women of SCOTUS

Friday Feminist Fuck Yeah: The Women of the Supreme Court

As you likely know, the Supreme Court heard opening arguments this week in the most important abortion case in decades. For a recap of the day’s proceedings, I recommend Dahlia Lithwick’s account of the three women justices — Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan — “pounding on Texas’ solicitor general for passing abortion regulations that have no plausible health purpose and also seem pretty stupid.”

I especially loved this moment when the Notorious RBG quickly exposed the entire pretense for Texas’ restrictions — that they’re just about “protecting patient safety” — as the clear lie it is in under a minute. From another account on Slate:

Ginsburg asked Keller how many women would live 100 miles or more from a clinic if the Texas law went into effect. About 25 percent, he responded—but that didn’t include the clinic in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, just over the border from El Paso. The existence of this clinic featured heavily in the 5th Circuit’s decision to uphold the Texas statute; it asserted that the law did not impose on “undue burden” on abortion-seeking El Paso women, because they could simply cross state lines for the procedure.

“That’s odd that you point to the New Mexico facility,” Ginsburg said, in a clear and firm voice. New Mexico, after all, doesn’t force abortion clinics to meet the same standards that Texas would—standards which, Texas claims, are absolutely critical to protect women.

“So if your argument is right,” Ginsburg continued, “then New Mexico is not an available way out for Texas, because Texas says: To protect our women, we need these things. But send them off to New Mexico,” to clinics with more lenient standards, “and that’s perfectly all right.”

“Well,” Ginsburg concluded, with just a hint of pique in her voice, “If that’s all right for the women in the El Paso area, why isn’t it right for the rest of the women in Texas?”

Why, indeed? In other words, in order to argue that the restrictions do not pose an undue burden, the state is forced to admit that they aren’t actually necessary to protect women’s health at all. Later, Kagan grilled Keller on why Texas would set many more restrictions on abortion than other medical procedures with much higher complication rates, finally forcing him to admit that, well, “legislatures react to topics that are of public concern.” Yup, that sounds more like it. Maybe now the state will stop pretending this is about anything other than using any means possible to prevent access to abortion.

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St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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