles. I remember in the mid-2010s as Title IX activists across America pushed the Obama administration to hold over 500 universities accountable for their coverups and mishandling of campus rape. You and I watched as that energy evolved into the #MeToo movement, holding powerful men accountable for crimes they perpetrated against women for decades. Today we watch as women candidates prepare to fight their way into future elected office, in 2020.

Our strength as activists arises from the knowledge that our struggle is shared. We know we cannot speak of injustice against one marginalised group without speaking of how it threatens the wellbeing of others. As reproductive rights activists in 2019, for instance, we know the right to birth control is meaningless if someone can’t earn enough to afford birth control, or if she’s fearful of violence from a partner who opposes birth control, or if her boss threatens to fire her for accessing birth control.

Everyone knows a woman who lacks workplace protections is less able to close the pay gap with her male colleagues, or to alleviate her student debt, or to leave an abusive partner. We know that women of colour face greater burdens around economic and reproductive health than white women. And we know that when poor, marginalised girls are ensnared in emergencies like hurricanes and homelessness, they face the most disproportionate disruptions to everything from their contraceptive access to their safety from sexual assault.

Sometimes local friends ask what the feminist groups with which I pal around do in the community. What we do is hardly ground-breaking. We unite allies. We educate colleagues on issues. Some weeks our meetings are simply a bunch of us in the sitting room of a retired grandmother, one who remembers the days before Roe v. Wade or Griswold v. Connecticut, as we strategize over effective ways to make one’s voice heard. Above all, we seek to discover who else is willing to fight alongside us.

The things that make the most difference don’t require millions of supporters wearing red hats or waving tiki torches. They simply require those of us who stand with women to be more dedicated than those who want women to suffer. An administration that traffics in exclusion and appoints predators will inevitably falter before a feminist movement which rethinks itself constantly to include those whose backgrounds might be different but whose objectives are the same: To bring equity and opportunity to all.

Kavanaugh for SCOTUS: So how fucked are we?

Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement, and Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to take his place on the Supreme Court. This isn’t a small deal — despite being personally right-leaning, Kennedy has tended to be the moderate swing vote for some of the more contentious cases that have come before the court. (Abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and affirmative action have all had his signature on them.) In replacing him with Kavanaugh, Trump nails down a solid conservative majority to enshrine his agenda into law and gives us our first-ever Supreme Court Justice Brett. So what does that mean for us?

Quick Hit: Debt-free, un-tatted virgins

I wouldn’t normally do this. I wouldn’t normally draw attention to the little-trafficked blog of some fundamentalist Christian mom who just wants to teach the world to walk in truth, and I implore you all not to travel over and start shit in her comments section. That said, any time I see a headline that I’m absolutely certain is from the Reductress, but then it isn’t, my only reaction can be an OH MY GOD, Y’ALL, LOOK AT THIS that can be heard across the whole Internet.

Fundamentalist Trump worship

In my senior year of high school, our beloved Humanities teacher took us through a process establishing that Elvis worship and University of Alabama football are both religions. It was a fun exercise as part of a (thoroughly secular) unit about religious studies, but also… I mean, y’all… Have you ever been to a UA football game?

[Hrmph]teen years later, though, the sanctity of The King and The Tide have been overshadowed by the sanctity of The Donald. And going by an outline similar to the one from that class lo so many years ago, it might be argued that Trumpism isn’t just a figurative cult — it could be a literal one.

On incivility: “I work for a lying, bigoted aspiring dictator” isn’t a protected class

Recently, White House mouthpiece Sarah Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, after committing the unforgivable offense of being White House mouthpiece Sarah Sanders. (Did I make that sound sarcastic? Because I meant it sincerely. What Sanders does is unforgivably offensive.) Since Sanders’s Twitter whine (from her official White House Twitter account), of course, much of the conversation has been focused on the topic of manners and civility. And yes, we still have the responsibility to be civil, we have to rise above it all, and yes, that’s true, but seriously, a person can only go high for so long and honestly just fuck it.

The Trump administration is willfully terrorizing children

The Trump administration is knowingly and intentionally terrorizing defenseless children.

Under their new “zero-tolerance” policy, every undocumented immigrant crossing the border is referred for prosecution, and their children are taken away from them, with no guarantee that they’ll ever see them again. Officials from DHS, the Justice Department, and the White House shift the blame to the courts, the Democrats, the parents, whomever they can, but it’s them, the administration, that’s doing it, and they’re doing it on purpose.

Posted in Law

A note about depression

Trigger warning: depression and suicide

In the past week, fashion designer Kate Spade and chef-turned-traveler Anthony Bourdain both died from suicide — and that’s on top of all the people we haven’t heard about because they’re not deemed newsworthy enough for the public to acknowledge their pain or their passing. I don’t, and can’t, know what was going on in their head, how they felt or why they made the decision they did. But I do know what it’s like to have depression, and what it feels like to be on the edge of that kind of decision.