Womxn’s Bodies Are A Battlefield
Meredith O’Harris, editor-in-chief
Against a backdrop of national hostility against womxn, emanating from a demonstrably misogynistic President of the United States, the National Lawyers Guild continues its struggle for gender and reproductive equality. In this theme issue, our Review seeks to expose and redress different aspects of latter day female oppression through the curtailment of reproductive freedom.
In 1973, seven men recognized that womxn were entitled to some bodily autonomy and self-determined healthcare. In the last four decades, however, womxn have realized just how controversial this seemingly obvious precept is. For most, our right to “choose” is such a self-evidently necessary part of our liberty that its deprivation constitutes a line in the sand and a point of no return.
In “NILFA v. Becerra and Crisis Pregnancy Centers: Constitutionalizing The Distribution of False Medical Information to Pregnant People,” Amelia Spencer takes on Crisis Pregnancy Centers—“faith-based” resource centers that provide medically false and misleading information to vulnerable womxn with the object of preventing abortions—in light of recent Supreme Court case law. Spencer describes, with chilling exactitude, this ongoing mass manipulation industry and recommends three urgent reforms to blunt its influence.
In “Choice at Risk: The Threat of Adult Guardianship to Substantive and Procedural Due Process Rights in Reproductive Health,” Marissa Ditkowski sheds light on the medical and legal needs of intellectually disabled adults, who are typically denied their right to bodily autonomy and reproductive self-determination. Instead, these fundamental, irrevocable, life-changing decisions are made for them in opposition to their wishes. Ditkowski makes a compelling case that adults with legal guardians retain their dignity as persons under the constitution such that they have the right to pursue abortions and sterilization and that justice requires that certain procedural processes must be established to adequately protect this right.
With his deftly written amicus brief, available to NLG litigators nationwide, Brendan Beery and his co-authors have crafted a gift to reproductive justice lawyers everywhere. Using the Lockean language of natural rights and limited government, it is designed to appeal to a newly constituted Supreme Court hostile to the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. The brief uses classical liberal legal and philosophical arguments (of the kind conservatives themselves are wont to deploy) to make the case against any further intrusion into this protected area of privacy and conscience.
In When Your Colonizers Are Hypocrites, Alix Bruce focuses on human trafficking within indigenous communities in Alaska and the Dakotas. Bruce reviews the multifarious factors—U.S. domination of tribal governments, failed national programs, forced poverty, and others—that have led to the proliferation of this crisis (with U.S. indifference), while recognizing several practical reforms that may relieve the problem. But Bruce also pointedly notes that true tribal sovereignty and reparations are essential to any meaningful, longstanding fix.
Flint Taylor’s The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago chronicles, in scholarly detail, the appalling torture regime that flourished for years within the notoriously barbarous and bigoted Chicago Police Department—an agency whose ongoing legacy of cruelty almost beggars belief. Attorneys Dennis Cunningham and Jeffrey Haas, who worked with Taylor at the legendary People’s Law Office of Chicago for years, review The Torture Machine with particular interest and familiarity. For all the inhumanity described in its pages, they review a story of hero- ism, courage, and the justice that a band of dedicated civil rights lawyers can accomplish in the face of mighty opposition.
Our issue closes with labor lawyer Michael T. Anderson’s thoughts on the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, 138 S.Ct. 2448 (2018), the most recent blow to labor unions by the reactionary Roberts Court, which is increasingly determined to facilitate the exploitation workers, the First Amendment be damned. Anderson reminds us that the tried-and-true answer to the Court’s attempt to dismantle labor rights is to organize—and then strike. The Guild is no stranger to taking first to the streets and then to courtroom in defense of labor and our activist-brethren. Indeed, it’s what we do best. Anderson’s 95 Theses on Janus is a wonderful call to arms.