Sonora Smart Dodd, whose father raised her and her siblings after their mother died in childbirth, was inspired to propose the holiday in 1910 after attending a church service honoring mothers. Even so, while federal law enshrined the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day in 1914, it took another half-century for fathers to receive similar recognition, first with Lyndon B. Johnson issuing a presidential proclamation in 1966 and then with Congress enacting an official holiday in 1972.
Monday, July 25, 2022
Kyle Velte, The Precarity of Justice Kennedy's Queer Canon, 13 ConLawNOW 75 (2022)
This essay gives a brief overview of the legal and normative of impact of Justice Kennedy’s Queer Canon, a series of four LGBTQ cases written by Justice Kennedy over nearly two decades. The pro-LGBTQ outcomes in the Queer Canon cases made Justice Kennedy a hero to many LGBTQ people. It then explores Justice Kennedy’s fifth, and final, LGBTQ opinion, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. That case, which held that a traditional Christian baker would prevail on his First Amendment Free Exercise challenge to a state public accommodations law, was not the finale hoped for by the LGBTQ community. The essay next asks and answers the question: What will a post-Justice Kennedy Court mean for LGBTQ people and the 25 years of constitutional progress reflected in his Queer Canon? Through a comparative analysis of the Court’s two post-Justice Kennedy decisions, Bostock v. Clayton County and Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, Justice Kennedy’s Queer Canon, and his opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop, this essay contends that the progress made during the Justice Kennedy era is a fragile progress, one that is under threat by the current Court.
Friday, July 22, 2022
The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed two landmark pieces of legislation: the Respect for Marriage Act, which would grant federal recognition of both same-sex and interracial marriages, and the Right To Contraception Act, which would establish a right in federal law to obtain and use contraceptives.
Democratic leaders say both bills are a direct response to Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson which called on the Court to “reconsider” past rulings codifying rights to contraception access, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.
The bills now both head to the Senate, where Democrats need 10 Republican senators to consider and ultimately pass either bill.
Wednesday, July 6, 2022
Call for Papers
Centering Family Violence in Family Law
Abstract Submission Deadline: July 22, 2022
from the Family Law Center, UVA School of Law and National Family Violence Law Center, GW Law School
We invite submissions to contribute to a roundtable about the place of domestic violence in family law and scholarship. Submissions should consist of a proposed abstract under 300 words. The roundtable will be held on January 20, 2023 at the University of Virginia School of Law.
Although evidence shows that family violence is endemic, family law continues to design doctrines and procedures around an image of families in which violence is exceptional. Significant new empirical research indicates that, despite extensive law reforms designed to require courts to address family violence, mothers in custody litigation who seek to protect their children from paternal abuse typically face resistance from judges, if not outright hostility. Moreover, most family lawyers are ill-equipped to effectively represent protective parents and at-risk children, especially in an unreceptive family court culture. Cf. Meier, Denial of Family Violence: An Empirical Analysis and Path Forward for Family Law, 110 Geo. L. J. 835 (2022).
How would family law practice, scholarship, and teaching change if each centered the reality of family violence instead of treating it as exceptional?
This roundtable will bring together a group of diverse participants to explore how the realities of family violence and judicial intransigence should affect core doctrines and practices in family law, such as allocating custody and establishing parenthood. Participants will also consider how concern for family violence should inform discussions of systemic reforms such as decriminalization, abolition of the child welfare system, and parenting after incarceration. The roundtable’s goal is to carve out new ways to think about how family law can respond to the failure of the law, scholarship, and the courts to appropriately deal with violence within American families.
We offer the following “provocations” for new thinking about how to place family violence at the center of family law:
- Shared Parenting: How might we talk about shared parenting and its appropriate place in child custody if we acknowledged the history of intimate partner violence and child maltreatment among many (possibly most) separating parents, both those that litigate and those that do not?
- Functional Parenting: As we seek to expand parenting rights and recognition to functional parents, how can we ensure that abusive partners are not empowered to extend their abuse through parenting litigation (a well-documented problem among biological parents)?
- Pedagogy: How should we best integrate the realities of family violence in our teaching, particularly in broad courses such as Family Law, Criminal Law, and Child, Family & State?
- Formerly Incarcerated Parents: As we work to reintegrate formerly incarcerated parents into the community and their families, how can we ensure that reintegration maximizes and protects healthy and caring parent-child relationships?
- The Child Welfare System: As we work to reform the child welfare system and its known racial and class injustices, how can we best integrate the realities of family violence into such reforms to ensure they do not exacerbate the victimization of children or safe parents?
- A Supportive State: As we develop state tools to affirmatively support familial stability and security, how should such policies change if family violence is pervasive rather than an aberrant imperfection?
We are delighted to report that the Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law has agreed to publish eight short (5,000-word) papers from this gathering. We will be requesting drafts (3,000-5,000 words) one week in advance of the conference so they can be circulated and read by all participants.
We plan to host the event in person, although the format may change depending on public health considerations. We will supply meals, and we have some funding available. If you need funding to attend, then please provide an estimate of your travel costs.
Thank you. Please submit abstracts to email@example.com. And please let us know if you have any questions!
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Reva Siegel, The Politics of Constitutional Memory, 20 Georgetown J. Law & Public Policy 19 (2022)
Those who sought votes for women made claims for liberty and equality in the family on which constitutional law might now draw—but there is no trace of their voices or claims in constitutional law. The Supreme Court scarcely mentions the Nineteenth Amendment when interpreting the Constitution. Nor do Supreme Court opinions mention those who led women’s quest for political voice or the constitutional arguments they made in support of women voting, even though these arguments spanned two centuries. There is no method of interpretation that the Justices employ with sufficient consistency to account for this silence in our law.
This Article introduces the concept of constitutional memory to explain this silence in our law. Constitutional interpreters produce constitutional memory as they make claims on the past that can guide decisions about the future. It is the role of constitutional memory to legitimate the exercise of authority; but constitutional memory plays a special role in legitimating the exercise of authority when constitutional memory systematically diverges from constitutional history. Systematic divergence between constitutional memory and constitutional history can legitimate authority by generating the appearance of consent to contested status relations and by destroying the vernacular of resistance. Though women contested their lack of political authority in the constitutional order over two centuries, there is no trace of their arguments in constitutional law.
To illustrate, the Article examines a long-running tradition of suffrage argument that began before the Reconstruction Amendments and continued in evolving forms after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment: that women needed the vote to democratize the family. Two centuries of constitutional arguments are nowhere reflected in the United States Reports. As a consequence, constitutional doctrines about liberty and equality in the family appear to lack historical antecedents.
But argument, inside and outside of courts, can counter the politics of memory. Justices across the spectrum regularly make heterodox claims on the past. Constitutional interpreters can invoke the voices of the disfranchised and the concerns that the disfranchised brought to the democratic reconstruction of America. Imagine how we might understand our Constitution in another generation if we did.
Monday, June 20, 2022
For decades, there was less political will to honor fathers, especially because many men regarded the holiday as “silly.” Such thinking continues to this day, as some men celebrate being fathers by using the holiday as a ticket to spend a day at the golf course, enjoying hours on “their” day away from their children.
This understanding of Father’s Day, though, misses the ways in which Americans have used the holiday as a political vehicle. In the latter decades of the 20th century, Father’s Day was a key battleground regarding parental rights and responsibilities for activists radicalized by the nation’s rapidly shifting familial landscape. At the root of this politicization of Father’s Day — maybe surprisingly — was the history of divorce.***
Enter Father's Day. As some feminists came to view child support enforcement as a key women’s issue, they turned to the new holiday as an opportunity to publicize their cause. In 1971, a group of women and children from the Association for Children Deprived of Support (ACDS) picketed the home of California assemblyman, and potential gubernatorial candidate, Robert Moretti on Father’s Day to press him to champion child-support reforms.
Several years later, in 1975, NOW chapters in Tulsa, Pittsburgh and Hartford, Conn., all participated in “Father’s Day Actions.” The Tulsa protesters promised, in a news release, that “Fathers who are not paying child support can expect that their names and the amounts they are in arrears will be announced” and publicly “displayed by mothers, children and concerned NOW members.” The Hartford women, for their part, laid a wreath at the door of the Superior Court of Connecticut to “mourn the loss of paternal responsibility by all the fathers involved in divorce, separation, and enforcement.”
Some divorced fathers, however, had their own political agenda for Father’s Day.
Fathers’ rights advocates objected to being used as “wallets” and claimed that their ex-wives purposely kept them from seeing their children in violation of visitation orders. In 1971, the National Council for Family Preservation — one of several failed attempts by fathers’ rights advocate Richard F. Doyle to form a robust national organization like NOW — urged its member groups to hold protests on the Saturday before Father’s Day, noting that fathers might “want to be elsewhere with their children on Sunday.” In a news release, Doyle called for the recognition of the “stupid and cruel divorce laws and practices that have made this holiday a mockery for countless fathers and children.”
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
False Claims Continue Claiming Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony as Anti-Abortion Advocates
False claims continue to abound about pioneering 19th century feminists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony as to their views on abortion, including this week in the Wall Street Journal.
As a scholar of Stanton's work for the last twenty years studying her focus on legal and social reform of the family and marriage, I have written extensively against these false claims and tried to set the record straight by delving into the historical details (incorrectly) asserted for these claims. I post here to refresh the recollection of that work as relevant to ongoing debates:
First, here's the current, incorrect report, written by anti-abortion activists:
Early feminist icons Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony changed forever the role of women in American society. In the 19th century they tirelessly promoted public education on behalf of women’s equality and demanded that women be given the right to vote. But contrary to recent claims by advocacy groups, they were not in favor of abortion.
After a leaked Supreme Court draft decision appearing to overturn Roe v. Wade circulated in May, the nonprofit National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House in Rochester, N.Y., accused the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life political action committee, of misappropriating the famous suffragist’s name. “To suggest that Susan B. Anthony would support government intervention in a woman’s decision about a pregnancy is abhorrent,” museum president Deborah L. Hughes wrote in a post on the organization’s website.
The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust similarly claims that its namesake would have supported abortion-rights advocacy in the 21st century. The group has filed lawsuits in Michigan, New York and Rhode Island, asking courts, according to a press release, “to protect Roe v. Wade from being overturned, and firmly establish the Equal Rights Amendment . . . in the United States Constitution.”
In fact, it’s the pro-choice groups that have it wrong. During their lifetimes, both women vociferously condemned abortion.
Here are links to my work challenging and disproving the historical basis on which these incorrect assumptions continue to rely:
Tracy Thomas, Misappropriating Women's History in the Law and Politics of Abortion, 36 Seattle L. Rev. 1 (2012) (discussing both Stanton & Anthony)
Tracy Thomas, ECS Book Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Lawm chp. 4, The "Incidental Relation" of Mother (NYUP 2016)
Tracy Thomas, Gender & the Law Prof Blog, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was Not Against Reproductive Rights
Tracy Thomas, Gender & the Law Prof Blog, Voluntary Motherhood: What Did 19th Century Feminists Think About Abortion and Birth Control
Tracy Thomas, National Constitution Center "We the People" Podcast, The Constitutional Legacy of Seneca Falls
Tracy Thomas, Gender & the Law Prof Blog, Theme for March for Life 2020 Relies on Questionable Women's History, Incorrectly Claiming Early Feminist Leaders as Pro-Life
Tracy Thomas, Gender & the Law Prof Blog, The "Incidental Relation of Mother" and 19th Century Demands for Women's Reproductive Control
Friday, June 3, 2022
Even though contracts are so embedded in individuals’ personal and professional lives, rarely (if ever) do we think of contracts as being a vehicle for social change. To effect legal change that addresses societal injustices, we generally rely on our legislative bodies and common law system. In this essay, I argue that private law – by way of contract drafting – should be considered an additional vehicle for seeking and obtaining social change. While it’s easy to envision how contract drafting can be effectively used to create immediate, positive impacts on the transacting parties themselves, contract drafting can also be used as a vehicle for broader societal change. Since performance of the legal obligations of a private contract often affects other individuals who are not parties to the agreement, it follows that the way those private contracts are drafted may improve their circumstances as well. Additionally, while a single individual may lack bargaining power to negotiate the most favorable of contract terms for themselves, groups of individuals – such as labor unions -- may yield great power. And some individuals by virtue of their resources or position can yield substantial power in contracting favorable contract terms, even with more powerful entities. Contract drafting choices also have a direct impact on the way the common law is created in the judicial arena and thus its reach extends beyond the transacting parties. In this essay, I argue that the use of the same or similar contract drafting language in numerous unrelated contracts can have a significant impact and can effectively be used to address societal injustices.
As an illustration of the powers of contract drafting, this essay provides concrete examples of how a feminist approach to contract drafting can be used to eliminate, or at least limit, gender inequality. By applying a feminist perspective to the drafting of employment and premarital agreements, I demonstrate how contract drafting choices can not only lead to positive changes for the contracting parties, but can also lead to broader social change. While advocating for change through legislative and judicial pathways will likely remain the primary avenues for challenging societal injustices, this essay aims to show why contract drafting can also be used as a vehicle for change.
Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Daniel Fernandez-Kranz & Jennifer Roff, The Effect of Alimony Reform on Married Women's Labor Supply: Evidence from the American Time Use Survey
Reforms that reduce alimony can affect married couples in two different ways. First, reduced alimony lowers the bargaining power of the payee, usually the wife. Second, reduced alimony lowers the incentives of wives to engage in the traditional male breadwinner model of household specialization. Using the American Time Use Survey and exploiting a series of recent reforms in several US states that reduced the entitlements of eligible spouses, we find that wives surprised by the reforms reacted by moving away from the traditional male breadwinner model of household specialization. We also find that highly educated women substituted work for time devoted to housework and childcare, while less educated wives substituted work for leisure and personal time. We find no effects for men. The fact that the reforms reduced fertility only among women with higher education suggests that the difference between them and less educated wives in the response to reduced alimony is due, at least in part, to differences in their preferences and costs for children. The estimated effects are larger among couples with a large difference in the earnings potential of spouses and are robust to several sensitivity tests.
Thursday, May 26, 2022
New Book The Case of Caroline Norton and the History of Married Women's Loss of Child Custody Rights
***[This is] the tragic story, of Caroline Norton, as conveyed in Fraser’s new book.... Born in 1808, 30 years before Queen Victoria came to the throne, she and her two equally beautiful sisters made a stir when they debuted in society. Her sisters married titled men, while Caroline married George Norton, who, while a younger son, had hopes of a title of his own — but would also turn out to be jealous, violent, petty and unremittingly vicious.***
In 1836, after yet another episode of her husband’s violence, Caroline went to stay with her parents. George moved their children (the youngest not yet 3) to his sister’s house, where he forcibly detained them, refusing Caroline access. He also claimed her earnings as a writer. All this was, at the time, his legal right.
And so, driven by the loss of her children, Caroline did that most unladylike of things: She fought. She fought George in the court of public opinion, writing pamphlets and essays and articles. She fought him in the courts. And he fought back. He sued Lord Melbourne, his patron, for “criminal conversation” with his wife.
Crim. con., as it was known, was not quite the same thing as suing for adultery. It was, rather, a property suit: Since a wife was the legal property of her husband, and adultery reduced the value of that property, the wife’s lover could be sued for financial compensation. George demanded 10,000 pounds from Melbourne, millions in today’s money.
While George did in fact want money, he wanted revenge much more, and by naming Melbourne he focused public attention squarely on his wife. In court, as in life, George Norton did not shine, and, unable to actually prove adultery, he lost the case. But the damage was done: Melbourne, tainted by the scandal, abandoned Caroline Norton, as did her friends.
However, she did not give up. Norton continued to campaign tirelessly for access to her children, and the publicity she brought to the legal situation forced politicians to confront the law. In 1839, the Custody of Infants Act was passed, allowing judges to give custody of children under 7 to the mother.
Monday, May 16, 2022
Scary Mommy tells a powerful story of how a grieving mother and scientist has identified the cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The findings were published in the June 2022 publication of The Lancet. The publication provides the following contextual summary of the research:
Evidence before this study
Despite the effectiveness of public health campaigns in reducing the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), SIDS remains the major cause of infant death in western countries. The “triple risk model” hypothesises that SIDS deaths result from coincident occurrence of a vulnerable infant, a critical developmental period, and an exogenous stressor. Despite intensive research, identification of any specific vulnerability prior to the sudden death has remained elusive. And, while autonomic dysfunction has long been considered a candidate for this vulnerability, studies have been hampered by reliance on post-mortem samples.
Added value of this study
We found that Butyrylcholinesterase Activity, measured in dried blood spots taken 2-3 days after birth, was significantly lower in babies who subsequently died of SIDS compared to living controls and other Non-SIDS infant deaths. This study identifies a biochemical marker that differentiates SIDS infants from control cases and those dying from other causes, prior to their death. We postulate that this decreased activity of Butyrylcholineserase represents an autonomic cholinergic dysfunction and therefore an inherent vulnerability of the SIDS infants.
Implications of all the available evidence
This finding represents the possibility for the identification of infants at risk for SIDS infants prior to death and opens new avenues for future research into specific
These findings have implications for the patchwork of state laws governing SIDS throughout the country.
The infant formula crisis continues in the United States as covered by Reuters and numerous media outlets. Here's a look at the cities in which supplies are the most depleted from Bloomberg. Consumer safety groups and pediatricians are warning consumers not to try to make products at home. Attention is focused on what the government can do to offer support. Reuters previews:
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) will announce new steps in the coming days regarding importing certain infant formula products from abroad, the White House said, and Biden has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to probe reports of predatory conduct such as price gouging.
The House will also hold a hearing on the crisis on May 25.
The Atlantic Monthly does a deep dive on what is behind the shortage and the role of law and policy.
FDA regulation of formula is so stringent that most of the stuff that comes out of Europe is illegal to buy here due to technicalities like labeling requirements. Nevertheless, one study found that many European formulas meet the FDA nutritional guidelines—and, in some ways, might even be better than American formula, because the European Union bans certain sugars, such as corn syrup, and requires formulas to have a higher share of lactose. * * *
U.S. policy also restricts the importation of formula that does meet FDA requirements. At high volumes, the tax on formula imports can exceed 17 percent. And under President Donald Trump, the U.S. entered into a new North American trade agreement that actively discourages formula imports from our largest trading partner, Canada.
America’s formula policy warps the industry in one more way. The Department of Agriculture has a special group called WIC—short for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children—that provides a variety of services to pregnant and breastfeeding women and their young children. It is also the largest purchaser of infant formula in the United States, awarding contracts to a small number of approved formula companies. As a result, the U.S. baby formula industry is minuscule, by design. A 2011 analysis by USDA reported that three companies accounted for practically all U.S. formula sales: Abbott, Mead Johnson, and Gerber.
Thursday, April 28, 2022
The ruling overturns decades of patriarchal family legacy, which largely left women out of the decision-making process.
Italy’s top court ruled on Wednesday that children born in the country will be given their mother’s and father’s surnames at birth, declaring the automatic practice of only giving children their father’s surname “constitutionally illegitimate.”
Parents will be able to choose the order of surnames or decide to use only one, a statement on the ruling from Italy’s Constitutional Court read, citing principles of equality and the children’s interest. Except in certain circumstances, Italian families have been unable to give their children their mother’s surname alone.
“Both parents should be able to share the choice of a surname, which is a fundamental element for one’s personal identity,” the court wrote.
Compared with other European countries where both surnames can be used for children, like France, Germany and Spain, Italy has been slow in embracing the recognition of the mother’s family name.
“The Constitutional Court canceled the last patriarchal legacy in family law,” Cecilia D’Elia, a member of Parliament and a leader on women’s issues in the Democratic Party, wrote on Twitter. “The mother’s name will have the same dignity as the father’s, a sign of civilization.”***
In Italy, wives used to take their husbands’ names and be solely responsible for children before the law. Though norms have since changed, the law automatically giving children their father’s surname has stayed, causing the European Court of Human Rights to rebuke Italy for discrimination.
Monday, March 14, 2022
Dara E. Purvis has published her article Frozen Embryos, Male Consent, and Masculinities in volume 97 of the Indiana Law Journal. The abstract previews:
Picture two men facing the possibility of unwanted fatherhood. One man agreed to go through in vitro fertilization (IVF) with his partner, but years later has changed his mind. Despite the fact that the embryos created through IVF are his partner’s last chance to be a genetic parent, a court allows him to block her use of the embryos.
By contrast, another couple’s sexual relationship broke the law. The woman was a legal adult, and her partner was a child under the age of eighteen. Their encounter was thus statutory rape. Her crime led to pregnancy, and after she gave birth, she sued the teenager for child support. Despite his protest that he did not consent to the sexual activity that led to the child’s birth, the court affirms the child support order.
As a practical matter, this inconsistency in treatment of unwanted fatherhood may instinctively make sense, applying two different rules for two very different contexts. A deeper examination of the cases, however, reveals much more going on. This Article uses the frame of masculinities theories to dive further into the inconsistency and uncovers two groundbreaking implications that stretch far beyond the specific circumstances. First, the varying treatment of embryo disposition disputes and the characterization of male victims of statutory rape have one constant: a dismissal and rejection of men’s emotions. Second, exploring the inconsistent treatment of men’s consent to become fathers in sexual reproduction versus stored embryos reveals a clear rejection by courts of the personhood concept that embryos are human life. These revelations inform not only how embryo disposition disputes should be resolved, but also fetal personhood and family law’s treatment of fathers.
The article concludes:
When frozen embryo disputes are viewed in isolation, they appear to be extremely specialized. Such disagreements only arise in a relatively specialized medical circumstance, and the raw numbers and reported cases are both quite small. It might be hard to imagine, at least on first exposure, that analysis of such litigation would generate conclusions beyond an opinion about how to solve the very particular problem of embryo disposition disputes.
Similarly, statutory rape of boys is a minority of statutory rape cases, and such assaults are under-reported and under-prosecuted. Only a fraction of such events will result in a pregnancy that is brought to term, and few challenges to paternity determinations make their way into court.
When these two seemingly narrow corners of family law are set against each other, however, the inconsistency in how the law treats consent to become a father is striking. When that inconsistency is viewed through the lens of masculinities theories, the threads of commonality become even easier to identify. From seemingly discordant questions emerge far-reaching implications not only for how embryo disposition disputes should be resolved, but broader issues of reproductive rights, abortion, and the law’s conception of fatherhood.
Tuesday, March 8, 2022
By: Itay Ravid and Jonathan Zandberg
In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court is currently considering a Mississippi law that prohibits nearly all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, in direct contradiction to the holding in Roe v. Wade. Among the many arguments raised in Dobbs in an attempt to overturn Roe, the State of Mississippi argues that due to “the march of progress” in women’s role in society, abortion rights are no longer necessary for women to participate equally in economic life. It has also been argued that there is no empirical support to the causal relationship between abortion rights and women’s economic success in society.
This Article is the first to empirically examine both these arguments, and it provides compelling evidence to reject each of them. To do so, we adopt a novel methodology that utilizes the enforcement of Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP Laws) as proxies for abortion restrictions. We study the effects of over forty years of legislation on the participation of American women in the labor market.
The results are striking. Our findings strongly and consistently show that the introduction of TRAP laws has widened the gender pay gap between women at childbearing age and the rest of the population. We also reveal the role of TRAP laws in pushing these women out of the labor force – or at least into choosing lower-paying jobs – as possible explanations for this gap. Ultimately, these findings foreshadow the future landscape of gender inequality in the United States if Roe is overturned.
Monday, February 7, 2022
Ayesha Rasheed has published Confronting Problematic Legal Fictions in Gestational Surrogacy, 24 J. Health Care L. & Pol'y 179 (2022). The abstract previews:
Infertility is a hot topic for investors and entrepreneurs in the United States, and recent years have seen a sharp rise of interest in various assisted reproductive technologies. Gestational surrogacy, a form of assisted reproduction where the surrogate mother is not (as) genetically related to the child she is carrying, is now the most popular form of surrogacy in the United States. It costs between $75,000-150,000 per attempt, and results in the live births of hundreds of babies each year.
Alone amongst developed nations, the United States has left this vast industry largely unregulated. No federal laws address the practice or regulate the companies that facilitate it, while a patchwork of extant state laws run the gamut from criminalization and bans of commercial surrogacy to wholesale authorization of it. In the rare instances where courts have been asked to decide issues related to the same, they have been likewise brief and varied in their approaches.
Overall, when courts and lawmakers have addressed gestational surrogacy, they often oversimplify a complex biological phenomenon and cultural experience in favor of idealized fictions about reproductive biology and family life. As a result, policies surrounding gestational surrogacy do not align well with what actually happens to the mind and body during pregnancy, or how the surrogacy industry currently operates. A better understanding of the science of gestational pregnancy has the potential to animate legal policy that allocates rights amongst the parties involved more equitably, and in a way that reflects the reality of the physiological and psychological risks borne during the surrogacy process.
Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Cash Aid to Poor Mothers Increases Brain Activity in Babies, Study Finds, Possible Policy Implications
A study that provided poor mothers with cash stipends for the first year of their children’s lives appears to have changed the babies’ brain activity in ways associated with stronger cognitive development, a finding with potential implications for safety net policy.
The differences were modest — researchers likened them in statistical magnitude to moving to the 75th position in a line of 100 from the 81st — and it remains to be seen if changes in brain patterns will translate to higher skills, as other research offers reason to expect.
Still, evidence that a single year of subsidies could alter something as profound as brain functioning highlights the role that money may play in child development and comes as President Biden is pushing for a much larger program of subsidies for families with children.
“This is a big scientific finding,” said Martha J. Farah, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, who conducted a review of the study for the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, where it was published on Monday. “It’s proof that just giving the families more money, even a modest amount of more money, leads to better brain development.”
Another researcher, Charles A. Nelson III of Harvard, reacted more cautiously, noting the full effect of the payments — $333 a month — would not be clear until the children took cognitive tests. While the brain patterns documented in the study are often associated with higher cognitive skills, he said, that is not always the case.
“It’s potentially a groundbreaking study,” said Dr. Nelson, who served as a consultant to the study. “If I was a policymaker, I’d pay attention to this, but it would be premature of me to pass a bill that gives every family $300 a month.”
A temporary federal program of near-universal children’s subsidies — up to $300 a month per child through an expanded child tax credit — expired this month after Mr. Biden failed to unite Democrats behind a large social policy bill that would have extended it. Most Republicans oppose the monthly grants, citing the cost and warning that unconditional aid, which they describe as welfare, discourages parents from working.
Senators are pushing to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Will it help Indigenous communities?
On any given day, Annita Lucchesi might be ordering casket sprays, prepping food for a wake, buying school supplies for a child with a missing parent or booking a motel for a woman escaping domestic violence.
Some days, she said, she will drive up to 300 miles through southeastern Montana and the surrounding areas in her work as the executive director of Sovereign Bodies Institute, a grass-roots organization that does community-based research on gender and sexual violence against Indigenous people as well as provides services to those affected.
Her grim professional docket is a reflection of the scale of the crisis of violence facing Indigenous people, as well as long-standing negligence by the federal government and law enforcement when it comes to Indigenous people’s safety, she said.
“The reality is that the only people doing any of this work are grass-roots folks,” Lucchesi said. “If we as community members didn’t step up to do it, it literally wouldn’t get done.”
Lucchesi, who is of Cheyenne descent, said that as a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking who has loved ones who are missing or murdered, this work has never felt like a choice. She said that just in her small community of about 3,000 people, she has tracked more than 100 unsolved cases of missing and murdered people in the last couple of decades by following news reports and talking to community members. This winter alone, she said, there have been three murders she has tracked using these methods.
“It’s personal to me,” said. “At what point does our local cemetery become a mass grave?”
. . .
Lucchesi’s experiences with violence are not uncommon. More than 84 percent of Indigenous women have experienced violence in their lifetime, according to a 2016 National Institute of Justice report. In some counties, the U.S. Department of Justice found, Indigenous women are murdered at a rate 10 times higher than the national average. Indigenous men face disproportionately high rates of violence, and while data collection on transgender and two-spirit Indigenous people is often lacking, Lucchesi said they too face overwhelmingly high rates of violence.
Lucchesi added that these shocking numbers, however, are probably undercounts — of the oft-cited statistic that one in three Indigenous women have been raped, she said she has an aunt who says skeptically: “Show me the other two.”
The majority of sexual assault cases in the United States go unreported, according to an analysis by the Justice Department. Poor data collection on gender-based violence among Indigenous people, including misclassifications of homicides as suicides or accidents, paired with a difficult-to-access legal system probably make this worse for Indigenous people, women’s rights experts say. Last year, Deb Haaland, the first Native American sworn in as U.S. interior secretary, announced a new Missing & Murdered Unit (MMU) within the Bureau of Indian Affairs to try to tackle some of these issues.
It is a problem that a bipartisan group of lawmakers says they’re also hoping to address this month by pushing to reauthorize the 1994 Violence Against Women Act for the first time in almost a decade. The updated version of the bill, led by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), would include provisions expanding tribal jurisdiction over gendered violence.
Wednesday, January 19, 2022
How Judges Should Apply the Exceptions to the Hague Abduction Convention to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence
Merle Hope Weiner, You Can and You Should: How Judges Can Apply the Hague Abduction Convention to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence, 28 UCLA Women's L. J. 223 (forthcoming)
This Article is written for trial judges who adjudicate cases pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, although appellate judges, lawyers, and scholars may also find it of interest. Trial judges are my target audience because they are the best defense against the potential injustice that the Hague Convention creates for domestic violence victims who flee transnationally with their children for safety, then face their batterers’ petitions for the children’s return. The trial judge decides whether a child is returned to the place from which the domestic violence victim fled or whether a child is allowed to remain in the United States pursuant to an exception to the Hague Convention’s remedy of return. This Article canvases the arguments that attorneys make to defeat the application of article 13(b), and refutes them by drawing upon social science, the Guide to Good Practice, its sanctioned Australian Bench Book, case law, and common sense. The Article also argues that if a trial judge cannot grant the article 13(b) exception solely because of unwarranted legal obstacles, the judge should disregard the law. This part of the Article builds upon Jeffrey Brand-Ballard’s book, Limits of Legality: The Ethics of Lawless Judging
Monday, January 17, 2022
Teneille R. Brown has posted Stereotypes, Sexism, and Superhuman Faculty on SSRN. This article is a preprint of a work forthcoming in volume 16 of the Florida International Law Review. This is a powerful and personal read capturing many important takeaways of pandemic teaching as its hardships have mapped on to gender, race, and parental status.
Despite our relative privilege, lawyers are not immune to the pandemic’s breathtaking ability to expose gender inequality. While working moms in other industries are afforded far fewer supports, and often cannot work from home, the lack of support offered by law schools and law firms has still been appalling. We risk losing much of the fragile equality we have won, as women scale back their pursuit of leadership positions, and have less focused time to spend researching cases, preparing for class, giving talks, or writing. The data are in: women lawyers’ productivity plummeted during the pandemic. This carried over to academic writing generally, where women’s submissions nosedived in the spring and summer. Women with children have lost 500 hours of research time, which makes them “disproportionately less likely to be promoted in rank and perhaps even more likely to drop out of academia altogether.”
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As it might be clear by now, treating people as superhuman is an insidious and hollow form of adulation. Even though it seems positively valenced, it nonetheless reflects a form of dehumanization.
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Law faculty are not superhumans, and there is no virtue in regarding ourselves as such. We are individuals—empowered with the full range of complex thoughts and emotional vulnerabilities. This is not to say that all humans experience emotions to the same degree, or that we all draw from the same emotional depth or complexity. But for some, denying our emotional experience is a rejection of the self. Further, treating faculty as superhumans leads to workplace environments that are cold, uncaring, and discriminatory.
Unfortunately, the depth and complexity of the problem is disheartening, and there are no easy solutions. It is not enough to have women in leadership roles if those women espouse ambivalent sexism in their speech or policies. And it is not enough to respond to requests by working moms for accommodations, as those requests will often render those asking for them less competent. Research does suggest that women take less of a hit to their competence if they frame requests as advocating for others, and when they explicitly draw attention to sexist stereotypes. Thus, by making colleagues and administrators aware of the [Stereotype Content Model] and the deep social psychological roots of ambivalent sexism, we can begin to open their eyes. But because of the blow we take to competence when we mention our caregiving roles, professional women cannot make systemic change alone.
Wednesday, January 12, 2022
Bridget Crawford, Emily Gold Waldman, Naomi Cahn, Working Through Menopause, Washington U. L. Rev. (forthcoming)
There are over thirty million people ages 44 to 55 in the civilian labor force in the United States, but the law and legal scholarship are largely silent about a health condition that approximately half of those workers inevitably will experience. Both in the United States and elsewhere, menopause remains mostly a taboo topic, because of cultural stigmas and attitudes about aging and gender. Yet menopause raises critical issues at the intersections of gender equity, disability, aging, transgender rights, and reproductive justice. This Article imagines how the law would change if it accounted for menopause and the associated unequal burdens imposed.
This Article makes four contributions to legal scholarship. First, it identifies the intersections of menopause and the law in a way that counters the larger culture of silence, stigma, and shame. Second, it analyzes the uneasy fit between menopause and existing U.S. anti-discrimination doctrines. Third, the Article uses a comparative lens to explore how and why menopause is becoming a priority issue for the government, private employers, and workers in the United Kingdom. Finally, the Article situates menopause in U.S. equality jurisprudence broadly and suggests a place for menopause in employment law in particular. It sets out a normative vision for menopause equity in the workplace and suggests possible pathways for achieving it.