Benita: Welcome to Feminist Utopia, a community dedicated to envisioning and creating a more just society for all.
Welcome to Feminist Utopia. Today we’re going to imagine a world in which the Supreme Court actually upheld the constitution and reflected the diversity of the American people, rather than the current status quo of mainly old white men promoting an American Christian version of fundamentalist Islamic law that dictates that women are the property of men and their principle purpose for existence is reproduction.
Debby: Don’t hold back Benita. Tell us what you really think.
Benita: Well, there have been so many laws regulating women’s bodies and access to abortion. I don’t know how you could interpret it any other way. And today we’ll focus on the legal implications of these draconian laws.
Debby: And so far, nine states have passed abortion restrictions. By the time you hear this, who knows? Including Louisiana which has already been signed by a Democrat governor of the state.
Benita: Yeah not only Louisiana, but we have Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, Utah. Most of these laws are not in effect. And all of them expect to be challenged. And actually proponents hope they make it all the way up to the Supreme Court. Why now?
Debby: Kavanaugh Benita: Yeah
Debby: Kavanaugh. Thank you Mitch. I personally blame McConnell for not appointing Gorsuch back when Obama was still president. And I blame Obama for not using the recess to force his appointment through. I’m sorry. I understand taking the high ground, but look at what we’re facing right now.
Debby: The Alabama law was especially designed to be aggressively unconstitutional. It was a bill that was meant to thumb its nose at the Supreme Court and to directly challenge Roe V. Wade. So when they talk about the Georgia bill going into effect in January, I think
that they will try to put it into effect, but again the appeals will be immediately filed like they were in Kentucky that requires the states then to not implement these kind of laws.
Benita: So let’s talk about what happened at the Supreme Court in Kentucky. It was Box V. Planned Parenthood of Indiana in Kentucky, and the court’s decision was issued without a briefing on the merits or oral arguments. It was unsigned and just three pages long. Some people are calling it a compromise that indicates the court isn’t ready to overturn Roe, but I don’t necessarily see the compromise. And I see that it’s really damaging.
Benita: Exactly what it said was… They turned down the appeal that asked the court to reinstate the law banning abortion solely because of sex or disability of a fetus. So they’re not going to rule on that at all. But they upheld the part that says abortion providers have to bury or cremate fetal remains, and they said this decision wasn’t a ruling on abortion rights. It’s just a separate remains issue.
Debby: In which I find really a sign of Christian privilege. For Jewish people, you wouldn’t bury these remains. These are… As the rabbi said to me in the hospital room after my son died at birth… it’s medical waste. So what exactly are Jewish people supposed to do with this stuff. And then it looks like it’s creating a new industry that I’m sure will be dominated by a few people that are probably going to be big donors. It was just such Christian privilege. It’s icky. And it was struck down in Texas when it came up. It didn’t make it out of senate committee…
Benita: And I think what upsets me too is there’s no rational reason. Debby: None
Benita: There’s nothing regarding the health of the mother… The health of the remains obviously isn’t an issue. There’s no good medical, scientific reason that this needs to be done. And they are in for a court battle. The Satanic Temple is challenging the Supreme Court ruling requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains in part because there’s no real medical reason or scientific reason that this needs to be done.
The Satanic Temple is a newly recognized religious organization. It’s worth it to check them out. They don’t actually worship Satan. They’re really focused on the separation of church and state. And they got the religious status in order to effectively challenge the Christian faiths that are pushing these laws through. They do things like challenge religious reproductive rights. And from their website, they mention they have tenets (like the ten commandments). They have the seven tenets. Their tenets call for bodily autonomy and acting in accordance with best scientific evidence. So the Satanic Temple religiously objects
to many of the restrictions that states have enacted that interfere with abortion access. And they are taking steps on behalf of their members and those who share those beliefs to establish exemptions from laws that do not promote the health and safety of patients and violate our conscience and beliefs. And this part of that law that says you have to bury the remains is in direct conflict with those seven tenets and they’re pushing for religious exemptions from adhering to those laws. Just like I would imagine Jewish people of faith could…
Debby: They could but… It’s interesting if you’re Jewish and you live in the South, you keep your head down. So I’m not surprised they are not going to challenge this in Kentucky… at least not with the same public appeal that the Satanic Temple is doing. If anything, I’ve actually heard people involved with the URJ – it’s a group that is the overseer of Reform Judaism and their synagogues… And I had someone from that organization actually tell me how glad they are the Satanic Temple is out there getting their hands dirty. Because that way they don’t have to worry about their own congregations in the South who might have taken on some of the cultural norms of local beliefs, which I saw personally when I was in Texas and when I was in Florida and when I was in Tennessee.
Debby: There’s an absorption of concepts, and I thought that was cowardly. But I have to say Lucien and the Satanic Temple are really working hard on protecting the rights of individuals. And I can’t argue with their methods. It’s working.
Benita: It’s working for now at significant cost… Debby: Yes
Benita: … to the personal lives of Lucien as the face of the Satanic Temple, and it is a sensitive thing. I fully support their mission. I am a member. It’s not something, aside from this podcast today, that I make really public. But yeah, there’s a lot of people that don’t agree with these laws. And I think that there’s tons of support. I mean a June poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 67% of Americans don’t want the court to overrule Roe V. Wade. Even among Republicans, 43% said they didn’t. And the other issue is the cost of all this litigation…
Benita: is falling on the taxpayers in each state. And Alabama has one of the worst laws and they’re bankrupt as a state! Over a quarter of the mothers there don’t receive adequate prenatal care. They rank 50th in the country in infant mortality.
Debby: It’s shocking to hear that so many Republicans don’t want to see Roe V. Wade overturned but they still keep voting for the people that are going to overturn Roe V. Wade. And I respect the people in the anti-choice movement that have so firmly motivated their base to consistently show up at the polls. And that’s why we’re getting rulings done to protect the minority of a worldview. This is what a smaller percentage of Americans want, and yet we’re all going to pay the price.
Benita: I don’t have any respect for them getting their people out at the polls. If you want to respect, have respect for the people that did the frickin gerrymandering in the first place! Because they are the ones that are responsible. If it was one person one vote equal representation, we would not have these draconian laws going through.
Debby: True and that brings us back to one of my issues with the DNC (Democratic National Committee) which has long… spent decades ignoring anything that was below the federal level in terms of the ballot box and now look where we are! But that’s another topic for another day.
Benita: Yeah, but getting to the state level with the concerns that the reversal of Roe V. Wade is imminent. That would leave the abortion issues to the states. If Roe V. Wade is overturned, it’s a state’s rights issue. And many states are actually moving to codify the right to abortion or pass laws that would make abortion more legal.
Benita: Legislation efforts in Virginia and New York have gotten a lot of attention. And they are attempting to loosen restrictions for abortions. So, we do have those little positive things…
Debby: Even before Roe V. Wade, it was increasingly legal in certain states like New York. My mom… Here I am, I’m pushing 50 and I don’t have memories of abortion being illegal and I had to rely on the stories I heard from my mom when I was a teenager in the 80s. But she said, the rich girls would go to New York or Puerto Rico and get a safe, legal abortion. And we’ll talk later in this episode about this disproportionately affect poor women, women of color, women without resources and where that leads.
Benita: What happens if abortion is illegal… if the pro-life people get their way and all abortion is illegal? Then what? We basically have two choices then, enforcement choices. Establish a police state where the entirety of the masses within the country are subjected to government supervision of our most intimate, personal decisions… tracking our cycles. Or if everyone isn’t subjected to that supervision, we’re going to have unequal enforcement of the law which is pretty much the status quo right now. Law enforcement will have to use discretion and basic resource allocation to enforce within certain communities or certain
demographics. And we know that that does disproportionately affect minorities and people with fewer resources. It’ll be a system of organized hypocrisy where only certain communities are targeted for unfair enforcement.
Debby: And according to Duke, they have a journal of health politics, policies, and law, there have been over 413 documented cases of women being prosecuted for having miscarriages or attempting abortions on their own between the time Roe V. Wade became the law of the land and 2005. And there’s an increasing number of stories, and I’m going to post one in the show notes for this one: A woman in Texas, she couldn’t afford to drive the 500 miles to get to an abortion provider. So she drove across the border to Mexico, got the meds, did it at home in her bathroom. And that’s currently illegal even post Roe V. Wade! But the abortion restrictions are already forcing women to do illegal things.
Benita: Right. And I think that abortion is not just a moral issue; it is a social justice issue… Debby: Yes
Benita: …because of these things. It’s not just a matter of women having bodily autonomy, but of how the applications of laws affects some women’s bodies more than others. And it’s easily summed up… I’ll put the resources in the show notes, but I read a quote regarding this: “When the college bound teenager with the grosgrain ribbon in her hair needs an abortion, it’s a mistake, and it’s out of character. And her future is too precious to give up. It’s a price too high to pay for a momentary out-of-character dalliance. But when it’s a young woman from public housing who finds herself in the same predicament, her pregnancy is a manifestation of her sinful nature and her poverty proof of some moral or spiritual failing. And they have no problem locking her up.”
Debby: And shaming her and shaming her community and using that to reinforce their own internalized ideas regarding white supremacy. I don’t know if you heard about the case that actually went to court in Indiana. A woman got convicted, sentenced to 20 years, a woman named Purvi Patel. Again you want to guess what color she was? She wasn’t white. She had shown up at a hospital seeking treatment, and she had an umbilical cord sticking out of her. The doctors suspected that there was still a baby out there. They sent the police out to look for it, they finally got her to tell them where she had put the baby’s body. And it was in a dumpster. The baby was around one pound. Ms. Patel said the baby was stillborn. But she was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for feticide. This is when Mike Pence, the people that we want to pretend would be better than Trump was governor of Indiana. They decided she tried to kill the baby. She had bought some drugs to end the pregnancy online, but had not used them. And there was no evidence in either the baby’s testing or her testing, that she ever used these drugs. And then they did some pseudoscience stuff to see if the baby took a breath, and that was inconclusive. But the biggest issue, the prosecutors got up and there and said when she went into labor and started having problems, she didn’t go to a hospital and maybe they could have saved the baby if she had done it. That’s scary to me. This comes back to – how do you enforce that? If a woman has a miscarriage at 16 weeks, if she doesn’t get to the hospital in time, she goes to prison for 20 years?
Benita: You know when you look at the actual science, it gets even scarier because one out of four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. 1 out of 4. And fertilized eggs can be expelled during a woman’s period without a woman even knowing that she might have been pregnant. And any period could potentially be a miscarriage without the woman’s knowledge! Are we going to sort through everybody’s menstrual blood? Do we have to turn that in for burial in Indiana? It makes no sense.
Debby: But it was interesting to me that they used this to go after a woman of color almost immediately. It did get overturned on appeal. She was released from prison, I think she spent like 2 years in prison. And she’s done everything she can to be under the radar ever since. And it turned into this big condemnation about Southeast Asian culture and all these other things. It was everything that your quote said it would be. It was a way to marginalize and blame.
Benita: And she’s not the only one! Indiana also held Bei Bei Shuai for over a year, 435 days in maximum security, Marion County prison facing 45 years to life because she tried to kill herself. And in the process she caused the death of her 33 week fetus. So here is a woman suffering from mental illness to the point of suicide, and rather than getting her the treatment needs and deserves, she’s stuck in jail.
Debby: Before I move on, I want everybody to know that these women are damaged and not being shown all this Christian love that I see a lot of these anti-choice groups like Feminists for Life saying, “Oh, we need to surround them with love.” I’m not seeing a whole lot of love here. What happened in Utah, a 28 year old Melissa Ann Rawlin was charged with murder because she refused a C-section while trying to have a vaginal birth for her twins and one of them died. Here’s a wanted pregnancy, she’s trying to do the right thing medically for herself and for her babies. One of them dies, so they charge her with murder!?
Benita: And who could predict that? Who could predict that the baby would have been born alive if it had been a C-section?
Benita: If she had had a C-section, and one of the children had died, would she be charged with murder for not having a vaginal birth? This is just insane. There’s more stories about this, but I don’t know if I can go into them. I mean, it’s just so upsetting… so upsetting. And I just don’t see how these laws can be enforced!
Debby: Well, it was kind of like prohibition back in the day, my mom said. There was an underground… and you kind of would know… Often it was run by mobsters who would give you abortions that hopefully didn’t kill you. And it became a resource only for those who had the financial ability to take care of it. And so some are more equal than others when you do stuff like this. And before I let Mike Pence off… I don’t know if anybody has heard about Periods for Pence, going back to what Benita said about – do you have to show your menstrual products – and since my cell phone number has an Indiana area code on it, I would call in say “It was extra clotty this month, do you think I should go take it into a doctor and make sure I didn’t have a baby in there?” But it was very offensive to people at least in Pence’s office; they had to hire more people. And if I heard “I’m not a gynecologist ma’am!” while they hung up on me… But the fact is they’re trying to make themselves the medical professional who decides how you treat yourself and your body… and they’re not doing it with science.
Benita: I think that the Periods for Pence movement is still active and probably just going to get stronger now that they have that law! Moving on to Georgia for a moment, they talk about how… they have this law that maintains that unborn children should be entitled to the privileges of the 14th amendment. The 14th amendment is the one that talks about all men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Well, there’s not a reasonable legal position under our current system that would allow for this! And it would constantly place law enforcement in preposterous predicaments! For example, if a pregnant mother was in prison, you wouldn’t be able to imprison the unborn baby because that would be depriving it of its… there’s no reasonable suspicion that the baby committed a crime. You’re depriving it of its due process… It has these 14th amendment rights! How do you balance that? Also in Georgia okay, with the prison example it’s a serious felony to inflict suffering on a child in Georgia. But pregnant mothers in prison are consistently denied adequate medical care and nutrition, so unless changes are made within the prison system correction officers, police officers, and prosecutors should be subject to felony charges…
Benita: …for detaining and inflicting suffering on unborn children!
Debby: Hey, what about that woman in ICE custody who gave birth to a stillborn baby? And ICE basically said oh well, we don’t count that as a death in custody because it’s not a real thing. And I’m like… I don’t hear any of these anti-choice people getting up and screaming about that! But I have seen in many of these anti-choice movements, the idea of extending personhood, and they didn’t think it through. Like you said, these absurd things. These same people that are voting against increased funding for WIC and nutrition programs that help pregnant women and denying Medicaid to these women… so what happens when
legislators start going to jail because they cut Medicaid again and a woman in rural Georgia died in childbirth because of it? Or the baby died?
Benita: Oh they won’t go to jail. Debby: They won’t go to jail.
Benita: The hypocrisy… I mean who are we kidding? We’re talking about a feminist utopia, but…
Debby: …let’s not go crazy!
Benita: Yeah, that’s really hard to imagine. But let’s talk about the practical implications if these women are forced to carry a pregnancy to term. How are we as a society going to ensure necessities like food, diapers, housing, childcare, and access to healthcare are available?
Debby: Well we’re already kind of sucking at it… especially what do you know with children with disabilities? They have added needs and stuff like that. So, we would have to have a major change in how we view children, especially if there’s more of them.
Romania, which is a small poor country, smaller than Florida banned abortion. They did allow for abortion in the case of rape, incest, and congenital abnormalities in 1966. It was during the Soviet years. Ceaușescu was the dictator. The Alabama law goes further than Romania, but it was a Soviet satellite totalitarian state. And they criminalized it to the point that women would give birth at home and then drop these babies off in orphanages.
Benita: So it started in the late 60s, and the country wasn’t really open to the world until 1989. And at that time, over 170,00 children were found in brutal orphanages, ignored, emaciated, even handcuffed to cribs. And nobody knows how many of those children died in the decades before that. And when you think that a) Alabama’s laws go further and are more draconian than the Romanian prohibition b) there was legislation in Alabama to increase funding for birth control and expanding Medicaid, and trying to provide for some of these eventualities when the babies are born and all of those got struck down. So they’re cutting Medicaid, they’re denying access to birth control and other reproductive healthcare issues. What are they going to do with all these babies that are going to be born now?
Debby: What are they going to do with the dead women who try to take care of it themselves? That was also an issue in Romania. That in this poor society, they would try to do it themselves. They knew they couldn’t go to the doctor or a hospital if things went south because they would end up in prison and their families would end up in prison, possibly killed. It was that serious. Enforcement was like what you would expect from any totalitarian government. It has devastated a whole generation and cause social problems that they’re still dealing with today in Romania, even though this all stopped in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin wall. This is not something you can say, “Oh, we’re going to get a new president in 2020, and that’s going to make it all better.” This is going to have decades of effects on families and people and our society as a whole.
Benita: And on that cheery note…
Benita: Honestly we tried to have a positive call to action. These are serious issues, and it is scary and alarming and… I’m kind of at a loss as to give you something positive to do as our call to action. We talked before about using Planned Parenthood as your healthcare provider if that’s an option for you. And that does help. Talking about it, making others aware of the implications and encouraging people to vote. And voting yourself to elect pro-choice people. What else you got for me Debby??
Debby: Specifically I donate money every month, it’s only ten dollars. But I do ten dollars a month to Planned Parenthood in Kentucky, Indiana. I donate specifically to Planned Parenthood organizations in states that are the most embattled, because even if these laws go through, Planned Parenthood is going to be on the front lines providing medical care to the women carrying unwanted pregnancies. Because as we saw in Alabama, that’s not going to happen. It isn’t like all of a sudden they’re going to expand Medicaid…
Debby: …to take care of these people. So I do donate specifically to Planned Parenthood organizations in embattled states like Kentucky. If you don’t have those kinds of resources, getting involved with Planned Parenthood or other pro-choice organizations… sending out postcards. They’ll send you the postcards; they just want you to sit down and hand-write on them… stuff to go to legislators and stuff like that. But it’s going to be an all hands on deck sort of thing when this goes through and…
I’d like to do an episode about the Jane Collective in Chicago, which this is a group of women that taught themselves how to give abortions and… I don’t want to see women die because someone thinks that their god tells them they deserve to die because they’re going to be murderers and this is god’s plan for all of us. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I would like to do an episode on the Jane Collective in Chicago and the emotional cost of that. They ended up performing over 2,500 abortions with a lower complication rate compared to legal abortions in New York state. It’s an interesting story, and it shows the great toll that it takes on everybody in that process.
Benita: Well we do appreciate your taking the time to listen to us today, and we do have another episode in this series coming up. And that’s going to be talking about the women on the front lines of the anti-abortion side and women on the front lines of the pro-choice side, so stay tuned for that…
Debby: Thank you so much for joining us today at Feminist Utopia. If you like our work, please give us a review on Itunes, Stitcher, or wherever you access our podcast so others can find it as well. You may also become a Feminist Utopia patron at Patreon.com to show your appreciation. Remember, patrons get perks!
Benita: And check out our blog and other resources at our website: FeministUtopia.netEmail us your idea of what a feminist utopia would look like or any questions to:email@example.com
We appreciate you taking the time to listen and grow with us. Feminist Utopia is created by Debby Williams and Benita Malone.