Assessed a one-game penalty after an outburst against the chair umpire during the finals of the 2018 U.S. Open* on Saturday, Serena Williams turned a klieg light on the issue of gender discrimination. Male players, she said, routinely receive no penalty for behavior at least as egregious as hers—and, in some cases, even worse.
Meanwhile, earlier in the week, in a hearing room at times only slightly less raucous than courtside at the U.S. Open, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) had raised the discrimination question with Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s appointee to the Supreme Court.** “Can you think of any laws that give the government the power to make decisions about the male body?” she asked. It was a follow-up to her earlier query on whether the nominee believed the right to privacy protects a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.
Between those two questions—as Kavanaugh waffled, swayed, evaded, pleaded puzzlement, declined to comment—Harris pointed out that a more courageous nominee, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, had stated her stance precisely. “This is central to a woman’s life, to her dignity,” she had said. “It’s a decision she must make for herself, and if government controls that decision for her, she’s being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”
Nothing could be clearer. But even now, 45 years after the Roe v. Wade ruling which held that a woman’s right to an abortion falls within the purview and protection of the 14th Amendment, some zealots, including many in black robes, persist in their belief that women who are athletes, doctors, lawyers, pilots, legislators, news commentators, teachers, psychotherapists, engineers, electricians, plumbers, administrators, small business owners—you get the picture—lack the maturity, judgement, intellect and enlightened self-interest to make their own reproductive decisions.
How many times do we have to wander through these weeds? As far as I know, there is no law forcing a woman to have an abortion when she doesn't want one. Absent any legitimate interest of the state, what justifies depriving a woman of the control of her own body? The fact that her neighbor's religious views might prevent her (the neighbor) from having one is irrelevant. How hard is that to understand?
The decision belongs to the woman involved and is hers alone. If she wishes to consult others, that's her choice.
What would happen if we decided it was the government’s place to make the vasectomy decision for men? Just askin’.
Thoughts for Our Time
“Conservatism discards Prescription, shrinks from Principle, disavows Progress; having rejected all respect for antiquity, it offers no redress for the present, and makes no preparation for the future.”