Friday, June 24, 2022

President Biden's Proposes New Administrative Rules on Title IX for Campus Sexual Assault and LGBTQ Protections

Chronicle, Here's How Title IX Could Change Under Biden's Proposed Rule

The U.S. Education Department on Thursday released its proposed Title IX regulations, which would reverse many Trump-era policies and restore the pro-victim approach championed by the Obama administration.

 

Specifically, the rule would:

  • Enshrine protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as “sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, [and] pregnancy or related conditions.”
  • Permit, but no longer require, live hearings and cross examination in Title IX investigations.
  • Expand the definition of sexual harassment.
  • Clarify the protections students, faculty, and staff have from retaliation by their institution.
  • Require colleges to confront off-campus conduct that “creates or contributes to a hostile environment.”
  • Require certain campus employees to notify the Title IX office of possible sex discrimination, a return to broader mandatory-reporting requirements. If an incident involves students, anyone with “teaching” or “advising” responsibilities — in other words, most faculty members — must report it. Some professors have criticized mandatory reporting, saying it harms the trust they’ve built with their students.
  • Require all other faculty and staff members to provide students with the contact information of the campus Title IX coordinator, unless they’re designated as confidential resources.

 

The changes would once again upend how colleges handle sexual-misconduct complaints. Experts who work with colleges say campus officials are exhausted by more than a decade of political Ping-Pong over Title IX, as the three most-recent presidential administrations have switched up rules and guidance, and colleges have rushed to comply.

Sweeping Title IX Would Shield Trans Students, Assault Survivors

On the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the Biden administration proposed sweeping changes to the landmark law that would bar schools, colleges and universities from discriminating against transgender students, as the battle over transgender rights moves to the front lines of the culture war.

 

The proposal would also amend the rules that govern how educational institutions investigate and resolve claims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Over concerns that people were being wrongfully punished, President Donald Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, revised the rules to make them more accommodating to the accused. Critics assailed the changes, saying they would discourage sexual assault survivors from coming forward to report assaults or harassment.

 

Our goal is to give full effect to the law’s reach and to deliver on its promise to protect all students from sex-based harassment and discrimination,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said. “Every student deserves to learn free from discrimination and harassment, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

June 24, 2022 in Education, Legal History, LGBT | Permalink | Comments (0)

Scottish Bill Would Pardon Thousands of Women Convicted and Executed as Witches

Thousands of Witches Could be Posthumously Pardoned in Scotland

Thousands of people were convicted of practicing witchcraft in Scotland in a hunt that spanned nearly two centuries — and the majority of those sentenced to death and executed were women. Many were also tortured.

 

Now, a bill proposed in the Scottish Parliament is trying to set the record straight, said Natalie Don, a Scottish lawmaker who introduced the proposal. It could allow for posthumous pardons to thousands of women who faced convictions hundreds of years ago.

 

The pardons would ensure they are “recognized as victims of a miscarriage of justice and are no longer recorded in history as criminals,” Don said Thursday in a video.

 

Calls for legal pardons for “witches” or “necromancers” have gathered pace in Scotland, where the country’s most senior politician, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, issued a formal apology in March to those vilified under the Witchcraft Act. The act, which was in effect from 1563 to 1736, made practicing witchcraft punishable by death.

 
“It was injustice on a colossal scale, driven at least in part by misogyny,” Sturgeon said on International Women’s Day. “They were accused and killed because they were poor, different, vulnerable or in many cases just because they were women.”

June 24, 2022 in International, Legal History, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Unequal Representation of Women in Clinical Research

Allison Whelan, Unequal Representation: Women in Clinical Research, Cornell Law Review Online 2021

Abstract:

This Article engages with legal and social history to analyze the present-day consequences of two distinct, yet related historical wrongs: the exclusion of pregnant women and women of child-bearing potential from medical research and the unknowing or unwilling medical experimentation on women of color. It provides a critical contribution to the ongoing discourse about clinical trial representation, arguing in favor of policy considerations rooted in law and society to address the harms caused by this deeply rooted and problematic history.

Introduction:

The underrepresentation of women in clinical research throughout history is a well-recognized problem. Progress has been made, but there is still room for improvement and it must be recognized that not all women have been or continue to be treated equally in the context of clinical research. On the one hand, there is a long history of paternalism and lack of respect for women’s autonomy that has resulted in the exclusion of women from research, particularly pregnant women and women of childbearing potential. The potential consequences of this are many, including harm to women’s health because diseases and treatments can affect men and women differently.

On the other hand, there is also a long history of women of color being unknowingly or unwillingly subjected to unethical medical experiments and procedures. This includes experimentation during human enslavement, carried out most famously by doctors like James Marion Sims, who abused and terrorized Black women who he rented as slaves. He performed myriad gynecological experiments on these women, often without providing them any anesthesia. It is a glaring reflection on the multiple cruelties of slavery as well as the American experience of medical experimentation.


However, the horrors experienced by women of color in the medical setting are far more extensive, spanning into the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. Famously, throughout the Jim Crow period, Black women became the unwitting subjects of eugenics platforms, legally blessed by the 1927 Supreme Court decision Buck v. Bell. In Mississippi, the frequency and normalization of sterilizations are revealed by the term “Mississippi Appendectomy” becoming associated with the practice. The term reveals the mistruths told to Black women and girls, as well as the callousness and neglect used to obtain consent for the real surgeries taking place. Most recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, allegations of sterilizations at immigrant detention centers only further the concerns related to these matters, particularly as they affect vulnerable, poor women. This history has contributed to women of color’s distrust in the government, research institutions, and the medical system in general.

These two historical wrongs are distinct, yet related in that they both harm women’s health, dignity, and autonomy. As this Article will discuss, much progress has been made to increase women’s overall representation in clinical trials, but there is far more work to be done with respect to the representation of women of color, and people of color in general. The primary focus of this Article, therefore, is the inadequate representation of women of color, and people of color more generally, in clinical trials. 

June 23, 2022 in Healthcare, Legal History, Pregnancy, Race, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Legal History and Original Drafter and Advocate of Title IX, Edith Green

Wash Post, The True Mother of Title IX. And Why it Matters Now More than Ever

June 23 marks 50 years since Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education, was signed into law. The anniversary has sparked discussion of Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink (D-Hawaii) — the first woman of color elected to Congress in 1964, for whom Title IX was renamed in 2002. In fact, the media often refers to Mink as the "mother” of Title IX.

 

But while Mink strongly defended Title IX and focused on bringing about equality under the law in her 24 years in the House, she did not actually write the bill or introduce it into Congress. Rep. Edith Green (D-Ore.) wrote Title IX and worked tirelessly on Capitol Hill to pass this landmark legislation that has improved the lives of millions of women and girls over the past half-century.

 

Today, as conservative activists and politicians work to ban the teaching of certain concepts and history related to sex and race, it is important to insist on historical accuracy in our political discussions and remembrances. Mink more fully embraced the feminist and political ideals embedded in Title IX than did Green. But the true story of Green’s involvement reminds us that progress doesn’t only come from the political leaders you’d expect.

 

Green was well-poised to take on legislation like Title IX by the early 1970s. Before tackling sex discrimination in education, she led an eight-year battle to pass the Equal Pay Act of 1963 — the first legislation of its kind, even if limited in scope by today’s standards. After 15 years in the House, Green became chair of the subcommittee on higher education. She authored or influenced nearly every education bill during her tenure in the House, earning her the nickname “Mrs. Education.”

 

Green was a champion of sex equality and educational reform, but she seemed to have at least one blind spot on race. By February 1970, when she introduced the first iteration of Title IX, Green was a vocal opponent of court-ordered busing to racially integrate schools. Although Green didn’t see herself as racist, her argument that busing decisions should be left to local control was a favorite of anti-integrationists. Critics alternately referred to her as “the liberal racist,” “the sweetheart of the Southerners” and “the Nixon Democrat.”

June 23, 2022 in Education, Legal History, Legislation, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 20, 2022

The Controversial Origins of Father's Day and its Connection with Women's Child Custody Rights

Wash Post, Father's Day Once was Highly Political--and Could Become So Again

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.

 

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.”

June 20, 2022 in Family, Gender, Legal History, Masculinities, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

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:

WSJ, Yes, Susan B Anthony Was Pro-Life

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

The Atlantic, The Abortion Debate and the Legacy of Women's Suffrage (June 2019)

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

 

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law by [Tracy A. Thomas]

June 15, 2022 in Abortion, Books, Constitutional, Family, Legal History, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 13, 2022

The Effectiveness of Dispute Resolution for Gender Discrimination Claims

Catherine Ross Dunham, Social Truths in the Workplace: How Adversarialism Undermines Discrimination Litigation 

This article explores the effectiveness of dispute resolution for gender discrimination claims in the American system of civil litigation. Adversarialism is a defining feature of the American system of civil justice, beginning with reduced trust in the quasi-inquisitorial system of Chancery in the nineteenth century and escalating with the increased importance of lawyers and public trials in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Although adversarialism remains of great importance in some aspects of the American system, this article questions whether the adversarial system is the best dispute resolution system to address workplace-based discrimination claims, as those claims are intimately connected to changes in social and cultural understandings within the workplace and within American society.

The tenets of our system over-rely on the assumption of a shared social context to define social truth. But that assumption is flawed in workplace discrimination litigation as workplace context varies by profession, and the worker experience varies based on the individual’s position in the hierarchy. For example, in a gender bias-driven workplace, a male supervisor may see the workplace culture as fair and merit-based, whereas his female contemporary may view the workplace culture as competitive and closed, seeing her position as that of an outsider who had to navigate her career path carefully. These varying perspectives create different social truths in the workplace, which are challenged by litigation. When the female employee claims that she was discriminated against in an unfair workplace, her social truth is thrust against the social truth of other supervisors and managers who view the workplace as fair. Litigation places those two conflicting understandings of workplace culture into direct controversy and positions the relevant parties as adversaries not only on the legal issues, but also on the issue of what is true about the workplace culture, reducing the opportunity for meaningful cultural change within and without the workplace.

This article asks what type of dispute resolution system can create a more reliable assessment of workplace social truth. By exploring options such as the quasi-inquisitorial systems of American Chancery and European conciliation, as well as the role of arbitration in American civil litigation, the article suggests that a non-adversarial approach allows for a more holistic resolution of workplace controversies. If a conflict is overseen by a judicial officer who can approach the conflict from a place of conciliation, cognizant of the relevant community and social context, resolution options can not only offer relief to the plaintiff within the subject workplace, but can also protect the relevant economic and cultural interests of the defendant. Conflict resolution which attempts to understand the competing social truths of the workplace, can offer an opportunity for voluntary change in the workplace without placing parties fully at risk, as they are in the “winner-take-all” litigation scenario. Furthermore, as our social truths evolve and change, our dispute resolution system, which de facto manages those truths through adversarial litigation, should be reconsidered for its role in creating new truths about whether the workplace is fair to all.

June 13, 2022 in Business, Courts, Equal Employment, Legal History, Theory | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, June 9, 2022

The History of Women-Led, Non-Lawyer Legal Aid in Boston, Chicago, and Elsewhere

From the Legal History Blog, Jeon on Women-Led, Non-Lawyer Legal Aid in Boston

Kelsea A. Jeon, the holder of an M.Phil in Socio-Legal Research from the University of Oxford, has published Legal Aid Without Lawyers: How Boston’s Nonlawyers Delivered and Shaped Justice for the Poor, 1879–1921 in the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy:

Women nonlawyers were some of the first actors to provide organized legal aid to America’s poor. Yet, today, unauthorized practice of law statutes bar nonlawyers from providing legal help, citing concerns about malpractice and public harm. This Article uses a historical case study to challenge conceptions that nonlawyers cannot provide effective legal services to the people. The study focuses on the development of legal aid in Boston via two organizations, the nonlawyer-led Women’s Educational and Industrial Union and the lawyer-centric Boston Legal Aid Society. Although organized legal aid in Boston began with the nonlawyers at the Union, they were eventually overtaken by the lawyer-centric Legal Aid Society. This paper examines this transition in legal aid practitioners, emphasizing how nonlawyers provided effective legal help. In doing so, it challenges the modern-day conception that access to justice requires access to an attorney and serves as a powerful counter to claims that nonlawyer practitioners endanger the public.

For more on the history of women-led legal aid, see Felice Batlan,  Women and Justice for the Poor: A History of Legal Aid , 1863-1945 (Cambridge Press 2015):

This book re-examines fundamental assumptions about the American legal profession and the boundaries between “professional” lawyers, “lay” lawyers, and social workers. Putting legal history and women's history in dialogue, it demonstrates that nineteenth-century women's organizations first offered legal aid to the poor and that middle-class women functioning as lay lawyers, provided such assistance. Felice Batlan illustrates that by the early twentieth century, male lawyers founded their own legal aid societies. These new legal aid lawyers created an imagined history of legal aid and a blueprint for its future in which women played no role and their accomplishments were intentionally omitted. In response, women social workers offered harsh criticisms of legal aid leaders and developed a more robust social work model of legal aid. These different models produced conflicting understandings of expertise, professionalism, the rule of law, and ultimately, the meaning of justice for the poor

 

June 9, 2022 in Books, Courts, Legal History, Poverty, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Leading Historian Explains What Alito Gets Wrong About the History of Abortion in America

One of the leading historians, Leslie Regan, who literally wrote the book on the topic, see When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973.com/When-Abortion-Was-Crime-1867-1973 (1996)  explains what Justice Alito's draft opinion in Dobbs gets very wrong.

Leslie Reagan, What Alito Gets Wrong About the History of Abortion in America

f it were possible to eavesdrop on conversations among women and some doctors in early America, you might overhear the phrase “bringing on the menses.” If a woman didn’t menstruate when expected, she was considered to be sick and action was required to bring her back to health. Women who had “a common cold” — a euphemism for “obstructed” menses — used a variety of methods, teas and concoctions to bring “their menses back.”

In other words, returning menstruation to its normal cycle was within the purview of a woman’s own self-health care and was not regulated by the state until after “quickening” — the moment during a pregnancy when a woman could feel a fetus kick and recognized a life “stirring” within her. Quickening occurred between the fourth and sixth month of pregnancy. Only after quickening was an induced miscarriage, an abortion, considered immoral and banned by law.

The truth is that abortion is deeply rooted in our nation’s history — in practice, in morality and in law. Abortion was not always a crime — although Justice Samuel Alito speciously claims otherwise in his recently disclosed draft majority opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.***

The logic that Alito uses in the draft opinion leans heavily on history — history that he gets egregiously wrong. Alito explicitly dismisses the distinction between ending a pregnancy before or after quickening, a distinction that my research has found was critical to the way American women and American physicians traditionally thought about pregnancy. In early America as in early modern England, abortion before “quickening” was legal under common law and widely accepted in practice.

June 7, 2022 in Abortion, Books, Constitutional, Legal History, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 6, 2022

Exposing the Patent Archives as an Inaccurate Record of US Invention When Viewed Through the Lens of the Black Woman

Kara Swanson, Inventing While a Black Woman: Passing and the Patent Archive, 25 Stanford Tech. L. Rev. (forthcoming)

This Article uses historical methodology to reframe persistent race and gender gaps in patent rates as archival silences. Gaps are absences, positioning the missing as failed non-participants. By centering Black women and letting the silences fill with whispered stories, this Article upends our understanding of the patent archive as an accurate record of US invention and reveals powerful truths about the creativity, accomplishments, and patent savviness of Black women and others excluded from the status of “inventor.” Exposing the patent system as raced and gendered terrain, it argues that marginalized inventors participated in invention and patenting by situational passing. It rewrites the legal history of the true inventor doctrine to include the unappreciated ways in which white men used false non-inventors to receive patents as a convenient form of assignment. It argues that marginalized inventors adopted this practice, risking the sanction of patent invalidity, to avoid bias and stigma in the patent office and the marketplace. The Article analyzes patent passing in the context of the legacy of slavery and coverture that constrained all marginalized inventors. Passing, while an act of creative adaptation, also entailed loss. Individual inventors gave up the public status of inventor and also, often, the full value of their inventions. Cumulatively, the practice amplified the patent gaps, systematically overrepresenting white men and thus reinforcing the biases marginalized inventors sought to avoid. The Article further argues that false inventors were used as a means of appropriating the inventions of marginalized inventors. This research provides needed context to the current effort to remedy patent gaps. Through its intersectional approach, it also brings patent law into broader conversations about how law has supported systemic racism and sexism and contributed to societal inequality.

June 6, 2022 in Business, Guest Bloggers, Legal History, Race, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

The 19th Century History of Abortion Medicines and Advertisements for "Relief for Ladies"

Forget "Abortion": Bring Back "Relief for Ladies."

Supporters of the right to abortion often stumble over the word itself, choosing “choice” as a more acceptable thing to be “pro.” Only recently in the long history of the abortion debate have advocacy groups started to press for use of the word “abortion” and ask that people “shout” their abortions, as one campaign puts it.***

In the 18th and most of the 19th century, before abortion became the province of the medical establishment and the courts, the procedure was widespread, and abortifacients — drugs that cause abortions — were widely marketed. But there was no advertising for “abortions.”

The woman-centered language was a code of sorts. The advertisers encrypted the word “abortion” to evade moral censure and — after the Comstock Act of 1873 criminalized the distribution of abortifacients — to avoid legal consequences as well.

Women knew what regaining their “regularity” really meant, though, just as today we all know that a “cleanse” or a “detox” most likely includes a laxative or diuretic. Early Viagra ads said “love life again” — not “chemically induce your erection.”

But even if marketing Dr. Peter’s French Renovating Pills as “a blessing to mothers” was euphemistic, it circulated a potent message about women’s perfectly reasonable desire not to be pregnant. A desire they have been seeking means to fulfill since at least the Roman Empire.

 

 

 

 

Instead there were ads for “Relief for Ladies” suffering from “obstructed menses.” “Female renovating pills” treated “all cases where nature has stopped from any cause.” Dr. Pierce’s Favorite Prescription promised to clear away “all the troubles and ailments that make woman’s life a burden to her. She’s relieved, cured, and restored.”

“This invaluable medicine,” read an ad for Sir J. Clarke’s Female Pills, “moderates all excess, removes all obstructions, and brings on the monthly period with regularity.”

June 6, 2022 in Abortion, Legal History, Pop Culture, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 2, 2022

The Path Almost Taken Toward Abortion Rights in the NY Abramowicz Case Rather than Roe

Emily Bazelon, America Almost Took a Different Path Toward Abortion Rights

For three days in January 1970, they filled the 13th floor of the federal courthouse in Manhattan, women of all ages crowded into a conference room, sitting on the floor, spilling into the hallway. Some brought friends or husbands. One nursed a baby. Another was a painter who also taught elementary school. A third had gone to Catholic school. They’d come to give testimony in the case of Abramowicz v. Lefkowitz, the first in the country to challenge a state’s strict abortion law on behalf of women.

 

The witnesses in the courthouse were among 314 people, primarily women, brought together by a small team of lawyers, led by Florynce Kennedy and Nancy Stearns, to set up a legal argument no one had made before: that a woman’s right to an abortion was rooted in the Constitution’s promises of liberty and equal protection. New York permitted abortion only to save a woman’s life. Kennedy and Stearns wanted the court to understand how risking an illegal procedure or carrying a forced pregnancy could constrict women’s lives in ways that men did not experience.***

 

Those objectives started with forcing the courts to confront the impact of a near ban on abortion on women’s lives. “When we couldn’t control when we had a baby, we weren’t free and we weren’t equal,” Nancy Stearns, the lead writer of the briefs in the case, explained to me recently over the phone. “That was our fundamental argument,” she said of putting gender equality at the center of the case. “It was clearly even stronger for low-income women.”

 

At the time, Stearns’s framing was unheard-of as a legal theory. It wasn’t just that the Supreme Court hadn’t decided a case about abortion. The court “had never found a single law to violate the equal-protection clause because it discriminated on the grounds of sex,” Reva B. Siegel, a Yale Law professor, explained in The Boston University Law Review in 2010.

June 2, 2022 in Abortion, Constitutional, Courts, Legal History, Legislation, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 26, 2022

New Book The Case of Caroline Norton and the History of Married Women's Loss of Child Custody Rights

NYT, Review: The Case of the Married Woman, by Antonia Fraser

***[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.

May 26, 2022 in Books, Family, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

10 Books to Understand the Abortion Debate

NYT, Ten Books to Understand the Abortion Debate in the US

***To help understand how we got to this point, here is a list of 10 books — five that examine the legal, political and social foundations of abortion in America, followed by another five that explore all that abortion has encompassed since Roe: issues of violence and stigma, politics and race, medicine and law, philosophy and medicine.

 

Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy (1978), by James C. Mohr

 

Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade (1994), by David Garrow

 

Before Roe v. Wade: Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling (2010), by Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegel

 

Abortion & the Politics of Motherhood (1984), by Kristin Luker

 

Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement before Roe v. Wade (2016), by Daniel K. Williams

 

After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate (2015), by Mary Ziegler

 

Wrath of Angels: The American Abortion War (1998), by James Risen and Judy L. Thomas

 

Abortion After Roe (2015), by Johanna Schoen

 

Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law, and Politics of Ordinary Abortion (2018), by Katie Watson

 

‘What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics (2020), by O. Carter Snead

May 25, 2022 in Abortion, Books, Legal History, Pop Culture, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Equal Protection Arguments in the Dobbs Abortion Case

Featured on the Legal Theory Blog is Reva Siegel, Serena Mayeri & Melissa Murray, On Equal Protection and the Dobbs Draft, on their article Equal Protection in Dobbs and Beyond: How States Protect Life Inside and Outside of the Abortion Context, 43 Columbia J. Gender & Law (forthcoming).

In the leaked draft of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Justice Samuel Alito dismissed the Equal Protection Clause as an alternative ground of the abortion right, citing an amicus brief in which we advanced that argument. In dicta, Justice Alito claimed that precedents foreclosed the brief’s arguments (pp. 10-11).

 

Justice Alito did not address a single equal protection case or argument on which the brief relied. Instead, he cited Geduldig v. Aiello, a 1974 case decided before the Court extended heightened scrutiny to sex-based state action—a case our brief shows has been superseded by United States v. Virginia and Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs. Justice Alito’s claim to address equal protection precedents without discussing any of these decisions suggests an unwillingness to recognize the last half century of sex equality law—a spirit that finds many forms of expression in the opinion’s due process analysis.

 

This Essay, written before Justice Alito’s draft leaked, explains the brief’s equal protection arguments for abortion rights, and shows how these equality-based arguments open up crucial conversations that extend far beyond abortion.***

 

Equality challenges to abortion bans preceded Roe, and will continue long after Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, however the Court rules in that case. In this Essay we discuss our amicus brief in Dobbs, demonstrating that Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

May 24, 2022 in Abortion, Constitutional, Legal History, SCOTUS, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 20, 2022

More on the History of Abortion as Different than Presented by Justice Alito in the Draft Dobbs Opinion

Wash Post, Abortion in the Founders" Era

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. calls himself an originalist, someone who thinks the Constitution should be interpreted only by how it would have been understood by the Founders when they wrote it. So it’s no surprise that his draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade is full of history.

 
At least seven times, Alito cited Sir Matthew Hale, a 17th-century jurist who didn’t think marital rape was possible because wives were the property of their husbands, and who sentenced at least two women to die for witchcraft. Alito also cited a legal text from 1250 by Henry de Bracton that, in another section, says women are inferior to men, and that they sometimes give birth to literal monsters.

 

Alito confined his exploration of the past to legal history and English common law. But to assess how the Founders would view abortion rights, it’s necessary to paint a fuller picture of what abortion was actually like in the time of the Founders.

 

In the 18th-century United States and England, abortion was common enough that there were slang terms for it, like “taking the cold,” “taking the trade” and “bringing down the flowers.”It was less-effective and more dangerous than it is now; women seeking abortions often died from infected wounds or poisons. And it was generally unregulated, except for a few instances in England and one in colonial Maryland mentioned by Alito in the draft opinion.

 

In the late-18th and early-19th centuries, no states had laws against any form of abortion, though Alito averred that “manuals for justices of the peace printed in the colonies in the 18th century” sometimes "repeated Hale’s and [William] Blackstone’s statements that anyone who prescribed medication ‘unlawfully to destroy the child’ would be guilty of murder if the woman died.”

NPR, For Ben Franklin, Abortion Was Simple Arithmetic

NPR's Emily Feng speaks with Molly Farrell from The Ohio State University on why Ben Franklin included instructions for at-home abortions in his reference book, The American Instructor.***

 

So I thought, OK, how do you solve the problem of a missed period? And it says this is a common complaint among unmarried women that they miss their period. And then it starts to prescribe basically all of the best-known herbal abortifacients and contraceptives that were circulating at the time. It's just sort of a greatest hits of what 18th-century herbalists would have given a woman who wanted to end a pregnancy early in her pregnancy. And that's what, by the way, this abortifacient recipe would really be for was really early. It talks about, like, make sure you start to take it a week before you expect to be out of order. So take it before you've even missed that period, and it will be most effective. So it's very explicit, very detailed, also very accurate for the time in terms of what was known at the time for how to end a pregnancy pretty early on.

 

And then at the end, it just really comes out swinging and lets you know this is definitely related to sex 'cause it says, you know, also women - you know, in order to prevent this complaint at the end - so prevention for next time - don't long for pretty fellows or any other trash whatsoever.

See also Molly Farrell, Ben Franklin Put an Abortion Recipe in his Math Textbook

May 20, 2022 in Abortion, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sojourner Truth Monument Revealed for Akron

The Sojourner Truth Project Committee plans to build a 10,000-square-foot plaza that will welcome visitors coming into Akron. (Courtesy of GPD Group )

Sojourner Truth Committee Reveals Akron Monument Designs

AKRON, Ohio — As the anniversary nears of Sojourner Truth’s celebrated “Ain’t I a Woman” speech in Akron, a dedicated group of women is at work bringing a years-long dream to fruition — a tribute as memorable and powerful as the life and work of the slave-turned-suffragette, built on the site where she made history.

 

In less than two years, the Sojourner Truth Project Committee plans to build a 10,000-square-foot plaza that will welcome visitors coming into Akron from the north, with the word “TRUTH” clearly visible on entry. Near the plaza’s center will be a sculpture of Sojourner Truth seated on an Impala lily, a petal design radiating outward from her feet, and her right hand extended in welcome.

 

“Truth is such a big word. It’s so bold and so concrete. What it stands for is unwavering,” said Summit County Metro Parks’ landscape architect Dion Harris, who the committee commissioned to design the plaza.

 

Truth was a powerful voice for women’s rights, especially women of color. An emancipated New-York slave born Isabella Baumfree, she changed her name in 1843 before crisscrossing the nation to speak against slavery and for women’s rights.

 

On May 29, 1851 during an Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, the steps of the Old Stone Church on High Street served as Truth’s platform. She was not invited, nor was she asked to speak, but her speech that day is remembered as a voice for all women.

 

Although the steps are long gone, the power of Truth’s speech remains, rendering it one of the most important women’s rights speeches on record in the U.S.

 

Harris researched Truth’s life and work to infuse that meaning into the design, he said. The impala lily is the national flower of Ghana, Truth’s ancestry on her father’s side.

May 20, 2022 in Legal History, Pop Culture, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 16, 2022

Trauma as Inclusion

Raquel E. Aldana, Patrick Marius Koga, Thomas O’Donnell, Alea Skwara, and Caroline Perris have posted a forthcoming article, Trauma as Inclusion, on SSRN. The article is forthcoming in Summer 2022 in the Tennessee Law Review.  It "brings together a historian and law, public health, psychiatry, psychology, and neuroscience faculty and researchers to document how trauma is understood across disciplines and how it has developed in U.S. immigration law largely to exclude but increasingly to include migrants whose lives have been uprooted or otherwise impacted by borders." It describes, for example, how refugee and asylum law "largely fail to protect individuals and groups facing persecution by private actors, such as women and LGBTQIA+ individuals, even when private violence has become indistinguishable from state sponsored persecution." It then explores how the Violence Against Women Act has more potential for a model of "trauma as inclusion": 

Unfortunately, several obstacles, including evidentiary barriers impede the full potential of the VAWA self-petition process. Proving trauma for domestic violence victims is difficult, even in cases involving physical abuse, given the barriers to reporting. Moreover, when the alleged hardship is based on “extreme cruelty,” an immigrant’s narrative alone can be deemed insufficient to establish eligibility. For immigrants who can afford it, sometimes psychological evaluations can help document psychological trauma that is not otherwise documentable. However, even these types of evidence may not help overcome the Western clinical conceptualizations of trauma that undermine the lived experiences of more resilient women, especially when one considers the different ways that victims respond to trauma. Worse yet, these types of psychological evaluations can be used against immigrants to deny relief, such as when documented depression and suicidal thoughts trigger mental health grounds of inadmissibility.

May 16, 2022 in Human trafficking, Legal History, Legislation, Theory, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 12, 2022

More Reliance on Witch Trial-esque Precedent in the Draft Dobbs Opinion and the Case of Eleanor Beare

In the draft Dobbs opinion (p.17), Justice Alito writing for the majority to overturn Roe v. Wade and Casey, features as precedent the 1732 English case of Eleanor Beare.  He uses this case to bolster his point that abortion was a crime "dating all the way back to the 13th century."   

Alito says:

In 1732, for example, Eleanor Beare was convicted of "destroying the Foetus in the Womb" of another woman and "there-by causing her to miscarry." For that crime and another "misdemeanor" Beare was sentenced to two days in the pillory and three years' imprisonment.

The authority he cites to is 2 Gentleman's Magazine 931 (Aug. 1732).  The citation and case are in Dellapenna, Dispelling the Myths of Abortion, a book heavily relied on as the key authority for Alito's history.  Dellapenna is a retired law professor with an expertise in water rights turned anti-abortion advocate.  Alito excoriates the Roe majority for its "unsupportable" reliance on the work of Cyril Means, a pro-choice supporter who Alito says provided work "the guise of impartial scholarship while advancing the proper ideological goals."  Op. at 27.  Yet Alito does precisely that here, just selecting an advocate from the anti-abortion side.

Online sources provide a a summary of the trial and what appears to be a transcript of The Tryal of Eleanor Beare of Derby, England.  Authenticity is certainly a question as to these sources, but they match quotes used by Alito in his opinion.  The trial summary is from The Newgate Calendar, a popular literary book of the 18th and 19th century editorializing and moralizing about legal cases.  

Like the Salem witch trials, the proceedings including hearsay, finger pointing by neighbors and former friends, and lack of counsel for the defendant.  Eleanor, apparently a midwife and the wife of a "labourer," is asked by three clients to assist in an abortion, and in another case healing a wife who took poison from another.  The first charge of homicide seems to carry the case and sentence, as Beare is alleged to have helped a man she met at a bar poison the wife he hated.  No allegation of pregnancy or abortion in that charge.  Beare, cross-examining herself, says wasn't I just helping you save your wife whom you had poisoned with poison you got from a Mary Tecmans?   

Eleanor is punished for these misdemeanors by sentence of standing in the pillory in the marketplace--the stockade of arms and head in the town square--where members of the community pummeled her with eggs, turnips, stones, "and any other filth they could collect." Annals of Crime in the Midland Circuit, or Biographies  of Noted Criminals (1859).  "She knelt down, and begged mercy of the still outrageous mob."  Id.  "Stones were thrown, which wounded her to such a degree, that her blood streamed down the pillory." Id.  This "somewhat appeased the resentment" of the crowd, and she was returned to jail. Id.

May 12, 2022 in Abortion, Judges, Legal History, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Relying on the Precedent of Witch Trials in the Draft Dobbs Abortion Opinion

Justice Alito resurrects the ghosts of witch trials past in the draft opinion in Dobbs.  He relies on the authority of Lord Hale, infamous English jurist who hanged women as witches, created the marital rape exception, and crafted the jury instruction to warn against believing women in rape allegations.  He also features the Salem-esque trial of Eleanor Beare and her punishment by pummeling with eggs and turnips in the town square.  More on Eleanor in part 2 of this post.

Ken Armstrong, Draft Overturning Roe v. Wade Quotes Infamous Witch Trial Judge With Long-Discredited Views on Rape

When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, in a draft opinion obtained and published this week by Politico, detailed his justifications for overturning Roe v. Wade, he invoked a surprising name given the case’s subject. In writing about abortion, a matter inextricably tied to a woman’s control over her body, Alito chose to quote from Sir Matthew Hale, a 17th-century English jurist whose writings and reasonings have caused enduring damage to women for hundreds of years.

 

The so-called marital rape exemption — the legal notion that a married woman cannot be raped by her husband — traces to Hale. So does a long-used instruction to jurors to be skeptical of reports of rape. So, in a way, do the infamous Salem witch trials, in which women (and some men) were hanged on or near Gallows Hill.

 

Hale’s influence in the United States has been on the wane since the 1970s, with one state after another abandoning his legal principles on rape. But Alito’s opinion resurrects Hale, a judge who was considered misogynistic even by his era’s notably low standards. *** 

 

Hale became Lord Chief Justice of England in 1671.***

 

Courts have long leaned on precedents established by old cases and the scholarship of legal authorities from centuries gone by. But what happens when you trace citations back to their ancient source? In Hale’s case, you sometimes find a man conceiving precepts out of thin air. Other times it was the opposite, as he clung to notions that were already becoming anachronistic in the last half of the 17th century.

 

Consider the marital rape exemption. In “Pleas of the Crown,” Hale wrote, “The husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband which she cannot retract.” So, according to Hale, marriage, for a woman, amounts to contractual forfeit, in which she loses legal protection or recourse should her husband sexually assault her.

 

Hale’s pronouncement became the accepted common law and served as foundation in the United States for immunizing a husband accused of raping his wife. And where did Hale’s pronouncement come from? What did he base it upon? Who knows? “Hale appears to have been the first to articulate what later would become an accepted legal principle, that a husband cannot be charged with raping his wife,” according to a footnote in one law review article. Another law review article, titled “The Marital Rape Exemption: Evolution to Extinction,” called Hale’s pronouncement “an unsupported, extrajudicial statement” lacking in authority.

 

Starting in the 1970s, states began to abandon the marital rape exemption, in whole or in part.***

 

In “Pleas of the Crown,” Hale called rape a “most detestable crime.” Then, in words quoted many times since, he wrote, “It must be remembered, that it is an accusation easy to be made and hard to be proved, and harder to be defended by the party accused, tho never so innocent.”

 

Hale evoked the fear of the false accuser — and made for that fear a legal frame, which lasted for more than 300 years. In weighing the evidence in cases of alleged rape, jurors (all men, in Hale’s time and for long after) needed to consider a series of factors, Hale wrote. Did the woman cry out? Did she try to flee? Was she of “good fame” or “evil fame”? Was she supported by others? Did she make immediate complaint afterward?

 

Hale’s words and formulation became a standard feature of criminal trials in the United States, with jurors instructed by judges to be especially wary of allegations of rape.***

 

Then there was Hale’s role in what today is synonymous with the perversion of justice: witch trials.

 

In 1662, Hale presided at a jury trial in Bury St. Edmunds in which two women, Amy Denny and Rose Cullender, were accused of being witches. In a book on this case, “A Trial of Witches,” authors Ivan Bunn and Gilbert Geis wrote that by 1662, “belief in witches was in retreat in England.” Hale, however, was not part of that retreat. He believed witches were real. “Hale represented not a mainstream position but rather one rapidly becoming anachronistic,” Bunn and Geis wrote.

 

What’s more, Hale instructed the jurors that witches were real. 

 

May 12, 2022 in Abortion, Constitutional, Judges, Legal History, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)