Local women’s rights activists fear Supreme Court shift

by Chandler Fattah
Posted 10/28/20

 After the devastating news of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, women’s rights activists are preparing for the greatest threat to …

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Local women’s rights activists fear Supreme Court shift

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After the devastating news of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, women’s rights activists are preparing for the greatest threat to reproductive rights since the 70s. I spoke to the executive directors of two organizations: Carol E. Tracy of the Women’s Law Project, and Diane Cornman-Levy of Women’s Way. Both organizations are nonprofits aimed at protecting the rights of women in the Pennsylvania area.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, affectionately named the Notorious RBG, was a trailblazer. She was the second woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, as well the first Jewish woman to be appointed. Ginsburg spent her career championing the rights of women everywhere. Now that she is gone, the monumental court decision “Roe v. Wade” is in a precarious position. President Trump has nominated Amy Coney Barrett to take Ginsburg’s seat. Barrett is conservative, and many are worried that she will work to overturn the landmark ruling. 

Both women were devastated by RBG’s death, not only because of her impressive career but also because of the inspiration she gave to women everywhere.

“RBG was a giant. We who work in women’s rights all stand on her shoulders, and we have a legacy that we must uphold.” Tracy told me. She has spent her career as an advocate for women’s rights, and was a part of the legal team in the landmark “Planned Parenthood v. Casey” case. 

Cornman-Levy, who has spent more than 30 years advocating for the rights of women, shared a similar sentiment. 

“I’m very concerned about the death of RBG because she was one of the sole voices that was actually fighting for reproductive rights and freedom for women,” she said.

Both women see a woman’s right to choose as a vital part of women having freedom in everyday life. 

“Women’s full participation in society, including most especially their ability to work and support their families is significantly dependent on their right to control their reproductive health life,” Tracy said. 

“And those who think that either access to birth control or abortion should be taken away from women’s decision making alarm me. And Amy Coney Barrett has certainly suggested in her writings that she supports that.”

“To say that the government can control a woman’s body is an absolute infringement on her freedom and her rights,” Cornman-Levy said. “It’s so interesting that pro-life people also talk about the government being out of their lives, yet they want the government to invade in the most intimate and sometimes one of the most important decisions a woman can make.”

Barrett, who was confirmed on Monday, Oct. 26, refused to answer questions related to her position on abortion during her confirmation hearings. In spite of this, we have some idea of how she would rule on issues related to abortion. Throughout her personal life and career, Barrett has hinted that she opposes abortion rights. In 2013, Barrett delivered a lecture to Notre Dame’s Right to Life Club. She initially failed to disclose this information to the Senate. 

“Frankly, I’m horrified,” Tracy said about the new Supreme Court justice.

Cornman-Levy said the Supreme Court has already begun chipping away at women’s rights in recent years.

“They’ve already worked at defunding a lot of Planned Parenthood Clinics, around providing not just abortions but counseling on family planning and contraceptives,” she said. “We’ve already seen a significant decrease in funding for issues that are critical to the health, freedom, and economic security of women.”

Tracy said she is alarmed by Barrett’s past, but strongly believes Roe V. Wade and the Pro-Choice movement will prevail.

“We think that the rights that we have won, that RBG helped develop legal strategies to win, are non-negotiable,” she said. “We are not going to go back. We will fight. We are prepared to, and I think the inspiration she had for the younger generation who named her the Notorious RBG gives me, of a much older generation, great hope for the future.”

When asked what their respective organizations were doing to protect the rights of women in Pennsylvania, both had plenty to share.

The Women’s Law Project is working to promote public policy that would improve equal pay standards in the state, while Women’s Way mainly focuses on providing grants to organizations protecting the rights of women. 

“Right now we are challenging Pennsylvania courts’ restrictions on Medicaid funding for abortion. We are working to support the rights of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence,” Tracy said. 

“We provide grants to organizations that directly work to serve women in terms of providing safe abortions and family planning. We provide funds to the Women’s Medical Fund, which is one of the few organizations that raise money to provide safe abortions to women who can’t afford them. We also invest in organizations doing advocacy work around this, as well as educating stakeholders on this issue,” Cornman-Levy said about her nonprofit. 

Most important, Cornman-Levy said, is that everyone to vote in the upcoming election.

“I’m deeply worried and concerned, and that’s why this election is absolutely critical,” she said. “Not just at the federal level, but at every state level. We have to flip seats with progressive candidates, especially progressive women candidates.”

In all, the two women see troubled waters up ahead. Nevertheless, they believe reproductive rights are an essential facet of women’s personal freedom, and they are fully prepared to fight not only for “Roe v. Wade” but for Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy as well. 

Chandler Fattah is a junior at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.

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