Courting Women

Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan: Sitting Supreme Court Justices

Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan: Sitting Supreme Court Justices

“… [T]he difference of having three women on the Supreme Court. I think that all the justices obviously are important in that court, but it really makes a difference to begin to have a court that more reflects the diversity of this country, and I think women who can really speak from a woman’s point of view, just how impactful these kind of laws that specifically target women and women’s access to health care, how impactful they are. And I was really grateful to have the women’s voices in the room.”

Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood president, March 2, 2016, commenting on that day’s oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

Me, too, Cecile.

Courting women. Let’s snatch that phrase from the parlor in a Jane Austen novel and lob it into the Supreme Court chambers, making courting not the passive “pick me” word of yesteryear, but an assertive “empower me” word of today.

Power, judiciously applied, is what Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan demonstrated during oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. They formed a tag team of relentless logic, assertiveness, and deep understanding of the predicament of women in Texas needing timely, accessible abortion care — and not getting it. The court was probing two provisions of Texas HB2, the law that requires that (1) physicians performing abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital near their clinics and (2) all abortions must be performed in ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs, mini-hospitals). (See SCOTUSblog “Round Up” and Roe v. Wade: Texas Then and Now for additional background on this important case.)

Justices explored the elements that create an unconstitutional “undue burden” for women seeking an abortion by questioning attorney Stephanie Toti, representing Whole Woman’s Health, and Solicitor General Scott Keller, representing Texas. Here are some highlights: Continue reading

Roe v. Wade: Texas Then and Now

“Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court: It’s an old joke, but when a man argues against two beautiful ladies like this, they are going to have the last word.”

Supreme Court, 1973

Supreme Court, 1973

Thus Jay Floyd, Texas assistant attorney general, opened his December 1971 oral argument in Roe v. Wade, as his adversary attorneys Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee sat nearby (no doubt dumbfounded) after Weddington had presented their argument for women’s abortion rights.

Wisely, the Texas reargument in 1972 opened with no attempt at humor. (When Roe was first argued, the Supreme Court consisted of only seven justices. Because the decision would be so historic, the Supreme Court decided to hear arguments a second time when all nine justices were in place the following year.) Then, on January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court decided that a woman’s right to an abortion was constitutionally protected and the 1854 Texas law at issue was struck down, along with abortion laws in 45 other states. (The Texas gentleman was right: The Texas ladies did have the last word.)


What will the Supreme Court bring us this year? “Don’t Mess with Texas” or “Don’t Mess with Women”?


So, as we approach the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade this Friday, let’s mosey down memory lane. How did we get to that landmark decision, and where might we be going this year with a new Texas case testing abortion rights, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole?

Throughout history, abortion has been a common practice. At the time of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, abortion was legal in all states. Prior to the mid-1800s legal scholars were not proposing abortion laws, nor advocating “personhood” of an unborn child, nor asserting abortion control on medical safety or any other grounds. Continue reading

Abortion: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Gloria Steinem. Photo: Tara Todras-Whitehill

Gloria Steinem. Photo: Tara Todras-Whitehill

Anyone who has followed the dramatic reversal of public opinion about same-sex marriage in particular and LGBTQ issues in general knows that a big part of that shift has been due to people coming out of the closet. Whadayaknow — these folks, nearly 2 percent of the U.S. population, were our sons, our daughters, our co-workers, our friends and acquaintances, often people we already loved, liked, or respected. It became a lot harder to hold on to old prejudices, didn’t it?

But coming out was not an option for those serving in the military. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was the U.S. military’s 1994 policy compromise to allow gays and lesbians to serve, so long as they stayed in the closet. When repealed in 2011, what adverse effects did our armed forces experience? A study one year later showed that military life went on as usual, national security was not compromised, and a new understanding and acceptance among soldiers and sailors ensued. The media became blissfully disinterested in the non-story.


When it comes to abortion, we’re not asking, and we’re not telling.


Noodling on this “familiarity breeds understanding” idea, I began thinking that the same might be true if those of us who have had abortions came out of the closet, too. Turns out, this idea is not my own brilliant insight, but has been around for years and is gaining traction: In 2005, Jennifer Baumgardner produced a film; in 2011, Congresswoman Jackie Speier told her story on the floor of the House of Representatives; the “1 in 3” website has published hundreds of personal abortion stories since 2011; Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis revealed her previous abortions in her 2014 autobiography; #ShoutYourAbortion appeared on Twitter in September 2015.

Mostly, though, we still live in the de facto “don’t ask, don’t tell” abortion world — yes, we know abortion happens for some women out there somewhere, but we avoid divulging the details of this reality of human reproductive life. Is abortion really too unpleasant or unfortunate or shameful or embarrassing to speak of in public? If 1 in 3 women (33 percent!) has had or will have an abortion, consider how many of your lifetime circle of female acquaintances would have had an abortion. Let’s do the math: Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • cigaretteSome Republicans are trying to circumvent the Affordable Care Act’s mandate for co-pay-free birth control by pushing for over-the-counter availability of the Pill. Even the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists thinks this is a horrible idea. Its president states, “Unfortunately, instead of improving access, this bill would actually make more women have to pay for their birth control, and for some women, the cost would be prohibitive.” (Care2)
  • Smoking is damaging, hazardous, and deadly enough on its own. Smoking while on the Pill? Not a good idea. If you’re doing this, please stop. (The Root)
  • Arizona congressional tool Trent Franks says all Democrats who refuse to enact legislation to force women to give birth against their will are doomed to have regrets in their golden years. Insert world’s biggest eye roll here. (Right Wing Watch)
  • Students at one Seattle high school can get IUDs inserted for free! (Grist)
  • A harsh 12-week abortion ban in Arkansas has been blocked by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals! Considering 12 weeks is well before a fetus is viable outside the womb, it would have been the strictest in the country. (Think Progress)
  • Are “hookup apps” like Tinder and Grindr behind an increase in sexually transmitted infections? (Time)
  • Race-baiting abortion opponents continue to be disingenuous, tone deaf, ignorant, and just plain The Worst. (RH Reality Check)
  • California is cracking the whip on the lying liars at “crisis pregnancy centers” who intentionally deceive women about abortion. Now if only we could get some federal legislation. (HuffPo)
  • Forced vaginal exams on students? Excuse me??? What the hell kind of shenanigans are going on at Valencia College in Florida? (CNN)
  • Five states worked on abortion restrictions over Memorial Day weekend and no one seemed to notice. (Fusion)
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is so embarrassingly stupid I can’t even take it. He referred to mandatory ultrasounds for women seeking abortions (some of which are transvaginal) “a cool thing” and said, “We just knew if we signed that law (requiring ultrasounds), if we provided the information, that more people if they saw that unborn child would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child.” What? Uh, NO. All available evidence shows that these ultrasounds do nothing to change women’s minds when they do not wish to continue a pregnancy. Women aren’t fools who need to physically see something to realize its significance. You can show them all the fetuses in the universe — if they’re confident in their choice not to give birth, it won’t make a difference. Stop forcing images upon women because you think it’s “cool.” It isn’t. (Talking Points Memo)

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • notorious-rbgA force to be reckoned with for sure … RBG is definitely the woman of the hour these days. (Slate Double X)
  • Rabidly conservative, forced-birth advocate, and noted homophobe Cathi Herrod continues to wreak havoc on the state of Arizona with SB 1318. (Phoenix New Times)
  • And somehow, SB 1318 has been amended to be even more sucktacular. Ever heard of “reversing” a medication abortion? No one with medical knowledge has, but Repubs just don’t care! (RH Reality Check)
  • AZ state Rep. Victoria Steele bravely came forward as a survivor of sexual assault in order to fight SB 1318. To say we salute her and are grateful for her advocacy would be a huge understatement. (Tucson Weekly)
  • You’d think a bill helping to combat the evil that is human sex trafficking would be a cut-and-dry piece of legislation that both parties could get behind, right? Well, when Republicans are in charge of the legislation, you can bet anti-abortion tomfoolery will ensue. Goal? Make life harder for sex trafficking victims who get pregnant and prefer not to have their rapists’ babies. (HuffPo)
  • And Jon Stewart (rightfully) has some choice words for the Dems who supported the bill without reading it. (The Daily Show)
  • Oh look, another Republican weasel (Nebraska state Rep. Justin Harris) who wants to all but ensure that rape victims end up giving birth against their will. And not just any rape victims … underage ones. (RH Reality Check)
  • Whoa. Canada can teach us a thing or two about age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education! (HuffPo Canada)

Meet Our Candidates: Sheila Ogea for State Representative, LD 25

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Sheila Ogea scaledLegislative District 25 is located in Maricopa County, covering much of Mesa. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed two candidates in the House race: Sheila Ogea and David Butler.

In stark contrast to their Republican opponents, our endorsed House candidates in LD 25 are strong supporters of reproductive health and justice. As Ms. Ogea told AZCentral.com, “We need to make sure abortion is safe and accessible and work together to decrease unwanted pregnancies by making birth control and sex education available.” We asked her to talk to us in more depth about her views on reproductive-rights issues in Arizona.

Ms. Ogea was kind enough to share her thoughts with us on October 17, 2014.


“I strongly trust in a woman’s right to make her own decision about her body.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I am one of six children raised by a single mother. We lived in Arizona and California when I was growing up.

I have been married to my husband, Robert, for 47 years. We have two daughters. We lived in Michigan for about 30 years. I was a housewife, working part time occasionally as a waitress and volunteering at the school. When my daughters were old enough, I started going back to school, taking word-processing and accounting classes. I starting working through temp agencies to try and get some experience, and eventually I got a job with Wayne County Health Department.

I joined the National Organization for Women (Downriver Chapter in Michigan) in 1989 right after attending a huge rally for abortion rights in Washington, D.C. Our chapter used to volunteer to escort patients at a local abortion clinic. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: David Butler for State Representative, LD 25

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

David Butler 2014In the House race for Legislative District 25, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed two candidates: David Butler and Sheila Ogea. LD 25 covers much of Mesa, where earlier this year high school yearbooks drew attention to Arizona’s high teen pregnancy rate by featuring a two-page spread that spotlighted the high school’s teen parents. Ranked against other states, Arizona’s teen pregnancy rate has been among the highest in the nation for many years.

David Butler is running for one of the House seats in LD 25 because he would like to see education improved in Arizona — and that includes sex education. His position on that and other reproductive justice issues earned Butler an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona when he ran in 2012 — and again this year, as he makes another run for the Arizona Legislature.

Butler faces two opponents in the race, Republicans Russell Bowers and incumbent Justin Olson, both of whom hold positions that would be detrimental to reproductive justice if given legislative traction. Bowers, who has a zero percent rating from the Stonewall Democrats of America, opposes access to abortion and does not support medically accurate sex education. Olson, too, wants to restrict abortion access and sponsored a bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

Butler generously took the time on October 18, 2014, to tell us why he is optimistic about this year’s election and to elaborate on the positive changes he’d like to see in Arizona’s health care policy.


“Caring for patients should be in the hands of the doctors and not the politicians.”


It’s great to talk to you again! How has your commitment to serving Arizona grown over the past two years? On the policy level, what has happened during that time to give you hope, and what has happened to strengthen your convictions?

My commitment and desire to serve the citizens of Arizona continued to grow over the past two years. Where policy is concerned, our state is still stuck with its head in the desert sand. My hopes and convictions are focused on the 2014 midterm elections. I feel strongly that our Democratic ticket of candidates is very strong from top to bottom. I’m amazed at the excitement and hope that so many volunteers are showing.

Earlier this year, the state legislature passed HB 2284, which permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. What do you think about this new law?

I am against HB 2284 because in my opinion it is anti-woman and anti-health care. Also, in some negative way it is tied to Planned Parenthood, since Planned Parenthood is one of the providers it targets. Continue reading