Sisters in Law by Linda Hirshman

sisters in lawSisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World (2015)

O’Connor discussion
I have been hostile to Sandra Day O’Connor ever since I read that it was her language that gave the states the ability to regulate abortion as long as it was not an “undue burden” to pregnant women. And today’s hundreds of abortion restrictions stem from this language. But I thought it was just me that hated her for being a republican first and a woman second.  I thought she was always hailed for making choice the law of the land, but in fact it would seem that she was not progressive on the issue either.

p. 251 More important, her [SDO] endless dalliance with allowing ever more intrusive restrictions helped give moral legitimacy to the anti-choice [forced birthers] campaign. O’Connor’s opinion is of a piece with her abortion jurisprudence since 1983. She would never provide the crucial fifth vote to send women back to 1972. But she would not let them beyond the backlash that erupted after 1973 either.

Instead of an unequivocal right to bodily autonomy the Roe decision was couched in the right to privacy between a woman and her doctor. It was kind of never about women in that sense. Male doctors got tired of seeing dead and dying women in the emergency rooms from illegal abortions. Abortion became allowed not because the alternative was dead women though, it was because the justices were willing to listen to doctors and came up with the privacy gambit, emphasis has always been that it was a matter between a woman and her doctor. A truly unequivocal right to freedom from forced child-bearing was just beyond the court’s republican Catholic beliefs. Certainly not one that would allow women to choose by themselves and buy an off the counter couple of pills (decades later) and do an abortion themselves. Not even telemedicine is acceptable, especially in light of the numerous TARP laws, clinic closures, waiting periods, and forced ultrasounds among the many undue barriers states controlled by republican religious zealots have passed.

I find it nearly unbelievable that rights I was fighting for decades ago are being threatened by such people when it is NONE OF THEIR DAMN BUSINESS. And the hypocrisy! Small government! Women’s “safety” or the patronizing “you might regret it” so don’t you worry about it, we’ll decide for you. Imagine if men were forced to pay $10,000 to the government for the right to spread his seed, given that children are expensive and dad’s walk away all too often. You wouldn’t even see the ink dry before the law was passed to allow abortions. Or like it was said back in the first fight for abortion, if men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

And the thing I utterly fail to understand is why the forced birthers are not screaming on the sidewalks of the Pentagon to stop killing our people and others. If zygotes etc. are so important to them, why not actual living beings? That includes women.

Does anyone remember anyone screaming at pregnant women at maternity hospitals that they were sluts to have gotten pregnant and leeches to taxpayers for the support of their children given limited resources and the zero population growth movement back in the day? No, because people respect the right to choose to have children. Unless you were poor or black or on welfare. Then they were sterilizing women against their will. I remember reading about one particular case where three generations had become pregnant out of wedlock. The judge forced the youngest to become sterilized to prevent further birth of degenerate stupid generations to live off the government.

Republican and religious zealots don’t want scientific sex education or birth control or Plan B. But their answer is not to make these things free and pervasive. They want abstinence – at least for women primarily because you know, boys will be boys and that short skirt says “rape me” when you are in school. They prefer women to find a man to marry to support them and their babies.

So thanks Sandra Day O’Connor, for how you managed to F up the world with your values. You don’t deserve to be in a book with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

p. 255 On election night 2000, Justice O’Connor and John O’Connor were at an election party at the home of Mary Ann Stoessel, doyenne of the Washington establishment and widow of the legendary diplomat Walter Stoessel. Shortly before 8 p.m. NBC called Flordia, and thus the election, for the Democrat, Al Gore. “This is terrible,” the justice said. “That means it’s over.” She rose from her chair in front of the TV with an air of disgust. John O’Connor volunteered an explanation of her abrupt behavior. She wanted to retire, he told them, so that they could go back to Phoenix. She would not, however, hand her seat over to a Democratic president. So if Gore won Florida, they were doomed to at least four more years in Washington, D.C. [my emphasis]

She apparently forgot the Supreme Court was supposed to be non-political and objective about the law. Funny too that her attitude about her job and location should be so dismal. But perhaps she was concerned because her husband “was suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.” But she still cared more about not surrendering her seat as a justice to a democrat than her husband’s needs.

So she wants to retire, move back to Arizona where family is, but won’t if it means giving a democrat a seat on the theoretically non-partisan court. So five weeks after election night, she cast the fifth deciding vote on Bush v. Gore.

So we also have her to thank for all the damage of the Cheney – Bush- Rumsfeld – Rove cabal. Including 9/11 in that sense because W refused to listen to outgoing Bill Clinton’s advise about terrorist threats. And now ISIS, thousands of dead in endless wars.

p. 257 At a tony D.C. dinner party right in the middle of Bush v. Gore, she loudly assured her fellow guests that she knew terrible things about the Gore campaign’s behavior in Florida: “You just don’t know what those Gore people have been doing,” she said. “They went into a nursing home and registered people that they shouldn’t have. It was just outrageous.”

The author refers to a reporter, Jeff Toobin, “who had written many positive reports about the FWOTSC” as pointing out, “there is no obvious explanation for why the Supreme Court Justice was broadcasting a baseless canard from some right-wing website.” [my emphasis] but of course she was a loyal republican who believed the democrats were evil election stealing corrupt people. I would call that transference. Hirshman goes on to describe O’Connor’s character a little bit.

O’Connor was legendarily impatient with people who couldn’t handle the business of everyday life; she was always telling people how to drive and giving them directions to places whether they wanted them or not. The Democratic-dominated Florida Supreme Court came down with a very heavy-handed opinion in Gore’s favor, in what looked like a transparently partisan effort [again, I propose transference]. Like the Democratic Party and its inept voters, Florida was a “mess” by O’Connor’s tidy standards. By contrast, the Republican Party represented her old friend Barbara Bush’s son George, a “compassionate conservative” and the certified winner under Florida’s designated certifier, Secretary of State Kathleen Harris.

O’Connor is described as a person “impervious to political theory” and “without any stable vision of what a better world would look like.” The Republican Party, on the other hand, “had a clear theory of how America should be governed and a scorched earth commitment to the outcome. She might have thought she was picking the more attractive litigant or tidying up a messy situation, but when the old-fashioned good-government Girl of the Golden West met the ideologues of the twenty-first century Republican Party in Bush v. Gore, they took her lunch.”

Part of what is unexplained here is since she wanted to retire so badly and since she saw to it a Republican was President, I was surprised to learn that she did not retire until five years later. And here is the truly heartbreaking part:

Five years later,John’s illness having become totally unmanageable, she retired. In her place, George W. Bush nominated Samuel Alito, the judge from Pennsylvania who had thought married women should have to go to their husbands if they needed an abortion.

And furthermore, more lives were adversely and forever changed by making Bush president.

Two days later [after the inauguration], he reinstated the prohibitions, suspended by Bill Clinton, against giving foreign aid to any organization that performed or “promoted” abortion. Planned Parenthood International’s budget went down by 20 percent.

However, O’Connor did vote more liberally after Bush took office and for the 5 years before she retired coordinating with Rehnquist who had throat cancer but expected to live longer than he did. Thus giving Bush the O’Connor seat and that of the Chief Justice. She redeemed herself a little  bit though by her response to the press: Wonderful choice, “Except,” she added, “he’s not a woman.”




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