Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Friday, October 4, 2019

Getting up to Speed on the Issues in June Medical Services, the Abortion Case Just Granted Cert by the Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court granted cert on Oct. 4, 2019, in June Medical Services v. Gee, https://www.supremecourt.gov/orders/courtorders/100419zr_onkq.pdf

The issue is " Whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit’s decision upholding Louisiana’s law requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital conflicts with the Supreme Court’s binding precedent in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt."

The case page from SCOTUSblog is here, including the docket and prior commentary.

Justice Kavanaugh's opinion dissenting from the grant of a stay in the case in Feb. 2019 is here.

[T]he status quo will be effectively preserved for all parties during the State’s 45-day regulatory transition period. I would deny the stay without prejudice to the plaintiffs’ ability to bring a later as-applied complaint and motion for preliminary injunction at the conclusion of the 45-day regulatory transition period if the Fifth Circuit’s factual prediction about the doctors’ ability to obtain admitting privileges proves to be inaccurate.

 

Louisiana’s new law requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The question presented to us at this time is whether the law imposes an undue burden under our decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, 579 U. S. ___ (2016). All parties, including the State of Louisiana, agree that Whole Woman’s Health is the governing precedent for purposes of this stay application. I therefore will analyze the stay application under that precedent. Louisiana has three clinics that currently provide abortions. As relevant here, four doctors perform abortions at those three clinics. One of those four doctors has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, as required by the new law. The question is whether the other three doctors—Doe 2, Doe 5, and Doe 6—can obtain the necessary admitting privileges. If they can, then the three clinics could continue providing abortions. And if so, then the new law would not impose an undue burden for purposes of Whole Woman’s Health. By contrast, if the three doctors cannot obtain admitting privileges, then one or
two of the three clinics would not be able to continue providing abortions. If so, then even the State acknowledges that the new law might be deemed to impose an undue burden for purposes of Whole Woman’s Health.

 

The law has not yet taken effect, so the case comes to us in the context of a pre-enforcement facial challenge. That means that the parties have offered, in essence, competing predictions about whether those three doctors can obtain admitting privileges.

My prior blog post on the Kavanaugh dissent in the grant of the stay, and his inversion of the usual standard of the status quo for preliminary injunctions, is here at Understanding More About Justice Kavanaugh's Dissent.

 

An excellent symposium and deep dive on the implications of the case is at the Take Care blog, here.

Leah Litman, June Medical Services v. Gee and the Future of Abortion Rights

June Medical Services v. Gee is the Supreme Court’s next opportunity to weigh in on women’s constitutional right to decide to end their pregnancies

 

Alicia Bannon & Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, June Medical Services’ Double Threat to the Rule of Law

In recent months, commentators and the justices themselves have raised concerns about declining public confidence in the judiciary. But confidence has to be earned. Enforcing the law and summarily reversing the Fifth Circuit is an essential first step.

 

David Strauss, SCOTUS Needs to Rein in Lower Courts Willing to Force Its Hand by Defying Its Precedent

Ideological lower court judges have challenged the Supreme Court by defying its precedent. There is one way for the Court to keep from being put in this position time and again. It should summarily reverse, making clear that only the Court will decide when its own precedent is no longer good law.

 

Mary Ziegler, The Anti-Abortion Movement's Unworkability Strategy

Antiabortion lawyers think that they can turn a fact and evidence-based legal standard into an argument against stare decisis, which would advance their ultimate goal of overturning Roe. In June Medical, it is time for the justices to prove them wrong.

 

Michele Goodwin, A Duplicitous Playbook: June Medical Services v. Gee and the New Jane Crow

What is clear in June Medical Services v. Gee, as with the other antiabortion measures making their way through the courts, is that these targeted regulations of abortion providers have nothing to do with protecting women or their health

 

Mary Bonatuo & Shannon Minter,Pavan and June Medical Services

Pavan and June Medical Services are both examples of lower courts bending over backwards to avoid the clear command of Supreme Court precedent. Both merit the same treatment from the Supreme Court – summary reversal.

 

Leah Litman, June Medical And The End of Reproductive Justice

While June Medical does not ask the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the practical effect of the state’s positions would allow states to regulate abortion out of existence

 

October 4, 2019 in Abortion, Constitutional, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Reading the 19th Amendment into Constitutional Jurisprudence

Neil Siegel, Why the Nineteenth Amendment Maters Today: A Citizen's Guide for the Constitution

Providing an excellent macro-level account of how the 19th Amendment is relevant to constitutional interpretation today, in reading the 19th Amendment and its history into a jurisprudence of equality.

Abstract:

This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a radically pro-democratic amendment that empowered roughly ten million women to vote in a general election for the first time. Given the practical and expressive significance of the Amendment, it is appropriate that the United States is honoring the occasion. But Americans might do more than honor their shared past. They might be encouraged to think about why the story of the Nineteenth Amendment matters to Americans living today. That story includes a half-century of social movement contestation over whether permitting women to vote would destroy or democratize the American family and the American constitutional structure. This Essay revisits the story of the Nineteenth Amendment—an unfinished narrative of both disappointment and hope—in the service of identifying reasons why that story relates to the lives of contemporary Americans. Its overarching objective is to suggest that the full story of the Amendment has always involved much more than a narrow debate over a determinate decision rule regarding women’s access to the franchise. To accomplish that objective, the Essay makes four points in four parts. The first two explain when and how voting rights for all women slowly became a reality, and the final two identify some implications of that history for American constitutional law and contemporary constitutional politics.

Part I considers which women were enfranchised when and why it matters. Part II considers some of the groups (men) and structures (federalism) that both impeded and facilitated woman suffrage. Part III explains the link between restrictions on woman suffrage and the social subordination of women to men, showing how the anti-subordination rationale of the Nineteenth Amendment bears on both its own interpretation and the interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause by the courts. Part IV turns to the contemporary implications of the story of the Nineteenth Amendment for American constitutional politics, including debates over the Equal Rights Amendment, unequal pay for equal work, paid family and self-care leave, and restrictions on access to contraception and abortion.

October 2, 2019 in Constitutional, Family, Legal History, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Supreme Court to Consider Abortion Next Week in Procedural Move

The Fight to End Roe v. Wade Enters its Endgame Next Week, Vox

Throughout the year, the justices meet periodically to decide if they want to add more cases to the short list of lawsuits that are argued before the Court. Monday is the Court’s “long conference,” the annual meeting where the justices consider the backlog of petitions that were filed while the Court was on its summer break, each of which ask the Court to hear a particular case.

 

One of those petitions concerns June Medical Services v. Gee, a case involving a Louisiana abortion restriction that will be very familiar to anyone who’s followed the last several years of abortion litigation.

 

To recap: Three years ago, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court considered a Texas law that imposed burdensome restrictions on abortion clinics that, at least on the surface, appeared to be ordinary health regulations. One provision required any physician performing an abortion in Texas to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital (a credential that is especially difficult for abortion providers to obtain). Another required abortion clinics to maintain expensive facilities, such as “a full surgical suite with an operating room.”

 

Whole Woman’s Health was a challenge to what abortion-rights advocates often refer to as “targeted restrictions on abortion providers” or “TRAP” laws — laws that masquerade as efforts to make abortions safer but whose real purpose is to drive up the cost of operating abortion clinics until they shut down.

 

Many abortion clinics, for example, only offer medication abortions — a non-surgical abortion induced by pills. As Whole Woman’s Health explained, “the surgical-center requirement provides no benefit when complications arise in the context of an abortion produced through medication” because “complications would almost always arise only after the patient has left the facility.” Simply put, it makes no sense to require facilities that perform no surgeries to have a full surgical suite.***

 

Which brings us back to Gee, the case the Court will discuss next week. The Louisiana law at issue in that case is nearly identical to the admitting privileges law struck down in Whole Woman’s Health. Nevertheless, a panel of the conservative United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld this extraordinarily similar law, largely resting its decision on a contested factual claim that it may be easier for doctors to obtain admitting privileges in Louisiana than it is in Texas.

 

That prompted a strongly worded dissent from Judge Patrick Higginbotham, a Reagan appointee. The Fifth Circuit majority, Higginbotham wrote, ignored the Supreme Court’s command that “‘unnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion impose an undue burden’ on the exercise of that right.”

September 26, 2019 in Abortion, Constitutional, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Rethinking the Supreme Court's Decision in Muller v. Oregon through an Intersectional Lens

Emily Prifogle, Law & Laundry: White Laundresses, Chinese Laundrymen, and the Origins of Muller v. Oregon  
Forthcoming, Studies in Law, Politics, and Society

This article uses the historian’s method of micro-history to rethink the significance of the Supreme Court decision Muller v. Oregon (1908). Typically considered a labor law decision permitting the regulation of women’s work hours, the article argues that through particular attention to the specific context in which the labor dispute took place — the laundry industry in Portland, Oregon — the Muller decision and underlying conflict should be understood as not only about sex-based labor rights but also about how the labor of laundry specifically involved race-based discrimination. The article investigates the most important conflicts behind the Muller decision, namely the entangled histories of white laundresses’ labor and labor activism in Portland, as well as the labor of their competitors — Chinese laundrymen. In so doing, the article offers an intersectional reading of Muller that incorporates regulations on Chinese laundries and places the decision in conversation with a long line of anti-Chinese laundry legislation on the West Coast, including that at issue in Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886).

September 18, 2019 in Constitutional, Gender, Legal History, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

CFP "Shall Not be Denied": The 15th and 19th Amendments

CFP CFP “Shall Not Be Denied”: The 15th and 19th Amendments at the Sesquicentennial and Centennial of their Ratifications, October 16-17, 2020

Massachusetts Historical Society Conferences

Call for Papers for the 2020 Conrad E. Wright Research Conference

“Shall Not Be Denied”: The 15th and 19th Amendments at the Sesquicentennial and Centennial of their Ratifications, October 16-17, 2020


Deadline: November 1, 2019

The year 2020 marks the anniversaries of two critical amendments to the United States Constitution. Spaced fifty years apart, the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments, ratified in 1870 and 1920, respectively, prohibited the use of race or sex to deny American citizens the franchise. However, the amendments did not prevent states from adopting other methods of discrimination. Viewed as the product of two different movements—abolitionism and the Civil War on the one hand and the Progressive campaigns and the First World War on the other—these two periods and amendments are not often considered together. This conference revisits the long journey to secure voting rights for African Americans and women in United States history. It considers the legal precedents and hurdles that each amendment faced, the meaning and uneven outcomes of each, the social context that allowed for ultimate ratification, the role of key individuals and groups in these respective contexts, and how each amendment has been remembered over time.

 

This conference invites scholars from various disciplines to discuss common themes and challenges surrounding the amendments and papers can cover any topic relating to them. We welcome submissions from all historical, political science, and legal fields.

 

A keynote panel and reception will take place on Friday, 16 October. The panel features Profs. Alison M. Parker (University of Delaware) and Lisa Tetrault (Carnegie Mellon University) and will be moderated by Prof. Alex Keyssar (Harvard). The full conference day will take place on Saturday, 17 October.

 

Interested parties are encouraged to submit either individual paper presentations or full panels (with or without commenters) by November 1, 2019. Application materials must include a paper description and CV for individual submissions. Full panel proposals must include paper descriptions and individual CVs along with a description of the panel itself. Paper proposals should not exceed one page and accompanying CVs should not exceed ten pages in length. Please submit applications materials and/or questions to research@masshist.org.

September 17, 2019 in Call for Papers, Constitutional | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Gender and the Globalization of Constitutional Norms

Jenna Sapiano & Beverley Baines, Feminist Curiosity about International Constitutional Law and Global Constitutionalism, Journal of the Oxford Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Issue 1, 2019

Cynthia Enloe’s theory of feminist curiosity inspired us to ask whether feminist International Constitutional Law (ICL) scholars and their Global Constitutionalism (GC) counterparts apply the same concept of gender to the internationalization/globalization of constitutional norms. We analyzed ICL scholarship on substantive rights to security and equality (Hilary Charlesworth and Christine Chinkin), freedom from violence (Catharine A. MacKinnon), and parity (Ruth Rubio-Marín) and GC scholarship on processes of contestation (Antje Wiener), proportionality (Anne Peters), and democratic iterations (Seyla Benhabib). Our findings, in the form of a hypothesis, are that gender specificity infuses the former and gender inclusivity, the latter. In other words, these scholars take competing approaches to protecting (ICL) and empowering (GC) women. This hypothesis sets the stage for the conversations we imagine these feminist scholars might have: Charlesworth and Chinkin with Wiener about the rule of law; MacKinnon and Peters about the separation of powers; and Rubio-Marín and Benhabib about democracy. Their collective insights could yield constructive connections that advance women’s protection and empowerment domestically, internationally, and globally.

September 10, 2019 in Constitutional, Gender, International, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Lawsuit Challenges California's Board Gender Diversity Law as Presumptively Invalid under Equal Protection

Cydney Posner, A First Challenge to California's Board Gender Diversity Law

It was only a matter of time. As reported here on Bloomberg, a conservative activist group has filed a lawsuit,Crest v. Alex Padilla, in California state court on behalf of three California taxpayers seeking to prevent implementation and enforcement of SB 826, California’s Board gender diversity legislation. This appears to be the first litigation filed to challenge the new law. Framed as a “taxpayer suit,” the litigation seeks to enjoin Alex Padilla, the California Secretary of State, from expending taxpayer funds and taxpayer-financed resources to enforce or implement the law, alleging that the law’s mandate is an unconstitutional gender-based quota and violates the California constitution. Even proponents of the law recognized the possibility of legal challenges. ***

 

In the complaint, the plaintiffs contend that the law’s requirement for female representation on corporate boards “employs express gender classifications. As a result, SB 826 is immediately suspect and presumptively invalid” under the equal protection provisions of the California Constitution and subject to “strict scrutiny” in the California courts. The complaint requests entry of a judgment declaring any expenditures of taxpayer funds to implement or enforce SB 826 to be illegal and issuance of an injunction permanently prohibiting the Secretary from expending taxpayer funds to enforce or implement the provisions of the legislation.

 

h/t Stefan Padfield

Lawsuit Challenges Constitutionality of California Law Mandating Women on Public Company Boards

Judicial Watch, a conservative activist group, has filed the first lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 826 (SB 826), California’s mandatory board diversity law requiring women on public company boards of directors. The lawsuit was filed against the California Secretary of State on behalf of three California taxpayers on August 6, 2019, in the Los Angeles Superior Court and seeks a judgment that any expenditure of taxpayer funds and taxpayer-financed resources to enforce or carry out the provisions of SB 826 is illegal.

 

Plaintiffs argue that the gender classifications used in SB 826 can only be justified by a compelling government interest, which the Secretary of State has failed to establish. The lawsuit cites then-Governor Jerry Brown’s words in his signing message acknowledging that SB 826 has “potential flaws that indeed may prove fatal to its ultimate implementation” and that “serious legal concerns have been raised” to the legislation. The complaint is available here.

For my thoughts and analysis on the permissibility of gender quotas, including corporate boards, see Tracy Thomas, Making the Case for Gender Quotas, discussing my article, Reconsidering the Remedy of Gender Quotas, Harv. J. L. & Gender (online) (Nov. 2017).

September 5, 2019 in Business, Constitutional, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 29, 2019

How the Equal Rights Amendment would Affect Women's Rights

 I'm quoted in this article in Time on the history and future of the ERA.

Tara Law, Time, The U.S. Constitution Doesn't Guarantee Equal Rights for Women. Here's Why.

When American women won the right to vote — a milestone commemorated on Women’s Equality Day, which marks the anniversary of the Aug. 26, 1920 certification that the 19th Amendment had been ratified — it was just one part of an even larger fight for equality. From Mary Church Terrell’s endeavors to make sure African-American women were included in the fight for suffrage, to Margaret Sanger’s work to promote access to birth control, to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s efforts to eliminate sex discrimination in the law, women before and after that day in 1920 have fought for wider rights.

 

And yet, the U.S. Constitution does not say that people are equal regardless of their sex.

 

This fact came close to changing in 1972, when the U.S. legislature passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which stated that rights cannot be denied “on account of sex.” But after conservatives mobilized opposition to the ratification of the proposal, the amendment fell short of the three-quarters majority needed to add the ERA to the Constitution. Now, as the Equal Rights Amendment has regained momentum — with two more states, Illinois and Nevada, recently ratifying it — advocates say that there’s a new opportunity for the ERA to move ahead. ***

How would an Equal Rights Amendment affect women’s rights?

Although American women have made significant gains in equality since the 1970s — and certainly since the 1920s — advocates say that an Equal Rights Amendment could still have a profound effect on the law and on American society.

 

Advocates say that the amendment is help back by the sense among some people that it’s not necessary, but proponents argue that it could strengthen the legal basis for combating violence against women, pay inequality and maternity leave.***

 

Professor Tracy Thomas of The University of Akron School of Law tells TIME that the law would prevent women’s rights from sliding back, and eliminate some “wiggle room” that leaves space in the law for stereotypes to affect civil rights. She also argues that protecting women’s rights in the Constitution would have a major cultural impact.

 

There’s this overriding structure of the highest law in the land that has this absolute command, and so that has to trickle down,” says Thomas. She says that recent events such as the rise of the #MeToo movement reveal how quickly society can change. “Once you start changing the culture and the dialogue, things that were acceptable become unacceptable really quickly.”

August 29, 2019 in Constitutional, Equal Employment, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 29, 2019

Podcast: The Constitutional Legacy of Seneca Falls

I enjoyed discussing the history and constitutional relevance of the first woman's rights movement in this We the People Podcast with the National Constitution Center.

The Constitutional Legacy of Seneca Falls (July 2019)

July 19 was the anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, the nation’s first women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. This episode explores what happened at the historic convention, and how its legacy shaped the Constitution through the fight for women’s suffrage and the 19th Amendment and, later, landmark gender equality and reproductive rights cases, including Roe v. Wade. Women and law scholars Erika Bachiochi of the Ethics & Public Policy Center and Tracy A. Thomas of the University of Akron School of Law join host Jeffrey Rosen.

My discussion draws on my book, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law (NYUP 2016) tracing pioneering women's rights leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton's work in organizing the Seneca Falls Convention and leading the first women's rights movement for over fifty years.

Here is the Declaration of Sentiments waterfall outside the Women's Rights National Park in Seneca Falls, reflecting Stanton's words.

DeclarationWaterfall2015

July 29, 2019 in Abortion, Constitutional, Legal History, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Legal Thinking about the Declaration of Sentiments for Women's Rights at Seneca Falls on its 171st Anniversary

July 19 & 20 celebrated the 171st anniversary of women's first official demand for equal political, civil, and religious rights in the Declaration of Sentiments at Seneca Falls, New York.  The Women's Rights National Historical Park now sits at the sight of the Wesleyean Church where the convention took place, and is worth a visit.

I have written much about the Declaration of Sentiments and its author, pioneering feminist leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The Declaration and its articulation of 18 necessary rights for women, as well as its structural elimination of "separate spheres" of women's inferiority, essentially provided a road map for legal and social reform for women's equality and equity.

I spoke about the history a bit with the National Constitution Center in a forthcoming We the People podcast

I wrote about the broad agenda of the Declaration and the first women's rights movements in the forthcoming article, More Than the Vote: The Nineteenth Amendment as Proxy for Gender Equality, Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

I traced its historical origins and legal significance particular in the area of family law and social rights in my book, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law (NYUP 2016).  I blogged about the opening chapters addressing the context and specifics of the Declaration of Sentiments, here at Introduction  and here, "What Do You Women Want?.

 

July 23, 2019 in Abortion, Books, Constitutional, Family, Gender, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Competing State and Federal Strategies for Winning Women's Right to Vote under the 19th Amendment

Lisa Tetrault, Winning the Vote: A Divided Movement Brought About the 19th Amendment, 40 Humanities (Summer 2019)

In 1869, a bold new idea was born. . . .“Woman’s Suffrage by the proposed Sixteenth Amendment is before the nation for consideration,” one newspaper heralded. Demanding their enfranchisement through a constitutional amendment, “women,” another column remarked, “strike out in a new path.” Women had been demanding the vote for some time, but this new approach was extremely far-fetched. ***

 

Although women demanded the vote as far back as the 1840s, they did not call for a federal amendment until after the Civil War, when a new battle over the status of recently emancipated freed people split the nation. What rights should former slaves have, if any? Rejecting most of African Americans’ demands upon freedom, a band of congressmen nevertheless supported freedmen’s demands to vote. They proposed to accomplish this through amending the Constitution.

 

Passing Congress in 1869, the Fifteenth Amendment declared that voting “shall not be denied or abridged . . . on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” When ratified in 1870, the amendment struck down state requirements that voters be “white,” enfranchising black men nationwide. This creation of voters through federal amendment had never before been tried.

 

Congressional passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, however, tore apart the feminist-abolitionist community and split the movement. Often working together in the same prewar coalitions, women’s rights and antislavery advocates regrouped after the Civil War to form the American Equal Rights Association (AERA). The AERA advocated the enfranchisement of both African Americans and women, as twin demands.

 

When the Fifteenth Amendment advanced only one of those goals, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony—leading suffragists—balked. At the group’s 1869 annual convention, the pair refused to support the amendment’s ratification because it omitted women. ***

 

Angrily, Stanton and Anthony bolted from the AERA and formed a new organization, the National Woman Suffrage Association. Stanton and Anthony used their National Association to oppose the Fifteenth Amendment and advocate for their newly conceived idea for a Sixteenth Amendment, granting women’s suffrage.

 

In their eyes, the Fifteenth Amendment had only one redeeming feature: It had nationalized suffrage, shifting voting regulation from the states to the federal government. This meant suffragists no longer had to labor at the state level, attempting to remove the word “male” from the voting qualifications in each and every state—an excruciatingly onerous fight. Now they could focus all their energies on a single citadel, the U.S. Constitution.

 

Not all suffragists agreed with Stanton and Anthony’s constitutional logic, however. Their rivals in the AERA, which included most of its leading membership, countered the pair by forming an opposing American Woman Suffrage Association. Overseen by Lucy Stone—a prominent white reformer and peer of Stanton and Anthony—the American Association not only supported the Fifteenth Amendment, but also insisted the vote must still be won in the individual states. They rejected Stanton and Anthony’s arguments that constitutional authority around voting in the U.S. had been remade. The Fifteenth Amendment had been no more than a postwar exigency, ratified in order to redress the evil legacies of slavery.

July 18, 2019 in Constitutional, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Book Review Stone's Sex and the Constitution, Comparing Women's Rights & LGBT Movements

Rivka Weill, Women’s and LGBTQ Social Movements and Constitutional Change -- On Geoffrey Stone’s Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law from America’s Origins to the Twenty-First Century, Jerusalem Review of Legal Studies, Forthcoming

This essay reviews Geoffrey Stone’s “Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law from America’s Origins to the Twenty-First Century.” Part I offers a synopsis of the treatise to make it accessible to the general public. Stone’s 600 pages book reviews the regulation of sex in the ancient cultures of the Greeks, Romans, and ancient Hebrews. It later discusses the evolution of the regulation of sex in Christianity and the English common law. Stone then focuses specifically on US regulation of obscenity, contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage to portray a story of progress with a warning that much of this progress depends on the composition of the Supreme Court. Part II reveals the contribution of Sex and the Constitution to the literature with respect to the ways social movements may bring about constitutional change outside the formal process defined in the Constitution for amendment. Part III offers some critical reflections on the book. In particular, it argues that Stone’s book implicitly asserts great similarities between women’s and LGBTQ movements’ struggles for the recognition that their rights demand constitutional protection. Yet, Stone should have acknowledged more forcefully the major differences between the two struggles. They differ substantially in their opening positions, their agendas for social change, the length of the struggles, the pace of change, and their successes. Some possible explanations are offered for the rather meteoric success of the LGBTQ members in transforming law and society within a short period in comparison to the rather slow pace of change for women. Moreover, while women’s successes assisted the gay rights revolution, some of the advancement in gay rights came at the expense of advancement of women.

July 16, 2019 in Abortion, Books, Constitutional, Family, Legal History, LGBT | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Best Books on Women's Suffrage

The Best Books on Women's Suffrage

Why don’t more people know about the suffrage movement? It was, after all, the largest political mobilization of women to date. It drew on the time, talent and energy of three generations of women, and yet few Americans could name more than a single suffragist. It is a puzzle to me. I fear one of the reasons is that we don’t know as much as we should about the history of American women.

 

And it’s not for lack of trying. There were multiple early histories of the suffrage movement—attempts to cement its significance in American history—written by the suffragists themselves. But it didn’t work. By the time you get to World War II, what women had gone through to get the vote was forgotten, in the way that women’s contributions are so often marginalized.

 

The centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment seems like a good chance to rectify that. What I’m hoping is that the centennial will prompt people to think: ‘Why don’t I know more about the suffrage movement? Maybe I’d like to learn a little bit more—and maybe I’ll read that new book by Susan Ware!’

July 11, 2019 in Books, Constitutional, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, June 24, 2019

Why do we Blame Women for Prohibition?

Mark Lawrence Schrad, Why Do we Blame Women for Prohibition?

On January 16, 1919—the 18th Amendment was ratified, enshrining alcohol prohibition in the U.S. Constitution. And for the past hundred years, we’ve largely blamed women for that. Why?

 

With the obvious exception of the women’s rights movement—from suffragism to #MeToo—perhaps no other social movement in American history is as synonymous with women as temperance, and none is as vilified. Histories dismiss prohibition derisively as a “pseudo-reform ... carried about America by the rural-evangelical virus,” and a “wrongheaded social policy waged by puritanical zealots of a bygone Victorian era.” We describe prohibitionists in the same way we talk about Al Qaeda or ISIS: They were “ruthless” “extremists,” “deeply antidemocratic” “fanatics and fools,” who posed a “threat to individual freedoms.” These evildoers are almost universally understood to be women.

 

The standard trope back in the 1920s, when prohibition was in full force, was that the policy was “put over while the boys were away” fighting World War I—if only the men had been home, prohibition would have been avoided. Surprisingly, this gendered conspiracy theory has endured, despite being completely unfounded. There was no popular referendum on 18th Amendment, and most women couldn’t vote anyway since, chronologically, the 18th Amendment came before the suffragist 19th Amendment. (A handful of western states granted women full voting rights before the 19th Amendment.) The only woman who voted for the 18th Amendment was Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the country’s first—and at that time, only—congresswoman. In 1918, hers was but one of the bipartisan supermajority of 282 yeas (to 128 nays) in the House that passed the prohibition amendment. In the all-male Senate, the vote to submit the amendment to the states for ratification was even more lopsided: 65-20.

June 24, 2019 in Constitutional, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Register Now Center for Constitutional Law Conference on the 19th Amendment at 100: From the Vote to Gender Equality

Register now for the upcoming conference sponsored by the Center for Constitutional Law at Akron: The 19th Amendment at 100: From the Vote to Gender Equality

The conference examines both historic and legal contexts, exploring the advocacy for the 19th Amendment as well as residual legal problems with voting and women's public role continuing up to present day.  It explores issues of history, politics, voting, and public participation and the way in which gender was implicated in all.

Check out the terrific list of speakers here featuring law scholars and historians.

Women's suffrage movement in Ohio

 

June 18, 2019 in Conferences, Constitutional, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The 19th Amendment: A Reading List

History of Woman Suffrage (six volumes), available on Project Gutenberg

Tina Cassidy, Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait?  Alice Paul, Woodrow Wilson, and the Fight for the Right to Vote (Simon & Schuster 2019)

J. Kevin Corder & Christina Wolbrecht, Counting Women's Ballots(Cambridge 2016)

Lynda Dodd, Sisterhood of Struggle: Leadership and Strategy in teh Campaign for the Nineteenth Amendment, in Feminist Legal History (Tracy A. Thomas & Tracey Jean Boisseau, eds. 2011)

Ellen Carol DuBois, Outgrowing the Compact of the Fathers: Equal Rights, Woman Suffrage, and the United States Constitution, 1820-1878, in 74 J. Amer. History 836 (1987).

Ellen Carol DuBois, Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848-1869 (1978) 

Ellen Carol DuBois,  Suffrage: Women's Long Struggle for the Vote (Simon and Schuster forthcoming Feb. 2020)

Ann Gordon, ed., African American Women and the Vote, 1837-1965 (U Mass Press 1997)

Lauren Free, Suffrage Reconstructed: Gender, Race and Voting Rights in the Civil War Era (2015)

Aileen S. Kraditor, The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1890-1920 (1965) 

W. William Hodes, Women and the Constitution: Some Legal History and a New Approach to the Nineteenth
Amendment, 25 Rutgers L. Rev. 26  (1970)

JoEllen Lind, Dominance and Democracy: The Legacy of Woman Suffrage for the Voting Right, 5 UCLA Women's L. J. 113 (1994)

Holly McCammon & Lee Ann Banaszek, eds., 100 Years of the 19th Amendment: An Appraisal of Women's Political Activism (Oxford Press 2018)

Corrine McConnaughy, The Woman Suffrage Movement in America: A Reassessment (Cambridge 2013)

Reva Siegel, She the People: The Nineteenth Amendment, Sex Equality, and Federalism, 115 Harv. L. Rev. 847 (2002)

Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote: 1850-1920  (1998)

Lisa Tetrault, The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898 (2014)

Tracy Thomas, More Than the Vote: The Nineteenth Amendment as Proxy for Gender Equality, Stanford J. Civil Rights & Civil Liberties (forthcoming)

Marjorie Spruill Wheeler, ed. One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage Movement (1995) (many excellent contributions inside this collection)

United States v. Susan B. Anthony, 11 Blatchford 200, 202 (1873)

Sally Roesch Wagner, ed. The Women's Suffrage Movement (2019)

Elaine Weiss, The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote (2018) 

Adam Winkler, A Revolution Too Soon: Women Suffragists and the Living Constitution, 76 NYU L Rev.  1456 (2001)

 

June 5, 2019 in Books, Constitutional, Legal History, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Early Supreme Court Decisions on the 19th Amendment

Leser v. Garnett, 258 U.S. 130 (1922) - challenging the validity of the 19th Amendment and seeking to strike women voters, cursorily dismissed

Adkins v. Children's Hospital of D.C., 261 U.S. 525 (1923)  - interpreting the 19th Amendment broadly as a structural guarantee of gender equality in society

For more on these cases, see Tracy Thomas, More Than the Vote: The 19th Amendment as Proxy for Gender Equality, Stanford J. Civil Rights & Civil Liberties (forthcoming) and Reva Siegel, She the People: The Nineteenth Amendment: Sex Equality, and Federalism, 115 Harv. L. Rev. 947 (2002).

June 5, 2019 in Constitutional, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reflection and Analysis on the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment

Many articles out yesterday on the 100th Anniversary of Congress's passage of the 19th Amendment.  Ratification by the states came in August 2020, so we will be celebrating the 100th Anniversary for the next year with more history and analysis to come.

The Library of Congresss has this new exhibit: Shall Not be Denied

The Atlantic started a series of articles on the 19th Amendment.  Votes for Women: A Century of Suffrage

Emma Green, The Epic Political Battle Over the Legacy of the Suffragettes

Adrienne LaFrance, The "Undesirable Militants" Behind the 19th Amendment

Kimberly Hamlin, NEH, The Forgotten Suffragists

Kimberly Hamlin, Wash Post How Racism Almost Killed Women's Right to Vote

Tracy Thomas, More Than the Vote More Than the Vote: The 19th Amendment as Proxy for Gender Equality, Stanford J. Civil Rgt. & Civil Liberties (forthcoming)

Tracy Thomas, Speech, The 19th Amendment: From the Vote to ERA

The Center for Constitutional Law at the University of Akron School of Law will sponsor a conference on the 19th Amendment this fall.  Registration and information on speakers is here.

June 5, 2019 in Constitutional, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

SCOTUS Decision in Box v. Planned Parenthood Foreshadows Possible Abortion Decision of the Future

The Supreme Court decided Box v. Planned Parenthood without full briefing or oral argument and issuing a per curiam opinion.  It upheld Indiana's fetal remains law, but denied cert on the second question regarding the law prohibiting abortion for fetal diagnosis or disability.  Justice Sotomayor would have denied cert on both questions.  Justice Ginsburg dissented, and would have applied a higher standard of scrutiny because the case implicated “the right of [a] woman to choose to have an abortion before viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the State."  Justice Thomas dissented from the denial of cert on the second question.  Ginsburg criticized Thomas' opinion, saying it "displays more heat than light."

 

Wash Post, Supreme Court Compromise on Indiana Abortion Law Keeps Issue off Its Docket

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to a compromise on Indiana’s contested abortion law, an outcome that revealed its openness to state restrictions on the procedure but also apparently favored a cautious and incremental path in confronting one of the nation’s enduring controversies.

 

On one hand, the court upheld a part of Indiana’s 2016 law that places new restrictions on the disposal of fetal remains after an abortion. It reversed a decision by a lower court without the customary briefing and oral arguments.

 

But the court said it would not revive another part of the law, which would have prohibited abortions if the woman chose the procedure because of a diagnosis or “potential diagnosis” of Down syndrome or “any other disability,” or because of the fetus’s gender or race.

 

The Indiana case was closely watched because it was the first time the conservative court, reinforced by the addition of President Trump’s two nominees, had the opportunity to take a case with consequences for the constitutional protections found in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

 

Tuesday’s decision in Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentuckyheld no consequences for either Roe or Casey. But it appeared to be a commencement of the new court’s consideration of abortion rights, and many cases are waiting in the wings.***

 

The unsigned opinion of the court, just three pages long, was matter-of-fact and devoid of broad holdings. Only Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have let the lower court’s rejections stay in place; fellow liberals Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan were silent.

 

But there were signs of tension. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a 20-page statement linking abortion to the eugenics policies popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries. He added in a footnote that Ginsburg’s objection to the fetal-remains portion of the law “makes little sense.”

 

She responded by correcting his use of the word “mother” throughout his opinion. “A woman who exercises her constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy is not a ‘mother,’ ” she wrote.

 

The portion of the Indiana law the court allowed to go into effect mandates that the “remains” of an abortion or miscarriage be buried or cremated, as required of other human remains.

See Mary Ziegler, What Clarence Thomas Gets Wrong About Abortion and Eugenics

This is a dark history, but it is not the tidy, simple one that Thomas describes. Many population controllers actually opposed legal abortion or viewed it as irrelevant. They shared the worries of their eugenicist forbears that giving women a choice would not do enough to reduce demographic growth.

 

More important, many in the population control movement had no interest in eugenics. Cold warriors hoped that curbing demographic growth would prevent developing countries from turning to communism. Environmentalists believed that population control could conserve scarce environmental resources. And feminists believed that population control could facilitate the liberation of women.

 

The converse was also true: Unlike the synergy of belief conveyed by Thomas, some abortion rights supporters had no use for population rhetoric, viewing it as unethical and counterproductive, regardless of the political benefits. Contrary to what Thomas suggests, these voices grew louder after Roe, when feminists took on more influential roles in major abortion rights organizations. These groups understood that population arguments could smack of coercion — antithetical to their beliefs about choice and freedom — and alienate people of color both in the United States and in developing countries. And feminists increasingly argued that women had a right to abortion regardless of its policy consequences.

 

June 4, 2019 in Abortion, Constitutional, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Nevada Legislature Passes Pro-Choice Abortion Bill

Nevada State Legislature Passes Pro-Choice Abortion Bill

Bucking the antiabortion political trends in several other states, the Nevada state Assembly approved a pro-choice bill on Tuesday to remove criminal penalties for people who terminate a pregnancy without consulting a physician.

 

The Trust Nevada Women Act, which passed on a 27-13 vote, would also decriminalize other abortion-related actions, such as selling miscarriage-inducing medications. It would remove requirements that doctors tell pregnant people about the “emotional implications” of an abortion.***

 

Mississippi, Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Utah, Louisiana and Missouri are among the other states that have approved new laws or are considering ones that significantly limit legal abortions. 

 

On the flip side, lawmakers in Illinois and Maine seek to pass legislation that would further protect access to abortion.  

May 22, 2019 in Abortion, Constitutional, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)