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Right to Control

Many of the cases that arrive before the U.S. Supreme Court begin with individuals either trying right a wrong or make their own lives better.  They rarely expect to launch a national movement.  That was pretty much the case when Norma McCorvey found herself pregnant with her third child in 1969.  An unemployed carnival worker living outside Dallas at the time, McCorvey apparently had led a rough life and had given up her first two children for adoption.  She didn’t need – and couldn’t afford – to bring another child into the world.  However, the state of Texas didn’t allow for abortions except to save the life of the mother.  Even rape and incest victims couldn’t end their unwanted pregnancies.  Like so many women in her situation, McCorvey was too poor to travel to another state where abortions were safe and legal.  She even tried to obtain an illegal abortion, but again the cost was prohibitive.  She sought legal help and ended up under the guidance of attorneys Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington.

In 1970, after McCorvey had given birth and given up the baby, Coffee and Weddington filed paper work challenging the Texas law and bestowed the name “Jane Roe” upon their client.  They targeted then-Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade.  Wade had entered the national spotlight nearly a decade earlier when he prosecuted Jack Ruby for killing Lee Harvey Oswald who had been accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy.  (Wade would later come to light as a ruthless prosecutor who engaged in unscrupulous legal maneuvers to ensure criminal prosecutions, no matter the cost and despite evidence to the contrary.)

After McCorvey’s suit was filed, a Texas district court ruled the state’s abortion ban violated the constitutional right to privacy under the 14th Amendment.  Wade persisted, however, and vowed to prosecute any doctor who performed what he deemed unnecessary abortions in the state.  The case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court and, in a 7-2 ruling on January 22, 1973, abortion was fully legalized in the United States.

That was pretty much the end of the issue until the 1980s, when right-wing religious leaders began stoking the fires of anti-abortion rhetoric.  It accompanied the presidency of Ronald Reagan who openly stated he wished for a return to an America before the 1960s.  That should say enough about his bigoted state of mind, but it aligned with a growing hostility towards progressive ideology and civil rights legislation.

Earlier this week the unexpected news arrived that the Supreme Court may overturn Roe vs. Wade by the end of its current term in June.  We wouldn’t know anything about this if it wasn’t for the leak of a draft opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito who declares the Roe decision “egregiously wrong” in terms of constitutional practicality.  Chief Justice John Roberts has confirmed the veracity of the statement, but has joined many others in condemning the leak.

For many of us the leak isn’t the main concern.  It’s what it says.  There is now a very real possibility that nearly a half century of protection for that part of women’s overall health care could end because a handful of conservative extremists on the High Court want to inject their personal views into it.

For their like-minded ilk in the American public, the overturning of Roe marks the end of a long-fought battle in their alleged “pro-life” agenda; a perverted early Mother’s Day gift.  It doesn’t matter that a majority of Americans don’t want to see a complete ban on abortion.  They’ve been working for this moment over the past four decades.

For liberals, though, this is a much more dire situation.  While the current case that brought Roe back into the forefront is limited to just abortion, progressives see other seminal SCOTUS decisions in the judicial crosshairs.  It really isn’t extraordinary to see such cases as Obergefell vs. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, reversed.  Along with abortion, queer rights have been a target of far-right conservatives.  But, if the Court sees fit to outlaw abortion at the national level (and leave it up to individual states), it could also reasonably overturn Griswold vs. Connecticut, which ruled that states could not deny birth control to married couples.  Before that decision, married residents of Connecticut (and a few other states) couldn’t legally purchase birth control.

To some conservatives, abortion has become another form of birth control, which is not what contemporary feminists who jump-started the modern women’s movement desired.  The latter group had always declared that abortion should be a woman’s last choice.  But, with the overall concept of birth control in mind, is it possible a woman who has a tubal ligation could be criminally prosecuted?  For that matter, could men who have vasectomies be subject to criminal jurisprudence?  How about condoms or IUDs?  Could those be outlawed?

Why stop with Roe?  Aside from Obergefell and Griswold, could the Court target Loving vs. Virginia, the case that struck laws against interracial marriage?  How about Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education, which outlaws racial desegregation in schools?

Remember that, when Antonin Scalia died in 2016, Republicans in the Senate displayed their usual contempt and disdain for President Obama by refusing to hold hearings on his nominee to the Court, until after Donald Trump got into office.  They stated that, since Scalia’s death occurred during an election year, the incoming president should select his replacement.  Yet, upon the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2020, they rammed through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett – a character straight out of “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

That social and religious conservatives want to dictate what women can and cannot do with their own bodies conflicts with the long-held American vision of individual freedom.  Many of these people screamed at the thought mandatory mask-wearing or forced vaccinations at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic; crying they should have autonomy over their own bodies.  Really?  What an original concept.

Conservatives herald the beauty of life, but a life costs hard dollars in the very real world of child-rearing.  Since 2019, for example, the state of Texas has experienced a 1,100% rise in children placed into foster care.  Love and compassion alone won’t pay those bills, no matter how much prayer one puts forth.  Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie once emphasized that pro-life means the entire life cycle – not just up to the moment the fetus is born.

The reasons why an individual woman wants to end a pregnancy are myriad, but it is no one else’s business.  As painful a decision as it may be, I’d rather see a woman end a pregnancy she doesn’t want than give birth to a child she doesn’t want.  Children who come into the world unwanted are often unloved.  That’s an awful fate for someone.

Regardless, pregnancy and birth are individual choices.  No one – not the Supreme Court and not a politician – has the right to interfere with that.

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Worst Quotes of the Week – April 16, 2022

“What we have is kids not only being indoctrinated but groomed, in a very real sense, by people who are, whether they know it or not, sexual predators.  Are they abusing the kids physically? No, I don’t think so. But they are abusing them mentally and using sex to do so.”

David Mamet, offering his views on the “Don’t Say Gay” issue in an interview with Fox News

Mamet added, “This has always been the problem with education. Teachers are inclined, particularly men because men are predators, to pedophilia.”

“I had to do something to gain his respect.”

Dustin Thompson, a January 6 rioter, during testimony about his actions

Thompson said he believed Trump sent him to attack on U.S. Capitol and thwart certification of the 2020 elections.  He also stated that he had been laid off from his job as an exterminator at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and – feeling “isolated” and “stuck at home” – eventually “fell down the rabbit hole” of online conspiracy theories.

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Best Quote of the Week – April 9, 2022

“I think — you know, a lot of my friends are registered Republicans living out there.  They think that too.  I mean, it’s just so outrageous.  That $2 trillion tax cut, the last guy — what was his name?  Anyway, the last guy…I forgot it.  He never showed up for the inauguration, but anyway.”

President Joe Biden, at North America’s Building Trades Unions Legislative Conference

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Best Quotes of the Week – April 2, 2022

“Attorney General Garland, do your job so we can do ours.”

Rep. Elaine Luria, to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on pursuing former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows over the January 6, 2021 insurrection

Meadows has refused to cooperate with investigators, but the U.S. Department of Justice has seemed reluctant to hold him in contempt of Congress.

“Ultimately, the momentary exchange between three wealthy and powerful celebrities pales to the systemic ills and public health crises and international war crimes we are daily immersed in, but it’s also a microcosm of what’s at stake as we face all of them.”

John Pavlovitz, about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at last Sunday’s Oscar ceremonies

“The Department of Justice has a duty to act on this referral and others that we have sent. Without enforcement of congressional subpoenas, there is no oversight, and without oversight, no accountability — for the former president, or any other president, past, present, or future. Without enforcement of its lawful process, Congress ceases to be a co-equal branch of government.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, in a statement to U.S. Attorney General Garland about Mark Meadows

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Worst Quotes of the Week – March 12, 2022

“Remember that Zelensky is a thug. Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies.”

Rep. Madison Cawthorn, about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during a recent gathering of Trump supporters

“The United States of America and the European States must not marginalize Russia but build an alliance with it, not only to restart trade for the prosperity of all, but in lieu of the reconstruction of a Christian Civilization, which will be the only one able to save the world from the transhuman and medical-technical globalist monster.”

Roman Catholic Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, in a March 7 letter about the Ukraine-Russia crisis

A former Vatican envoy and outspoken papal critic, Viganò blamed “deep state” forces in the United States, the European Union and NATO for triggering the current war and demonizing Russia.

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Best Quotes of the Week – March 12, 2022

“Division superintendents disagree with your assumption that discriminatory and divisive concepts have become widespread in Virginia school divisions.”

Howard Kiser, executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, in a letter to Jillian Balow, the state superintendent of schools, regarding Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s “tip line” set up to let parents complain about teachers and principals

All 133 Virginia public school division superintendents have urged Youngkin to scrap the “tip line” and have asked him to stop his campaign against the teaching of “divisive” content in schools.

The superintendents were reacting to a report Balow issued last month aimed at fulfilling promises Youngkin made during his campaign last year to end the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), an academic framework for studying systemic racism.  The concept had never been on the Virginia’s curriculum, but the first executive order Youngkin issued within hours of being inaugurated January 15 was aimed at banning CRT.  He later announced the establishment of the tip line for parents to tell the state about teachers or principals exposing students to materials deemed objectionable.

“Republicans are anxious — very anxious indeed — to tell us that Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn doesn’t speak for his fellow Republicans.  Sen. Lindsey Graham rushed to the microphone to assure us that Cawthorn is an outlier ‘in the largest sense possible on our side.’”

Charlie Sykes, regarding Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s denouncement of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a column for The Bulwark

Sykes added, “This is also important to remember: Until about five minutes ago, Cawthorn’s remarks were more or less basic talking points among the MAGA right — and not just talking points, but holy script. His attitude is deeply embedded in the right’s DNA. So, it’s easy to imagine Cawthorn today, looking around at his GOP critics and asking: Dude, what do you mean ‘outlier?’ I’m just saying what we’ve all been saying for years now! He’d have a point.”

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Worst Quotes of the Week – February 26, 2022

“NATO expansion, as bad as that is, it’s the EU later, trying to force into the Ukraine… that would be the equivalent … of China coming here and signing a defense pact with Mexico … right on our border and up against our grille.”

Steve Bannon, former advisor to Donald Trump, in a conversation with private military contractor Erik Prince on his War Room podcast

The two men suggested that Putin’s action in Ukraine was fully understandable, given that Ukraine has indicated it wishes to join NATO (a “deadbeats” organization, according to Bannon).  It’s also worth noting that Prince, a former U.S. Navy SEAL, had once planned to create a private army in Ukraine.

“The contract also calls for abolishing the Department of Education, making English the official language of the United States, banning federal funding for critical race theory teachings, and enacting school choice on the federal level so federal dollars follow the students to their school of choice, including private religious schools.”

U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) in revealing his “New Contract with America” that’s designed to destroy Social Security and “incentivize” the elderly to return to work

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Best Quotes of the Week – February 26, 2022

“There’s no Team America for Trump.  Not once did I see him do anything to put America first. Not once. Not for a single second.”

Fiona Hill, former Senior Director for Europe and Russia at the United States National Security Council, about the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis and her belief that former President Donald Trump exacerbated the tension

“All this did was say to Russia that Ukraine was a playground,” Hill added, noting Trump’s admiration for Putin and his disapproval of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). She also highlighted Trump’s longstanding pushback against Ukraine as he relentlessly tried to obtain incriminating information on President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.  The controversy surrounding Ukraine was a major component of Trump’s first impeachment trial.

“[O]nly Donald Trump could stand in that way. Only Donald Trump and what he says and how he says it could prevent Republicans from winning the majority.  If he makes this about November of 2020 or January of 2021, that could cost the Republicans the Senate.”

Frank Luntz, Republican pollster, stating the Republican Party could regain control of both houses of congress during this year’s midterm elections, if Donald Trump doesn’t interfere

Luntz also said, “If you look at the polling data, and you do the focus groups, you talk to independents as I have done.  I find it difficult to see any other conclusion than Republicans winning control of the House and winning control of the Senate in November.  Now a lot of stuff can change.  And I know that we don’t know what’s going to happen in Ukraine.  But Republicans should win both of those based on what’s happening right now and what we know is going to happen in the coming months.”

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Worst Quotes of the Week – February 19, 2022

“Malice, really?  It’s called news.  Hillary, we invite you to bring it on.”

Sean Hannity, responding to Hillary Clinton’s “malice” accusations

“Those who attack my initiatives and create the appearance of impropriety are quite literally dream killers. They have canceled the hopes and dreams of children by trying to cancel me.”

Former First Lady Melania Trump, responding to critics that her charity is fake

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Best Quotes of the Week – February 19, 2022

“So now his accountants have fired him and investigations draw closer to him and right on cue, the noise machine gets turned up.  Fox leads the charge with accusations against me, counting on their audience to fall for it again.  And as an aside, they’re getting awfully close to actual malice.”

Hillary Clinton, in a speech during the New York State Democratic Party convention

Clinton was apparently making a connection between the legal troubles of former President Donald Trump and the FOX News network’s repeatedly negative coverage of her.

“These nine families have shared a single goal from the very beginning: to do whatever they could to help prevent the next Sandy Hook.”

Josh Koskoff, the attorney representing 9 families who sued gun maker Remington over the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting massacre

Adam Lanza had used a Remington firearm to kill 20 children and 6 educators at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012.  Koskoff also noted, “It is hard to imagine an outcome that better accomplishes that goal.”  The families went up against the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which made it nearly impossible for gun makers to be held responsible for the use of their products in criminal acts.

Remington Arms will pay the 9 families $73 million to settle the lawsuit.  It is the first time a U.S. gun manufacturer has been held liable in a mass shooting and a legal outcome that could open the door to future lawsuits against gun makers.

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