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Old 02-13-2012, 09:13 PM   #226
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Last Friday, some of the most distinguished scholars and litigants working on gender and the law gathered to honor a foremother and inspiration, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as Columbia University Law School marked the 40th anniversary of Ginsburg becoming the first tenured female professor there. But there was another 40th anniversary as well, one less-known, but very much on Ginsburg’s mind.

It has been 40 years since she filed a brief before the Supreme Court for a case she wishes had established the abortion right instead of Roe v. Wade. That was the case of Capt. Susan Struck, who had become pregnant in 1970. The Air Force demanded she either terminate the pregnancy—abortions were being conducted on bases back then—or leave her post. Struck, a Catholic, said she wouldn’t have an abortion but would put the child up to adoption without taking off any unusual amount of medical leave. Though she lost both at the district court and the circuit-court level, she appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear her case until Solicitor General Erwin Griswold persuaded the Air Force to simply waive her discharge and change the rule.

Ginsburg was disappointed. “I thought if Susan’s case came first,” she said—before Roe, which would be heard a year later—it would be preferable for the goals of women’s equality, because “her choice was birth. Solicitor General Griswold saw to it that we did not have that opportunity.” (This was the same Griswold who, as dean of Harvard Law School, asked the rare women in Ginsburg’s class how they justified taking spots that should have gone to men. Ginsburg later transferred to Columbia Law School.)
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Yale reproductive rights scholar Reva Siegel wrote in a recent essay celebrating Ginsburg’s brief in the Struck case—it was overlooked in part because she never got to argue it—that “Ginsburg and the women’s movement talked about pregnancy discrimination in a way that ties together pregnancy discrimination and women’s equality, and women’s equality and reproductive freedom, before the Court split them apart in cases such as Roe v. Wade, Frontiero v. Richardson and Geduldig v. Aiello. The Court made some fateful choices in those cases: to focus its sex equality jurisprudence on cases other than pregnancy, and so to develop its sex equality jurisprudence in isolation from its abortion jurisprudence.” That was also true of many of the litigants at the time, Ginsburg said Friday, including the ACLU, which had been involved with Griswold vs. Connecticut, the case overturning a state contraceptive ban with a substantive due process argument that focused on privacy. Ginsburg preferred “women’s change to chart their own life course,” consistent with her idea that full citizenship meant the right to choose a life distinct from sex-role stereotypes.

But an abortion rights case involving a woman who wanted to choose to give birth would also have been consistent with the current reproductive justice framework, which is about bodily autonomy and a woman’s right to moral dignity and self-determination. And Ginsburg, who brought several sex-discrimination cases with male plaintiffs, clearly understood the power of framing these choices with potentially surprising reversals that showed how traditional gender roles limited everyone.

It wasn’t to be. Ginsburg called Struck to try and see if there was any way to press on with her case once the Air Force changed its policy. “‘My dream is to be a pilot,’ she said, but the Air Force doesn’t give flight training to women.’ We both laughed because in 1972 that was an impossible dream. That’s one sign of how much things have changed.”
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Old 02-13-2012, 09:31 PM   #227
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Ginsburg preferred “women’s change to chart their own life course,” consistent with her idea that full citizenship meant the right to choose a life distinct from sex-role stereotypes.
This is pretty much how it should be, and I don't get why this is so difficult for some people out there.

It would've been quite interesting to see how that case would've aided in the debate. I feel for that woman in the Air Force, sounds like she was in a crap situation no matter what she did.

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Ginsburg called Struck to try and see if there was any way to press on with her case once the Air Force changed its policy. “‘My dream is to be a pilot,’ she said, but the Air Force doesn’t give flight training to women.’ We both laughed because in 1972 that was an impossible dream. That’s one sign of how much things have changed.”
Stuff like this makes me really glad I was born when I was. Things still aren't perfect, no, but my god, I can't even begin to imagine having to deal with some of the crap women in the past had to go through. I'm glad I missed out on that BS.
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Old 02-14-2012, 02:33 AM   #228
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