#SWAAYthenarrative

Politicians Are Manipulating A Public Health Crisis To Ban Abortion

5 Min Read
Politics

Every time I think I'm out of outrage — emotionally exhausted from how the COVID-19 crisis has exposed the fragility of all our society's systems and unable to think about it for another second — something forces me to dig deeper and find another well of it stored within me.

It's hard enough to watch people sick and suffering, families being split apart, healthcare workers risking their lives and well-being to provide care, and people losing their jobs left and right. It's even harder knowing that so much of this could have been prevented or lessened but for the poor decision-making and horrifying gaslighting that came from the White House in the weeks and months leading up to COVID-19's appearance in the U.S.

But to see some politicians use this pandemic as an excuse to ban abortion has been a low I wasn't prepared for while I shopped for extra canned goods and toilet paper.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a governing crisis for legislators at all levels. There is a role for everyone to play, from your city council members all the way up to your U.S. Senators. There are real needs these legislators should be focusing on to protect us all. But, instead, scores of politicians are using this moment to declare abortion care as "nonessential" and are forcing clinics to close.

Amid the necessary stay-at-home orders and guidelines for what kinds of services or procedures are considered essential and which ones must be delayed, Governors in Texas, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Ohio, and Oklahoma have acted to declare that abortion care is considered "nonessential."

They claim that these procedures must be stopped so medical personnel can preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) for fighting COVID-19. But abortion isn't a procedure that can be easily delayed.

The longer you wait, the more expensive it is and, eventually, you run out of time altogether — sometimes because of existing restrictions on abortion later in pregnancy. Restrictions that these very same politicians support or maybe even put into place.

Abortion is connected to innumerable other issues that our society grapples with: employment, paid family leave, gender-based violence, generational poverty, adequate and quality childcare, job security, immigration, transportation, health insurance... HEALTH INSURANCE.

Every structure and component of our daily lives can and does impact a person's decisions around family-building and their ability to access healthcare when they need it. This doesn't just stop because of a pandemic.

Every single one of these issues is at risk right now, and leaving women with nowhere to go if they're facing an unintended pregnancy that they wish to end, is a new low.

To anyone who has been paying attention, how quickly our systems have buckled or how fragile our economic and health security actually is (and always has been) should come as no great surprise.

People with incredible privilege have been able to look the other way for years. But as their stocks tumble and they are forced to consider their health and that of their family members, perhaps they, too, will see that significant structural changes must be enacted to respond to the world we are living in.

The completely arbitrary nature of so many of our laws is being laid bare. The soul-crushing burdens of trying to manage everything — child care, working full time, and running a home and a family during a once-in-a-generation crisis — without a broad, systematic set of structures to support that process is being shown to be utterly impossible. It's simple logic.

Though opponents of reproductive rights have never been much for science, it's appalling how even now that is so blatantly true. Their argument for cutting off abortion access to preserve PPE for other health care services is easily countered when you note that continuing a pregnancy requires multiple prenatal visits and ultimately a hospital stay for actual delivery. All of which require a much higher amount of PPE being utilized over a significant period of time.

Meanwhile, we could transform the landscape of abortion access overnight if we simply expanded the availability of medication abortion, allowing women to get the safe and effective abortion pill without even having to go to a clinic. The U.K just took action to make this a reality. There's no reason, beyond petty politics, that the U.S. couldn't do the same. But, so far, the FDA isn't budging.

Of course, if we attempt to counter these increased abortion restrictions with facts, we'd be presuming that these opponents of abortion are arguing in good faith when they are absolutely not.

This isn't about health and safety during a global pandemic, and it's not about looking out for peoples' best interests. There's no reasonable argument to be made for forcing someone to continue a pregnancy against their will, especially while our entire world is in an upheaval.

The fact that these proponents of abortion restrictions are willing to twist a global pandemic to suit their own needs, and in antithesis to the simple facts of health and safety, is appalling. It is only adding more stress and heartache to already-challenging circumstances. Women in Texas and Oklahoma don't deserve that; no one does.

Pushing for abortion restrictions at a time like this isn't about healthcare, PPE, or even safety. It is a purposeful and manipulative political agenda that will make things even harder at a time when we can all agree things are hard enough.

5 Min Read
People

Judge Tanya Acker On Overcoming Racial Barriers And Her Rise To The Top


You may recognize Judge, Tanya Acker, from her political and legal commentary on different networks and shows like Good Morning America, The Talk, Wendy Williams, CNN Reports or The Insider. Acker is more than an experienced commentator. She is also a Judge on the fifth season of Emmy nominated CBS show, Hot Bench.

The show, created by Judge Judy, is a new take on the court genre. Alongside Acker, are two other judges: Patricia DiMango and Michael Corriero. Together the three-panel judges take viewers inside the courtroom and into their chambers. “I feel like my responsibility on the show is, to be honest, fair, [and] to try and give people a just and equitable result," Acker says. She is accomplished, honest and especially passionate about her career. In fact, Acker likes the fact that she is able to help people solve problems. “I think that efficient ways of solving disputes are really at the core of modern life.

“We are a very diverse community [with] different values, backgrounds [and] beliefs. It's inevitable that we're going to find ourselves in some conflicts. I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

Acker's career has been built around key moments and professional experiences in her life. Particularly, her time working right after college impacted the type of legal work she takes on now.

Shaping Her Career

Acker didn't foresee doing this kind of work on television when she was in college at either Howard University or Yale Law. “I was really open in college about what would happen next," Acker comments. “In fact, I deliberately chose a major (English) that wouldn't lock me into anything [because] I wanted to keep all of my options open." Her inevitable success on the show and throughout her career is an example of that. In fact, after graduating from Yale, Acker served as a judicial law clerk to Judge Dorothy Nelson who sits on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

It was not only her first job out of law school but also one of the formative experiences of her professional life. “[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law," she exclaims. “She delivers it all with a lot of love." Judge Nelson is still on the bench and is continuing to work through her Foundation: The Western Justice Center in Pasadena, California, where Acker serves on the board. The foundation helps people seeking alternative ways of resolving their disputes instead of going to court.

"I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

“It was important to her to try and create platforms for people to resolve conflict outside of court because court takes a long time," Acker explains. “I'm proud to be a part of that work and to sit on that board."

After her clerkship, she was awarded a Bristow Fellowship and continued building her career. Outside of the fellowship, Acker's legal work incorporated a broad variety of matters from civil litigation, constitutional cases, business counseling, and advising. One of her most memorable moments was representing a group of homeless people against the city. “They were being fought for vagrancy and our defense was, they had no place to go," she shares.

As part of her pro bono work, Acker was awarded the ACLU's First Amendment Award for her success with the case. Though, she has a hard time choosing from one of many memorable moments on Hot Bench. Acker does share a few of the things that matter to her. “Our show is really drawn from a cross-section of courtrooms across America and the chance to engage with such a diverse group of people really means a lot to me," she discusses.

How Did Acker Become A Judge?

In addition to Judge Nelson, Judge Judy is certainly among her top professional influences. “I think it's incredible [and] I feel very lucky that my professional career has been bookended by these incredible judges," she acclaims. “I've really learned a lot from Judy about this job, doing this kind of job on television." Before Acker was selected for Hot Bench, she hadn't been a judge. It was Judge Judy who recommended that she get some experience. Acker briefly comments on her first experience as a temporary judge on a volunteer basis in traffic court. “I was happy to be able to have the chance to kind of get a feel for it before we started doing the show," she comments. “Judy is a wonderful, kind, generous person [and] she's taught me quite a lot. I feel lucky."

Judge Acker in white pantsuit with her dog. Photo Courtesy of Annie Shak.

Acker's Time Away From Home

Outside of Hot Bench, Acker took recent trips to Haiti and Alabama. They were memorable and meaningful.

Haiti, in particular, was the first trip she excitedly talks about. She did some work there in an orphanage as part of LOVE Takes Root, an organization that is driven to help children around the world whether it's basic aid or education. “Haiti has a special place in my heart," she began. “As a person who's descended from enslaved people, I have a lot of honor and reverence for a country that threw off the shackles of slavery."

She was intrigued by the history of Haiti. Especially regarding the communities, corrupt government and natural disasters. “They really had to endure a lot, but I tell you this when I was there, I saw people who were more elegant, dignified, gracious and generous as any group of people I've ever met anywhere in the world," she goes on. “I think it left me with was a strong sense of how you can be graceful and elegant under fire." Acker is optimistic about the country's overall growth and success.

“[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law."

“There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," Acker says. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving."

Her other trip was different in more ways than one. She traveled there for the first time with her mother as part of a get out to vote effort, that Alabama's First black House Minority Leader, Anthony Daniels was organizing. “It was incredible to take that trip with her [and] I've got to tell you, the South of today is not the South of my mother's upbringing," she explains. Originally from Mississippi, Acker's mother hasn't been back in the South since 1952. “Every place has a ways to go, but it was a really exciting trip [and] it was nice for me to connect with that part of the country and that part of my history."

Overcoming Racial Barriers

As a black woman, Acker has certainly faced challenges based on her race and gender. But it doesn't define who she is or what she can accomplish. “There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," she says. “There's no sort of barrier that someone would attempt to impose upon me that they didn't attempt to impose on my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother." In a space where disparity is sometimes apparent, she recognizes that there is no barrier someone would try to impose on her that they didn't attempt to impose on her mother or grandmothers. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving," Acker states. The conversation continues truthfully and seriously. Acker shares what it can be like for black women, specifically. “I think we're underestimated and we can be disrespected, whereas other folks are allowed the freedom to enjoy a full range of emotions and feelings," she articulates.

At times black women are often restricted from expressing themselves. “If someone wants to make an assumption or jump to a conclusion about me because of my race or gender, that's on them, but their assumptions aren't going to define me," Acker declares. “If something makes me angry or happy I will express that and if someone wants to caricature me, that's their pigeonholing; that's not my problem." A lifelong lesson she learned and shared is to not let other people define who you are. It is one of three bits of wisdom.

Three Pieces Of Advice From Judge Acker

The Power Of Self-awareness

“It's really important that you have a really firm sense of what you want to do and be, and how you're moving in the world because when people try to sway you, judge you or steer you off course you've got to have some basis for getting back on track."

Know Your Support System

“Have a strong community of people who you trust, love and who love you," she advises. “But also learn to love and trust yourself because sometimes it's your own voice that can provide you the most comfort or solace in something."

Learn From Your Experiences

“Trust yourself. Take care of yourself. Don't be too hard on yourself. Be honest with yourself.

“There are times when it's not enough to say this is who I am. Take it or leave it. Sometimes we've got things that we need to work on, change or improve upon," she concludes.

Acker stands out not only because of her accomplishments, but the way she views certain aspects of her life. These days, she's comfortable accepting what makes her different. “I think there's a time when you're younger when conformity feels comfortable, [but] I'm comfortable these days not conforming," she laughs. She enjoys being a decision maker and helping people work through it on Hot Bench.

This article was originally published May 15, 2019.