07/29/18 Lynn Paltrow

This week on Century of Lies we hear from Lynn Paltrow, founder and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, and Dorothy E. Roberts, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and author of Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, speaking about the threats to civil rights and women's healthcare posed by the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, July 29, 2018
Guest: 
Lynn Paltrow
Dorothy E. Roberts
Organization: 
National Advocates for Pregnant Women
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TRANSCRIPT

CENTURY OF LIES

JULY 29, 2018

DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Welcome to Century Of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

On July 18, the organization National Advocates for Pregnant Women presented a webinar on the topic "Overturning Roe: More Than Abortion Is At Stake. How Overturning Roe Can Unite And Ignite Advocacy For All Pregnant People."

The webinar featured Lynn Paltrow, founder and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, and Dorothy E. Roberts, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, acclaimed scholar of race, gender, and the law, and the author of Killing The Black Body: Race, Reproduction, And The Meaning of Liberty.

We're going to hear from portions of that webinar now.

PROFESSOR DOROTHY E. ROBERTS: I'm Dorothy Roberts, I am a professor at University of Pennsylvania in the law school, and also in sociology and African studies, and a longtime advocate for reproductive justice. I go way back to the late 1980s, when I began my research on the state regulation of black women's bodies, which ended up in my book Killing The Black Body.

And Lynn and I have worked together all that time. In fact, I just pulled out some -- an article that I wrote as a result of a conference that I remembered was the first time Lynn and I worked together, back in -- at Rutgers Law School, I was teaching at the time, in 1989. So, we are, what is that, 30 years or so?

I think it is, 30 years of advocacy, and what links Lynn and me together is our work on behalf of pregnant women who want to have their babies and continue their pregnancies to term, and pointing out the way in which state control has intensified and how that harms all -- actually all of us, and how that must be part of advocacy for reproductive justice.

And so, I'm really thrilled to be able to join with Lynn today to talk about this aspect of the possibility of overturning Roe, and why the principles in Roe versus Wade, and the principles for reproductive justice, are important for all pregnant people.

LYNN PALTROW: Thank you, Dorothy, and I'm Lynn Paltrow, the founder and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. We are a nonprofit advocacy organization. We -- a core understanding is that the people who have abortions are the same people who at some point give birth, overwhelmingly give birth, and become parents. They are also people who experience miscarriages and pregnancy losses, and they're all people who have benefited from Roe v Wade.

It's -- National Advocates for Pregnant Women is the leading organization that provides criminal defense on behalf of women who are being targeted for arrests and detentions and other mechanisms of state control because they're pregnant or because of a pregnancy outcome, whether it's miscarriage, a stillbirth, or pregnancy loss, or an abortion.

I'm really privileged to be here with Dorothy, who, in addition to being able to remember when we first met, I have a slide for you, just a few photos.

PROFESSOR DOROTHY E. ROBERTS: This is very [inaudible]

LYNN PALTROW: Conferences, Dorothy was generous, and a major part of two of NAPW's major conferences, one on human rights and state power, and the other about bringing together those who advocate for birth rights and birth justice with those who advocate for abortion rights and justice, and she has just been a tremendous ally as well as teacher and leader.

This webinar, there's been a lot already given since the announcement that Justice Kennedy was going to resign, and then president Trump's announcement of Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee. A lot of concern about what will happen to many cases, and particularly Roe v Wade.

And so far, most of the focus has been on what will happen to access to abortion, what will happen to the women who can't get abortions, what will happen to women who live in some states versus others. What this webinar focuses on is the fact that -- it's not on abortion, but the people who sometimes need abortion, and they are the same people who always need to be treated as full Constitutional persons with full human rights, including access to all the healthcare that they need.

Roe v Wade not only recognized reproductive rights, that the six million people who become pregnant every year in the United States, all of whom benefit from that, Roe also explicitly rejected the argument that fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses are Constitutional persons at any stage of development.

And in doing that, the Court affirmed that women, at all stages of pregnancy, are Constitutional persons whose lives and health are paramount.

PROFESSOR DOROTHY E. ROBERTS: Yes, so, in that context, of waiting to see who Trump's Supreme Court nominee would be, and thinking about the implications for that confirmation, and the possibility that Roe could be overturned and all of that protection for women as full human beings entitled to full rights, whether or not they're pregnant, might be in jeopardy, I was invited to speak on the Ali Velshi show on MSNBC.

I had already been invited to be there on the Fourth of July, I assume to talk about some aspect of social justice and how the Fourth of July represents a contradiction of the principles of equality and justice, and it happened to be in the midst of all of this talk about who the next Supreme Court Justice would be and the implications for Roe.

It also happened that the day before, on July Third, I had been engaged in a twitter conversation about whether or not it was possible that women would be arrested for abortions if Roe versus Wade were overturned.

And Aziza Ahmed had tweeted that I had argued for so long that some mothers, black and Latina, were always deemed less sympathetic and had been prosecuted for being pregnant, and I chimed in that yes, it was absolutely realistic to predict that women will be prosecuted and imprisoned for having abortions, and part of my argument for that, which, you know, I put in a tweet, was that women are already being locked up for miscarriages and stillbirths, starting with women of color, and that we have to see these ways of criminalizing pregnant women, whether it's for abortion or for pregnancy losses, or for being pregnant while engaging in some conduct, that those are all related.

And so when I appeared the next day on the Ali Velshi Show, he read my tweet on air and asked me about it. He also noted that, in support of what I had tweeted, president Trump himself had said that women should be punished for having abortions. And so, I explained what I was saying in that tweet.

If Roe is overturned, as Lynn has said, states will be free to make abortion a crime from the moment of conception, or maybe even, you know, the possibility that a woman, a person might conceive. Women are already arrested for being pregnant and engaging in some conduct allegedly risky to a fetus, and for pregnancy losses.

So certainly, if Roe is overturned, those would only increase, because it would give prosecutors more leeway, more legal leeway, to make pregnancy a crime. Already, there have been prosecutions, a whole host of them, in South Carolina, way back in the early 1990s, late 1980s.

Cornelia Witner was convicted of child neglect because she was pregnant while using drugs, but because of her pregnancy, she, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld her conviction for harming a viable fetus, equating a viable fetus with a person, a child, in 1997. Regina McKnight spent eight years in prison for experiencing a stillbirth that was called a homicide by child abuse. Purvi Patel was convicted of feticide, that was overturned, but her conviction for child neglect was sustained.

So there are, you know, I could go on and on and Lynn will say more about the women that -- that National Advocates for Pregnant Women has represented. And so women who terminate their pregnancies, or are suspected of terminating their pregnancies, a woman with -- who has a miscarriage, who's suspected of doing something to cause it. Those -- people could be charged with a crime and potentially arrested and locked up, from the moment of conception, if Roe is overturned, and in addition, all pregnant people would be at risk because the norms that Lynn was talking about, that pregnant people have equal rights, would be overturned as well.

And so then the idea that people who are pregnant have fewer rights and are subject to state control, greater state control, because of their pregnancy, or the potential to be pregnant, would be now part of the law.

And so, I felt I was just stating the facts of arrests and imprisonment that have already occurred, and the logic of, if Roe's overturned, obviously these would be -- these would happen even more, because there would be more legal basis for them. I thought that was pretty logical, and self-explanatory, and rooted in evidence, but the reaction that I got from rightwing pundits and bloggers and people on twitter, anti-abortion folks, was that I was lying, I was a lunatic.

So, the Daily Caller published this, and tweeted that I was saying that the next US Supreme Court Justice would put women in jail for miscarriages and, you know, Chicks On The Right said I was a pro -- said that I was accusing them of being lunatics for criminalizing abortion, but actually they would not ever support blaming a woman if it wasn't obviously her fault.

And then, you could go to the next one, that this is -- I was lying because this had never happened before, that women were jailed for miscarriages, and then, the next, the Washington Examiner said, well, if, you know, we who support Roe see someone -- someone just looking at the ruling funny we lose our composure and entirely succumb to outlandish fantasies pulled out of the wildest corners of our minds.

So, they were portraying what I said as if it was, there was no shred of facts to support it, that these arrests actually were not occurring, had never occurred, and that there was absolutely no fear that women would be prosecuted, and really was not only for miscarriages but for other pregnancy losses, or that there was any risk to women being criminalized for being pregnant.

DOUG MCVAY: You're listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host, Doug McVay. We are listening to a portion of a webinar from National Advocates for Pregnant Women. The title is Overturning Roe: More Than Abortion Is At Stake: How Overturning Roe Can United And Ignite Advocacy For All Pregnant People.

The speakers are Lynn Paltrow, an attorney, and founder and executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, and also Dorothy E. Roberts, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, acclaimed scholar, and the author of Killing The Black Body: Race, Reproduction, And The Meaning Of Liberty.

If we have the right to determine what goes into our bodies, if we have the right to determine what we do with our own lives, then that has to extend to reproductive rights: sex education, birth control, and safe, legal abortions. Let's get back to that webinar.

LYNN PALTROW: This moment in history is an opportunity to, as we said, united and ignite, and that's been happening for a while, with a lot of new organizations, organizations finally being recognized, leadership finally being recognized.

It's an opportunity, I mean, I think one of the things that, as bad as things are, I think it has made many people, and particularly white people, think about the lack of equality, recognize that the gains, particularly that were made, particularly for white women, really don't go very deep and don't extend to other women, and gives us an opportunity to reexamine and ask what else do we have to do, what do we really want?

And I think we want much more than Roe, and this is a moment where we could get trapped in that same thing of defending Roe. Abortion under Roe is in the criminal code in most states. Don't we want to make sure it's not there? We don't want to just make sure that Roe stays, we want to make sure that health care for everybody is accessible and meaningful, and that it is regulated as health, not as a crime.

Don't we want to do more than make sure that women don't die in back alleys from having abortions, as that expression goes? And there are still, despite medications that are available to women, a woman in California recently had her boyfriend beat her up. These things are happening, will happen. Don't we want to ask for more, though? Don't we also want to make sure that no woman has to worry about dying from childbirth, in particular black women?

Don't we want to make sure that women don't have to travel a hundred miles for an abortion? And they also don't have to travel a hundred miles to give birth, as the front page of the New York Times, in print, yesterday talked about? Don't we want to have people have access to good healthcare without limitations on the title of the person giving it to them?

Roe said states can limit abortion to physicians, when we know that non-physicians can do it safely, that we want to make sure that people have access to dulas and midwives and the support they need without arbitrary limitations.

Here are two things I think people might not realize that we can count on going forward. There is no way that the organizations that oppose abortion can keep their promise to their base, who really believe them when they say we care about women and we're not sending them to jail. They're going to see people going to jail, because many of those people, some of those people are white, but some of those, many of those are low income, and the targets right now for arrest are predominantly rural, white women.

And pro-life people by the way get abortions, every abortion provider will tell you that. But they justify it saying, but I know that what I'm doing is wrong, and I'm a good person, and doing this. Those women are bad. I think they're going to see more connections.

People who oppose abortion want to have home births, don't want to have to worry about going to jail. People who oppose abortions and need to escape violent husbands and boyfriends when they're pregnant are going to be -- are going to wake up. And, I think one of the things that is most important to remember is, laws recriminalizing and criminalizing abortion don't stop people from having abortions.

And while people don't have abortions as a political act, to make a political statement, but have so many other reasons for doing it, the collective action of a million people a year is a form of mass civil disobedience, something the government cannot control, something that will join with all of the other forms of nonviolent civil disobedience, nonviolence against the government, nonviolence against the people who try to deprive us of control over our lives and our families. We can count on it.

And my last thought for the day is, with all the commentary about president Trump and what people have called his treasonous actions, the fight to stop the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh might have much more power in saying this is not the president who should be able to change the direction of this country.

And certainly what we need is a change of direction that addresses our history of extraordinary racism, the legacy of slavery, and the fact that there are all kinds of women, poor women, pregnant women, who have never been recognized, even in name, as full Constitutional persons.

I think we have a few minutes left, and we can answer some questions in our remaining minutes. Okeh, one question is how do we engage more fully movements against incarceration that still tend to focus on men? What obstacles have you seen over the years that need to be addressed? I think that's a particularly helpful one.

I think that we're all, easily have our feelings hurt. When we go to a meeting and they don't want to hear from us. We have to stay in the rooms. We have to keep talking to them. I know for a fact that the Drug Policy Alliance is working on a new campaign regarding ending mass criminalization, and they are including reproductive rights, health, and justice.

So it is true, what do we do? We go. We do not give up. We engage and we build relationships with people, rather than separate into our little silos.

PROFESSOR DOROTHY E. ROBERTS: Yeah. And, also, there has been a very, very strong movement of black women and other women of color pointing out the extremely high rates of incarceration of women of color, especially black and Latina women, and so, that has made an impact on the movements for black lives, on other organizing against incarceration.

There's more and more historical information coming out about the long history of criminalizing black women, for example, in spaces that have been viewed as solely the spaces of criminalizing men. Say Her Name, you know, I could go on with ways in which we have intervened in this narrow way of thinking about mass incarceration.

And, also, it's important to recognize that movements against mass incarceration or for prison abolition are also integrally related to reproductive justice, on a number, a number of grounds, not just the fact that people's reproductive freedom is constrained while they're incarcerated, but they are deeper ways in which the notions about reproducing criminality have been excuses for criminalizing pregnant people, especially pregnant black women.

So, stay in the room, organize, bring alliances to bring together reproductive justice and prison abolition advocacy, and that -- that is an extremely powerful coalition that could be built further for justice.

LYNN PALTROW: Well, and one of the things that we work to prevent is if, if Roe goes, and it goes in the way that the most anti-abortion people hope it will, recognition of fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses, you open up the six million people who get pregnant every year to potential profit making incarceration. And yes, absolutely, our criminal justice system, our punitive civil child welfare system, all target black and brown families and low income white families, in very particular targeted ways, but that -- there are an awful lot of people who could become fodder for that industry.

And what people don't understand, I mean, you see some of the dialogue in the anti-choice movement, where they'll say, well, there probably should be some penalty but, you know, women, they can raise mental health issues in their defense. They make it sound like everybody who's arrested in America gets Perry Mason for their lawyers, for those of you who are older. And that they have access to lawyers, they have access to experts.

If you're arrested on the charge of murder, as Bei Bei Shuai in Indiana, for attempting suicide and, in the end, losing a pregnancy she very much wanted, there was no bail. You get arrested and you sit in jail, because -- for years, potentially, because the charge is murder.

Once you're in jail, think about how pregnant people are treated when they're incarcerated. That's why there are whole movements now challenging it. Sister Song just had a webinar about shackling pregnant women, incarcerated pregnant women. They are so devalued, they're -- not only them but the babies that they're going to have, that they are literally kept in chains and shackles during labor and delivery, or shortly thereafter. And even with the gains that have been made, and they are really out front, making change in the law, then we have to have the power to enforce them.

So, the question is also, getting people the support they need after they have given birth, and making sure that they're giving birth where they are actually safe and supported, not where somebody is controlling them and telling them what to do.

PROFESSOR DOROTHY E. ROBERTS: All right. And let me just say, I would have to leave in about ten minutes. Okeh? Because I have a 2:30 talk to teenagers about these issues, so, yeah.

LYNN PALTROW: Speaking of teenagers, one of the questions dealt with what was happening at the border to families, and this, I mean, I spent a little time looking at, again, the anti-choice websites and commentary, and it's fascinating, because they -- they were trying to point to a certain hypocrisy, that people, Democrats, people on the left, were opposing family separation, and they suggested that this was extraordinarily hypocritical since the same side defends abortion, separating unborn children from their mothers.

And, you know, I thought, you know, there's a superficial logic to that, but actually none at all, because in one case, it is about the government taking control and destroying families, and in the other it is government ensuring that individuals control their own bodies, their own lives, and make the decisions they make.

We know that government has a very important role to play in ensuring the health and welfare and safety of its citizens, which they can do through social welfare programs, through all kinds of legislation in support, but it never works when the government thinks it can make better decisions for individuals about what their health care should be, what medications they should take. It is always a disaster when government officials are empowered to make those decisions for any of us.

PROFESSOR DOROTHY E. ROBERTS: Well, and also, what's going on separating families at the border is very similar to policies that have gone on in the United States that separate, especially black and indigenous, Native American children from their parents. Deliberate policies in the case of Native Americans to assimilate them into white culture and decimate tribes, and in the case of African Americans, a policy that's gone on since the time of slavery to devalue the family bonds of black people and to have control. It's a form of state control, what we've been talking about.

DOUG MCVAY: You've been listening to portions of a webinar presented by National Advocates for Pregnant Women on July 18 on the topic of Overturning Roe: More Than Abortion Is At Stake: How Overturning Roe Can Unite And Ignite Advocacy For All Pregnant People.

More than just Roe is at stake with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice. All of our civil liberties, all of our human rights, even the future of our democracy, is at stake. We cannot allow that nomination to be approved. We must stand up, we must speak out. Contact your Senators. Urge them to oppose this nomination.

And thank you for joining us. You've been listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available via podcast, the URLs to subscribe are on the network home page at DrugTruth.net.

The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember: Knowledge is power. Follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back next week with thirty more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the drug war. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.