What Recent Supreme Court Decisions Have Told Me About My Value as a Woman and a Human Being

I’ve learned so much from the Supreme Court over the last few years:

Corporations are totes people who have the right to put as much money where their mouth is as they want – well, they don’t technically have mouths, but they’re still American people who have every right to talk as much as those mere biological people they’re notorious for trodding upon.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010) Limits on corporate and union political expenditures during election cycles violate the First Amendment. Corporations and labor unions can spend unlimited sums in support of or in opposition to candidates as long as the spending is independent of the candidates.

(Notice we hoi polloi are thrown a sop in the form of labor unions being able to spend unlimited sums – which would be nice, if it weren’t for the fact that corporations have been busy murdering unions for decades. Hey – does that count as first-degree murder? Because that means we should be able to imprison or execute them, then.)

Corporations and rich people have lots more freedom of speech than people who aren’t rich or corporations.

McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, 572 U.S. ___ (2014) Limits on the total amounts of money that individuals can donate to political campaigns during two-year election cycles violate the First Amendment.

Image shows Supreme Court portrait: the conservative justices have corporate logos on their robes. Caption says, "I don't always undermine the Constitution of the United States, but when I do, I make sure I get paid."

People who want to keep guns around in order to shoot other people (but not corporations, because while corporations can “speak,” they can’t actually bleed) are more important than people who would rather impose sensible limits on guns for the safety of total non-people (such as children outside of wombs).

McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010) The individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense is fully applicable to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

People of color don’t need any protection from systemic racism. Nossir. Times have changed and there is no longer any such thing as, oh, say, corporations (which are Very Important People) and political parties (*coughRepublicancough*) discriminating against people whose skin is other than white. They certainly wouldn’t refuse to hire them or prevent them from voting!

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 572 U.S. ___ (2014) A Michigan state constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action does not violate the Equal Protection Clause.

Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. ___ (2013) Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which contains the coverage formula that determines which state and local jurisdictions are subjected to federal preclearance from the United States Department of Justice before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices based on their histories of racial discrimination in voting, is unconstitutional because it no longer reflects current societal conditions.

Making everybody in government pray to Jesus doesn’t violate anyone’s free exercise of religion. Why wouldn’t Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and atheists and pagans and all them other (totally fake) people love praying to Jesus? Their objections are silly and can definitely be ignored. Remember: being forced to pray to a god your religion or conscience tells you doesn’t exist is no big, even if your god is a jealous fucker who will cut you for paying lip service to someone else’s god.

Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. ___ (2014) A town council’s practice of opening its sessions with a sectarian prayer does not violate the Establishment Clause.

We look forward to seeing the Court twist into pretzels to define why praying to Allah is totes a violation of the Establishment clause.*

The Court has given me to understand that women are definitely lesser people than corporations. Corporations have the right to force women and trans men who haven’t had surgery to pay for their own birth control, because a corporation can be totes religious just like a person, and private for-profit corporations are so pious that they, like churches, can impose their beliefs that women should be baby factories upon women, trans men, and other folks with a uterus. Uterus-having folks, however, have no right to impose their desire for appropriate healthcare upon the corporation providing health insurance as part of their compensation. No word yet on whether corporations must pay for the aspirin they’re telling ladies to keep between their knees as a substitute for effective birth control, but I’m sure they won’t have to if they classify all pills as birth control.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc, 573 U.S. ___ (2014) Closely held for-profit corporations have free exercise of religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Viagra, of course, will be provided to the menfolk with limp willies free of charge.

Image is an angry Captain Picard with his hand extended as if protesting. Caption says, "Hobby Lobby is not a church, it's a fucking crafts store."

But hey, isn’t it sweet that the Court’s enlightened enough to finally realize there’s no good reason for the federal government to say “I don’t” to same-sex marriage?

United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ___ (2013) Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines—for federal law purposes—the terms “marriage” and “spouse” to apply only to marriages between one man and one woman, is a deprivation of the equal liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The federal government must recognize same-sex marriages that have been approved by the states.

Shorter Supremes: “We’re going to give corporations insane control over the political process, and gut all the laws protecting you from racist jackasses, and let Christians force their prayers and beliefs upon you even in government settings, and we don’t give a single shit about women’s reproductive rights because every fetus and potential fetus is sacred until it’s born, after which we don’t care if it gets shot, but hey, we’re not bigots – you can have all the same-sex weddings you want! Just, y’know, don’t expect us to tell corporations, which are completely religious people, that they can’t discriminate against you. Because it’s obvious we think they own you.”

Image shows Scalia. Caption reads, "Equality? Not founder's intent, lol."

For those who say elections don’t matter, I just want to point out one thing: the majority are all Reagan / George W. Bush appointees. The dissenters: Clinton and Obama. Just one less Bush term, and women might not have to put up with their employer forcing their religious views up their vagina. Had Obama lost, same-sex marriage would still be a distant dream rather than an impending reality. So fuck you if you’re one of those who was willing to risk McCain or Romney just to punish the Dems for not being progressive enough. Play those games with local and state elections where there’s less risk and more reward, people. Leave the ability to appoint Supreme Court justices in hands that aren’t bloody evil.

Image shows Voting Rights Act being signed. Caption says, "Undone by 5 justices. #whycourtsmatter"

And go read Greta Christina’s piece on this travesty. Get outraged. Get voting. Don’t ever let yourself believe elections don’t matter. The only thing that’s going to defeat all that corporate cash is a lot of good people willing to pull the right levers.

Image is a gray cat in a suit. Caption says, "Lawyer cat objects to everything."Boycott Hobby Lobby. Get involved with SafeAndSecular.org.

*I will soon be running for office as an ordained minister in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – if you vote for me, I assure you each meeting will begin by invoking his saucy blessing upon our government business. Does anyone know where I can find meatballs that are halal, kosher, and don’t violate Hindu dietary laws?

Snippets about the landmark rulings filched from Wikipedia’s handy list.

The following memes were found by Ophelia, who has been blogging this case all day. Take them. Spread them. Annoy your Tea Party relatives with them.

Americans United meme. Text reads, "Apparently, the Supreme Court's HOBBY is acting as a LOBBY for the interests of corporations run by the religious right." Image is a 50s illustration of two women. Caption reads, "Face it, dear. Corporations have more rights than we do." Fight back at www.safeandsecular.org. Atheists.org meme: Image shows a Hobby Lobby store, with a Monopoly-style card over it that reads "Fake religious freedom. Get out of the law free. This card may be used to treat women as second-class citizens." Caption says, "A gift from the Supreme Court to religious extremists."  Elizabeth Warren quote: I cannot believe that we live in a world where would even [sic] CONSIDER letting some big corporation deny the women who work for it access to the basic medical tests, treatments or prescriptions that they need based on vague moral objections. The current Supreme Court has headed in a very scary direction.

I Wish I’d Had These Words

Back when my best friend and I had our final falling-out over his utter lack of concern about the lives of young women, I wish I’d had this post to send him. It might have gotten through. He might have understood why I was raging.

When you express opposition to abortion on demand, your words mean that you view all of this as perfectly fine: My death. Their deaths. Their poverty. Their children’s poverty. You would condemn real people to death, to a life of misery and suffering. And for what? For this:

Image shows an embryo. Image courtesy UNSW Embryology, via Iris Vander Pluym.

Image courtesy UNSW Embryology, via Iris Vander Pluym.

OH WAIT, I’m sorry. I got mixed up. That’s ^ a mouse embryo up there, not a human embryo. Sure looks a lot like that human embryo, though. And yet, nothing like a mouse. Weird.

Read the whole thing, and bookmark it, and send it on to that person in your life who either cares more about little globs than they do actual women, or those who are so indifferent to women that their health and safety doesn’t matter as much as voting the way their church wants them to vote.

A Thought Experiment for the Philosophy Dudebros

Hey, let’s do some philosophy for any more philosophy dudebros who might show up wanting to talk abortion rights. I LOVE philosophy!

All right, dude. Ready for a thought experiment? You’re always totally down with one, I’m sure, cuz you’re a philosophy dude. You’ve signed up to be an organ donor, right? Right? If not, exit the conversation now and never ever even consider you have anything to say about what women should do with unwanted pregnancies. If you’re not willing to let your dead body save other lives, you don’t even get to hypothetically consider what I should do with my alive and aware one.

Okay, organ donor wanna-debate-abortion philosophy dudebro. You’ve been in an accident. You were riding your bike, you forgot your helmet, swerved to avoid hitting a dog and ended up going ass over ankles over the handlebars on to the pavement. Cracked your head wide open. Now, you got flown to the best trauma hospital in the world, and they’ve put you back together again. You’re never going to contribute much to society, though, because your brain is so damaged that your cognitive function is greatly reduced and you’re never going to be able to live without 24-7 care again.

Hey, what’s this on your license? Is that an Organ Donor YES that I see?

Image shows part of an Organ Donation form with the box for "Donate all my organs and tissue" checked.

Organ donor form. Image courtesy Magnus D on Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Sweet! Look, philosophy dudebro: there’s so many lives you can save! Sure, you can still feel pain, and being stuck in the hospital rather than a residential facility makes you really upset, and you’re aware of just how bad the quality of your life is when you can’t control what’s done to your body, but you don’t matter as much as all those people you can help, do you? After all, you’ve got two functioning kidneys – why shouldn’t we take one to save the life of a person who, with a working kidney, will go on to be a productive member of society? Right? I mean, you’ve got two, you don’t need the other one. Except if your remaining kidney fails, you’re shit out of luck, and if you develop kidney stones in that one remaining kidney, you might have complications, and there’s the fact that the surgery is hella painful and can lead to the potential for infection, complications and death, but you wouldn’t mind being forced to donate part of yourself to save another life even with those risks, would you? After all, you once marked yes on a donor registration form. Look, if you survive the removal of your kidney, and you don’t have anything bad happen to your other one, the long-term risks are minimal. That other person has as much right to live as you do. Hey, maybe even more, since they don’t need residential care. So that’s a good argument for forcing you to donate your kidney, right?

You know what, I don’t see why we can’t do it right now. Sure, you have a fully-functional brain, and your own hopes and wishes and dreams, and you don’t like to suffer, but you’re a match for this person whose kidneys have failed. It’ll only take you about four weeks to recover from the surgery. Isn’t it more ethical to save a life than keep both your kidneys? Shouldn’t society be able to choose for you whether to save a life or not? And if you’ve said you’ll be an organ donor after death, why wouldn’t you want to be one now?

I mean, it’s not like you’ll have to go through nine months of having something feeding off of you. It’s not like you’re risking all these complications, or these complications, or maybe these really bad ones, or these permanent changes to your body (not to mention lotsa complications). Compared to that, kidney donation’s a breeze!

Image is a stylized representation of a person giving blood.

Blood donation pictogram courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s have some blood out of you. It’s totally safe – your risk of complication is virtually nil. Sure, you may faint. Sure, you may despise needles and panic every time. Sure, there could be bruising and bleeding and scarring and nerve damage and stuff, but surely it’s worth it to save lots of people. Right? We can come take your blood any time we need to, and you won’t mind a bit, because life is so darn precious. I mean, wow, your blood might save that poor pregnant lady who’s bleeding to death while trying to deliver that child you forced her to have. How cool would that be?

You know what, let’s go whole hog here. You can totally donate some bone marrow, and it’ll barely hurt a bit! Barely any risk! Sure, you may suffer complications from anesthesia, but what’s a teeny-tiny little risk of death compared to saving a life, huh? I mean, you’ll be at far less risk of dying than pregnant women are! So there should be no problemo, right, philosophy dudebro?

I’m sure it’s totally fine to perform all of the above procedures on you, whether you consent or not, because greater good and life is precious and all that jazz – not to mention, you consented to be an organ donor once, and you risked your life on your bike once, and that means you’ve totally consented to the consequences we decide to impose on you. Surely, you don’t think you matter more than other people. What if the person you save is the next Elvis? Or the next Einstein? Or a fetus? Yeah, buddy! You know we can’t risk potentially losing any of those potential awesome people just because you have some silly notion about bodily autonomy, so hop up on that operating table and let’s get crack-a-lackin. Hey, you might be saving the person who grows up to cure cancer! Betcha that’ll make all the pain and fear and complications you suffer feel like nothing.

What’s that? You won’t let me cut on you? How very selfish of you. Ah, well, as you know, it’s your body and we can’t force you do use it to keep other people alive without your permission, now, can we?

So why is it you have such a hard time understanding women and trans men are people, just like you?

Image shows a thoughtful velociraptor with the caption "You mean to tell me... that women are people too?"

Yep.

Abortion Is a Human Right

You cannot compel me to give life. It’s not your place to determine whether a pregnant woman or trans man may be allowed or denied an abortion. You are not the one whose body is being used by a fetus. You are not the one risking your life, your health, and your future. You are not the one who should be making the choice. That’s for the pregnant person to decide.

And it’s not up to you to determine at what point in a pregnancy a pregnant person may abort. Until it is fully born, the fetus is a parasite feeding off of another person. It’s up to that person to determine how and when that parasite should be removed. If the pregnant person decides at nine months that they can’t face childbirth, whether vaginally or by c-section, they can request an abortion, and if the doctor determines it’s safe to perform one, they can have it. Their body, their choice.

Image is a red poster with a drawing of a uterus on top. Caption says, "Keep calm and stay out of my uterus."

That’s the position I’ve come to after nearly 40 years. I used to think abortion was hideous, but if mom or baby was in danger, then it could be done. Then I thought a pregnant person should be allowed to have an abortion until the fetus was viable, at which time abortion should be denied except to save the life of the mother. I was sure this was a good position. But there’s something I wasn’t during all those years: pregnant.

I’m not now, have never been, and likely never will be pregnant. But I’m older now. I’ve seen a lot of women endure pregnancy. I’ve been with two women who considered abortion, who then chose to carry the fetus to term. Their body, their choice. One friend who decided to give her baby up for adoption changed her mind and kept her daughter. Her child, her choice. My cousin chose to keep her baby early in the pregnancy. I know at least one of those women never regretted her choice. But they had the option of abortion. They thought carefully about their options. And they made the choices that were best for them.

It was up to them what to do with their unintended pregnancies. If they’d decided to abort, it wouldn’t have been a tragedy. It would have been a good choice, the right choice for those women. Pregnant people are capable of making the right choice for themselves.

No one else should ever be able to make that choice for them.

Ever.

I’ve come to realize that pregnancy is a dangerous gamble. And if you think adoption solves anything, it doesn’t. The pregnant person is still risking their life and health and future. It’s up to them whether to roll the dice, and they get to decide when to stop gambling, no matter how late in the game or how high the stakes. That autonomy only ends once the fetus is born. When the fetus is no longer attached to and feeding off another person’s body, then there is no choice. The formerly-pregnant person has no right to end that life once it is free of their body.

I’ve reached this position because there is no other acceptable dividing line. No one has the right to tell anyone else that they must relinquish control over their body so that someone else can live off of it.

There is no secular or religious argument against abortion that doesn’t hit this wall. You are not allowed to force someone to donate a kidney, half their liver, skin, muscle tissue, bone marrow, blood, cornea, or any other part of themselves to save someone else. Not even to save an infant. No, not even if they registered as a donor. I can’t compel you to sacrifice part of your body or give your life for another person. You can’t compel me to carry a fetus to term.

Image has four pictures. The first is an egg yolk and white in a dish. Caption says, "This is not a chicken." Second image is an acorn, and says, "This is not a tree." Third image is a silkworm and a silk cocoon, and says "This is not a dress." Fourth image is a blastocyst, and says "This is not a person." Caption says, "This is not a difficult concept."

In fact, I’d say I have a better case for forcing you to donate some part of your body to save a life: we’re talking about giving the gift of life to a conscious person, someone with a rich tapestry of life experiences, who has hopes and dreams for the future, who is suffering and vividly aware of that suffering. But I can’t force you to so much as a needle stick and the temporary loss of a bit of blood. You have to choose to be an organ donor; without that, I can’t even remove desperately-needed parts of your body from your corpse after you’ve died. I can’t violate your vacated body to save several living human beings. How, then, is it your right to compel me to sacrifice so much more of myself for a potential person?

You don’t have that right. It’s not your body. Not your choice. Not ever.

I Lost My Best Friend to Abortion – I Can Stand to Lose the Atheist Orgs

I haven’t spoken to my best friend of 21 years since November 2012, when I found out he’d voted for Romney.

We’d survived about everything together. We made it through the years of horrible clingy-ness and self-esteem issues brought on by a lifetime in a church that told him he was worthless. We survived his crush on me, and three thousand miles of separation, and enormous long distance bills. We survived my loss of faith, and his journey through various flavors of Christianity and paganism before he returned to the Church of Christ. We survived him voting for Bush Jr. (twice) and me voting for Obama. We survived my obsession with science while his interests diverged into the occult. We thought we’d be forever.

But our friendship died when I found out he’d voted for Romney.

Image shows a headshot of Mitt Romney with a quote: "Outlaw all abortion even in cases of rape and incest." -CNN Debate, 11/28/07. Caption reads, "Romney supports dangerous "personhood" amendments. 'Is committed to overturning Roe vs. Wade, and he supports such amendments that define a life as beginning at the moment of conception.'" -Debbie Wasserman Schultz

This was a time of increasing attacks on women’s reproductive rights. And my best friend, who has many women in his life that he adores, and two beautiful nieces he dotes upon, voted for the man who would force all of us with wombs to carry unwanted, even potentially dangerous, pregnancies to term.

That broke something inside me. I can forgive a lot in my friends. I can accept their religion, even though I think religion is harmful bullshit. I can accept a certain amount of conservatism. I can accept that a person may have thought it sensible to vote for Bush Jr. Twice. But after that fiasco, to vote for the man who would not only flush our economy back down the toilet, but ensure Roe vs. Wade was a footnote in the history books and that women would have to turn to back-alley abortionists and dangerous home remedies to terminate even the results of rape – that was too much. That was a personal, visceral attack.

We argued. I did some shouting, I won’t lie. I was livid. And it was even worse when he told me he respected my right to choose. Really? How could anyone say that, when they were voting for the people who would take that right away? That’s the thing my pro-choice-but-very-conservative former friends and acquaintances cannot understand: your words whisper, but your actions scream through an amplifier.

What my best friend told me by voting for Romney, knowing full well that this would lead to a Supreme Court packed with anti-choice judges, who would ensure that women’s rights were set back a century, was that he doesn’t give a shit about me or his nieces. He doesn’t care what happens to us. He’s willing to gamble our bodily autonomy, health, and economic futures on a shitheel who was recommended by the church he made fun of every Sunday. He didn’t even consider us when he cast that vote. And he couldn’t understand why that felt like being stabbed in the heart.

Then it came out that he was personally anti-choice, because he’s adopted, and he’s glad he wasn’t aborted. He couldn’t see how saying he supported my right to choose while working to ensure that right was taken away was basically telling me I’m nothing to him. How selfish it is to force other people to give birth because your birth mother chose to carry you to term. How awful it is to be treated as nothing more than a walking womb.

We managed all of two conversations after that. Both of them ended with me furious and him unable to understand why. It wasn’t worth it anymore. I couldn’t stand trying to love someone who was willing to cast women’s health and safety aside so easily. We decided it would be best not to talk again for a while. And after an initial mourning period, I came to the conclusion that this was a deal-breaker. My friends must, at the very least, walk their walk when it comes to human rights.

Image shows me at the end of a wooden bridge, distant and walking away. Image credit Cujo359.

Image credit Cujo359.

You can’t tell LGBTQ people you love them and support their right to marry, then work to elect the people who not only want to deny them that right, but want to make their love illegal.

You can’t tell women you personally support their right to choose, then vote for the people who would rip their choice away.

It’s just words. Just noise. You say something lovely – I support you – and then open the trap door that dumps us into misery. That’s not support. That’s contempt masquerading as love. And I don’t have to tolerate it.

I’ll tell you something about the atheist organizations working hard for the rights of the non-religious. I appreciate the effort. But I’m not going to support orgs whose leaders think my right to choose isn’t just as unquestionable as the right to die and the right to live without the government forcing religion upon me. I can’t stand with leadership that is willing to cede my rights, who are trying to recruit people who want to force birth on women and trans men who have the misfortune to get pregnant. I will not accept a big tent that includes people who treat me and mine as less than human.

We’ve got enough of a problem with sexism without recruiting more misogynists. We don’t need a herd of atheists who believe women should be forced to be incubators, whose concern for them stops the instant they develop a blastocyst. If those are the people you want to reach out to, then what you’re saying is that you want me to leave.

And don’t tell me you’re pro-choice, personally. I don’t give two shits. The talk isn’t important. It’s the walk. And when you walk in the direction of the people who see me as worth less than a fetus, you’re showing me that your pro-choice stance is utterly meaningless. I can’t trust you to have our backs without stabbing them. I can’t believe you when you say you care about us and our concerns.

What you are telling me is that women aren’t welcome in this movement (and you don’t even think about trans people). You’re telling me that thousands of women aren’t worth as much as a handful of anti-choice conservatives who just happen not to believe in god. You’re telling me that your organization is not for me and mine.

I have no desire to be part of a tent that big. Atheism isn’t enough to make me want to stay in it. And if this means a schism, I’ll be happy to see that rift open. I’m much more content in a smaller tent that contains people who can see me as a human being even if my uterus ends up occupied, and who will ensure that real choices are available if I need to serve an eviction notice to the parasite in residence. I’d rather be united with those who care for each other more than their guns and their low taxes and their supposedly-small government.

Our right to abortion is not a bargaining chip you can trade. I lost my best friend over this issue. Imagine how much easier it is to lose you.

Image shows a pro-choice rally. A huge pink banner says TRUST WOMEN. Other people are holding signs saying "I have a heartbeat, too!" "Stop the war on women," and "Stop the war on choice."

Image credit ProgressOhio (CC BY 2.0)