The draft challenges privacy rights that extend beyond abortion
By now, nearly everyone in America has heard the news that someone privy to the inner workings of the United States Supreme Court leaked a 98-page draft opinion by conservative Associate Justice Samuel Alito that spells almost certain doom for Roe v.
Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion in America. Nearly 50 years ago, the Court decided that the right to an abortion is a fundamental right protected by the right to privacy, as outlined in the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.
Calling Roe “egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito’s opinion would end half a century of protections, allowing each state to decide the matter independently. The political and economic agency of women — particularly in low-income communities and communities of color — could be affected. But a reading of the full text reveals a hammer blow at the concept of privacy itself, something that has been at the heart of American jurisprudence for decades.
And while Alito writes in his opinion that the conclusions drawn in the text are only to be applied to the question of abortion, and that no inference can be drawn as to future rulings on other rights, many fear the conservative agenda has set its sights on far more than just abortion. LGBTQ+ rights, voting rights and even married couples’ ability to use contraception may now face a full-frontal assault.
“There are other fundamental constitutional rights, protected currently by the right of privacy, that are being tangled with by the language of this decision,” says Noreen Farrell, civil rights attorney and executive director of Equal Rights Advocates in San Francisco.
That’s because the right to privacy is not spelled out in the Constitution. Alito’s draft well understands this fragile state of affairs: He wrote that Roe was remarkably loose in its treatment of the constitutional text.
“It held that the abortion right, which is not mentioned in the Constitution, is part of a right to privacy, which is also not in the Constitution,” he wrote disparagingly of Roe.
But this right to privacy is at the center of many other rights. The courts recognized this right to personal autonomy, “including parental control, child-rearing and reproductive autonomy with regard to the use of contraception,” Lisa Matsubara, vice-president of policy and general counsel at Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said at an Ethnic Media Services briefing.
Alito’s draft explicitly criticizes privacy right based cases in a way that is very concerning, said Farrell. She points to the fact that Alito referenced landmark cases like Lawrence v.
Texas (2003), which prevented the criminal prosecution of gay sexual relationships, as well as Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide on privacy grounds.
As Politico reported, Alito’s mention of Plessy v. Ferguson, which continued racial segregation under the “separate but equal” clause, in a case to overturn abortion, highlights the assumption that Roe is flawed. Farrell said that this is like pointing to a social justice case to overturn a social justice reproductive right.
Of course, in the short term, it is reproductive care that is in serious jeopardy — largely because of Alito’s reliance on misleading assertions. One of the most startling observations he made questions the motives of abortion rights supporters.
Quoting arguments in amicus briefs, Justice Alito noted that “some such supporters have been motivated by a desire to suppress the size of the African American population. And it is beyond dispute that Roe has had that demographic effect.
A highly disproportionate percentage of aborted fetuses are black.”
However, in a 2014 study, Guttmacher Institute found that Black patients only accounted for 28 percent of abortion patients, while there were 39 percent white patients, 25 percent Hispanic patients and nine percent of other races and ethnicities. Lauren Cross and Elizabeth Nash from Guttmacher summarized these findings by suggesting that “the majority of people who have abortions are also facing structural racism that is exacerbated by every logistic hurdle.”
Speaking on Democracy Now, UC Irvine law professor Michelle Goodwin said that we have entered the era of the new Jane Crow.
“For Black women, they are 3.5 times more likely to die due to maternal mortality in the United States than their white counterparts,” she said, layering that statistic upon the data that a woman is 14 times more likely to die from carrying a pregnancy to term than by terminating it. “If we fail to include that in our conversation then we are missing what essentially is a death sentence for many women across the United States and girls,” she said.
Calling Alito’s observation “a dog whistle to the reactionary right,” Farrell said that it is deeply concerning that Black women’s access to abortion and reproductive health are going to be deeply affected by this decision. There’s no paid family or maternity leave for many in the community, there’s no universal and subsidized childcare, and frequently inaccessible mental health care, and this is the context of harm in which this final decision will be published, she remarked.
“Our decision returns the issue of abortion to those legislative bodies,” Alito wrote, referring to state legislatures, adding that women are not without electoral or political power.
However, a quick examination of women in state legislatures reveals this dismal data: 2,267 women serve in state legislatures, constituting only one-third of the nationwide state legislative cohort.
Dozens of states are getting the green light from the Supreme Court to suppress votes through gerrymandering and other tactics. Justice Alito’s argument that this can be resolved by a democratic process in the country seems disingenuous and uncompromising.
But again, Monday’s stunning revelation wasn’t a judgment; it was a leak. The Supreme Court is expected to make its final decision on the future of Roe v. Wade next month.
Portions of this article were originally published in the SF Standard
NaFFAA mourns loss of Sec. Norman Mineta
WASHINGTON DC — The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) mourns the passing of Secretary Norman Mineta. He was the first Asian-American mayor of a major city and cabinet official in the United States. In 1971, Norman Mineta broke racial barriers by becoming the mayor in his hometown of San Jose during the time of the city’s major population boom. He then later served as a 10-term congressman and a cabinet secretary. He was well-known for his expertise in the byzantine policies governing the country’s highways, railroads, and airports. He will also be remembered as a pioneer, advocate, and mentor to Asian-American organizations.
NaFFAA Founding Co-Chair, Gloria Caoile, remembers Mineta in her statement saying, “Our hearts are broken with the passing of our mentor, Sec. Norman Mineta. He inspired generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders to make a difference. A giant among us, he leaves footprints that future generations can follow.
It was Mineta who was the catalyst for the AAPI’s presidential inaugural celebration. He valued inclusion, championed democracy, and promoted civic participation. He wanted communities to celebrate political victories. He instructed the organization an AAPI inaugural gala and said the president of the United States would be there to recognize their contributions. Wisely, he combined their cultural appreciation for gatherings with political participation. We will always love him, cherish his memory, and honor his legacy.”
NaFFAA National President and Chair, Brendan Flores, also stated, “Today our country has lost one of its most accomplished citizens, former Sec. Norman Mineta. As a Japanese American who experienced great racial discrimination throughout his life, Sec. Mineta made his passion for advocacy for justice and equality in the AAPI community a top priority. His long list of accomplishments and bipartisan leadership has and will continue to inspire generations of AAPI leaders. The National Federation of Filipino American Association thanks Sec. Mineta for paving the way for members of our community to achieve great heights.”
Let’s continuing to honor Sec. Mineta’s legacy throughout the month for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Military, law enforcement vets tour Bataan 80th anniversary exhibit at PH Consulate in SF
As part of the continuing education campaign on the story and legacy of Filipino veterans during World War II, the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco hosted a Military and Law Enforcement Night on April 28 on the sidelines of the “Remember Bataan: The 80th Anniversary of the Fall of Bataan” Memorial Exhibit at the Consulate’s Kalayaan Hall.
During the event — which was attended by past and present members of the US Armed Forces and Law Enforcement, as well as cause-oriented American veterans’ organizations — Bataan Legacy Historical Society Executive Director Cecilia Gaerlan underlined the importance of educating Filipinos and Americans on the history of the Second World War in the Philippines.
Through the efforts of Filipino American organizations in California, California became the first US state to teach Philippine World War II history in Grade 11 school curriculum.
The Filipino American Community in the San Francisco Bay Area mounted the “Remember Bataan” Memorial Exhibit to mark the 80th anniversary of the Fall of Bataan and the Bataan Death March, and to honor the legacy of Filipino and American World War II veterans. The special exhibit was spearheaded by the Consulate, the Department of Tourism Office in San Francisco, the Filipino American Arts Exposition, the Bataan Legacy Historical Society, and the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society. (San Francisco PCG photos) ###
Florida Governor locks horns with multi-faith communities over maps
By Khalil Abdullah/Ethnic Media Services
Rev. Rhonda Thomas (L), executive director of Faith in Florida
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ re-drawing of congressional district lines at the expense of African American Floridians and other ethnic communities may come back to haunt his bid this November for a second term.
That’s the assessment of Rev. Rhonda Thomas, the first African American woman to head Faith in Florida, a multi-faith, multi-ethnic association of about 1,000 congregations whose mission is to help train people –- often those motivated by religious ideals –- to be of service to their communities.
“Once elected, if an official can’t govern all of Florida…we have a responsibility to remind them that they work for us. If you can’t do your job, then maybe you should be unemployed.”
Under Thomas’ guidance, Faith in Florida has expanded significantly to include representation in 34 out of Florida’s 67 counties. “We’re multi-racial, multi-faith, including Muslims and Jews. We’re of one accord. We can point out and see that we really have more in common than what separated us. We have fought for issues around immigration, reducing gun violence, and protecting democracy.”
It is the latter issue that prompted the group to endorse a protest rally on the Capitol steps after the DeSantis maps were approved by the Republican controlled legislature. DeSantis had vetoed the legislature’s original maps which were deemed to be more in compliance with constitutional requirements to preserve the opportunity for minority voters to elect candidates of their choice.
The new DeSantis maps reduce the number of predominantly African American populated districts from five to three. The fifth district, for example, currently represented by Rep. Al Lawson, is eliminated altogether by “cracking” it apart and divvying up its pieces to surrounding districts.
Thus, should Lawson choose to seek office again, he will be running in a district with voters far less familiar with him than his current constituents. Cracking doesn’t always guarantee defeat for an incumbent but it makes the path to re-election far more challenging.
Faith in Florida is not a plaintiff in the injunction that has been filed to halt implementation of the DeSantis maps. However, organizations with which it has collaborated certainly are, including the Equal Ground Education Fund and the League of Women Voters of Florida.
Rev. Thomas, named executive director of Faith in Action in 2020, had worked for over a decade on issues ranging from the negative affect of tax policies on public services to immigration and voter suppression. In 2018, she was immersed in the “Let My People Vote” campaign to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people. Her participation in the ultimately successful campaign secured the right to vote for over one million of Florida’s “returning citizens.”
A hitch came later, in the form of new state requirements that returning citizens must first pay all the fees and fines they incurred, no matter how old, before being eligible to vote. Thomas holds DeSantis and Republican allies in the legislature responsible for attempting to cut the heart out of the “Let My People Vote” campaign.
Meanwhile, Thomas and her husband, Rev. Dr. Ranzer Thomas continue to lead the New Generation Missionary Baptist Church which they founded in 1997. Few issues are closer to her heart than that of gun violence which she says has plagued African American communities, particularly Miami’s Liberty City.
“I’m the first Black woman who has ever been executive director of Faith in Florida,” said Thomas. “I have been impacted by gun violence. I’ve known what it’s like to have lack of health care. So I do a lot of this advocacy work from my heart.”
When gun violence erupted at Stoneman Douglass High School in the predominantly white residential community of Parkland, killing 14 students and three school staff and wounding 17 more – surpassing the 1999 Columbine, Co., school mass shooting – Thomas was galvanized.
“I had no idea Parkland was a city until that shooting took place,” she recalls. She lived only 20 minutes away and went to Parkland the night of the shooting. “I was drawn to go there because I know what it’s like to lose a loved one to senseless gun violence.”
The kids in Parkland were so traumatized, some survivors were contemplating suicide, she recalls. Faith in Florida helped bring about 15 students from Parkland to Liberty City where random gun violence is not uncommon. “I don’t think the Liberty City kids will ever get the credit they deserve for how they helped the kids in Parkland with communicating their trauma. That’s how Liberty City kids got to the March for Our lives in Washington DC with the Parkland kids. We covered their costs.”
Thomas pins her hopes for the future on Florida’s youth and on the alliances she and others are forging to meet the challenges of communities in need.
“We have a responsibility as faith leaders to hold elected officials accountable, regardless of our party affiliations. If your values don’t line up with the values of hard-working people, regardless of race, that’s a problem. My theme for Faith in Florida is building a loving community where everyone feels a sense of belonging.”