While We are Celebrating
The refusal of the US Supreme Court to hear appeals of favorable lower federal court rulings overturning bans on same sex marriage, opening up legal marriage for gays and lesbians in five more states, is being rightfully celebrated. Change of public opinion and change of legal status have come with great and gratifying speed.
However, while the SCOTUS decision not to hear any cases opposing legalizing these marriages protected and advanced prior actions in a number of states, their choice to stay out of the fray leaves another 20 states without such advancements – at least for now. Following the announcement, attorney generals and governors of some of our most socially conservative states wasted no time announcing they were determined to continue to staunchly defend their constitutional amendments prohibiting same sex union.
There are some seemingly intractable leaders and, more disturbing, intractable regions of this country, where fifty years ago any number of civil rights were still not being granted, that today manifest their mean spiritedness by refusing to recognize and respond to societal transformation. It took bold federal legislation and enlightened court opinions to bend the justice arc then, and it undoubtedly will take an overarching effort now.
Today we applauded the hard won victories in the arena of marriage, while needing to remain vigilant, in fact to deliberately turn our attention toward the continued bludgeoning of the reproductive rights of women in this country – across all 50 states – to make decisions concerning whether or not and when to have children, and to support them in these choices.
While we were applauding the addition of states where people are now free to love and marry whom they wish, a federal court overturned a stay on the Texas law regulating clinics performing abortions to the degree that a large number will now close – unless another appeal is more favorable.
And thanks to reporting by the Feminist Majority, I share three ballot measures that, if successful in November, will be devastating blows to reproductive justice:
If passed by Tennessee voters on November 4, Amendment 1 would allow state politicians to pass laws that ban abortion even in the cases of rape, incest, or to save the health or life of the woman. Politicians could pass state laws that would deny lifesaving treatments to pregnant women with critical illnesses like cancer, or even ban access to common forms of birth control, like the pill, IUDs, and emergency contraception, that they consider – contrary to respected medical information – to be abortifacients.
Amendment 1 would change the Tennessee state constitution to read: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.” In effect, if passed, Amendment 1 would give state politicians the right to make decisions about the health and lives of women, and takes those rights away from women and their doctors.
Tennessee is not the only state with potentially devastating measures on the ballot this fall. In North Dakota, voters will decide on Measure 1, a personhood amendment that would change the state constitution to provide an “inalienable right to life” at “any stage of development.” If passed, Measure 1 would ban all abortions in the state, without exception, and could make illegal many forms of birth control, stem-cell research and invitro fertilization. Measure 1 also threatens end-of-life care and could interfere with organ donation. And although Colorado voters defeated broad personhood amendments to their state’s constitution in 2008 and 2010, Personhood Colorado has placed Amendment 67 on the ballot this year, which would amend the state constitution to include “unborn human beings” in the definitions of “person” and “child” in the state criminal code and Wrongful Death Act.
We celebrate when any advances are made in the name of social justice. As we must not leave others behind.