5min readPolitics 15 May 2019
It was 1989. It was two o'clock in the morning. I was a sophomore in college, nineteen-years-old, sitting on the floor in the living room of my college apartment. I can still remember the sounds of the screams; the feeling of shattered glass as it brushed passed me; and my roommate's voice asking if everyone was ok.
We were making posters to take with us to D.C. the next day for the Pro-Choice March on Washington. “Keep your rosaries off my rosaries;" “Pro-Choice = Pro-Woman;" “Keep your legislation out of my uterus;" our signs read. That was why we were now sitting in a room strewn with glass. That was why we were suddenly looking at a brick in the center of the room.
That brick had a piece of paper wrapped around it held in place by a dirty rubber band. I can't tell you why I remember it was dirty. But I do. I remember all sorts of minute details from that early morning because it was the most frightened I believe I had ever been up until that point in my life. No one said a word. My roommate rolled the rubber band off the brick and unfolded the note.
“Death to Feminazis and baby killers," the note read. We were all stunned. We cleaned up the glass. We talked nervously about whether or not to call the police. We were scared. And then we were angry. We went back to our sign making. The terrorists had failed. They didn't make us from our path. They only fueled our resolve.
That was nearly thirty years ago, and I still hear those words volleyed carelessly around – Feminazi, babykiller - and I am still stunned that denying healthcare to women is something people vehemently fight for and I am still puzzled at the arguments used as not one of them is valid or applicable. All I could think then, and all I still have to believe today, is that the battle is not about abortion or babies or human life. Never was. Never will be. The battle is over men controlling women's bodies.
It's not hard to see. A simple parsing of the “arguments" used by the anti-choicers. (I will not call them pro-lifers as they are not in any way supporting life). First they argue that life begins at conception not because of science but because of God. Well, seeing as believing in God is both a choice and something that the law says must be keep separated from matters of state, that's a non-starter.
Second, they argue that abortion kills babies, also a non-starter. Abortion removes cells that would otherwise develop into babies. Cells have no rights. Third, they argue that “life" must be protected. But these same people have absolutely no interest in the life of the mother. They don't care if her life is in danger because of the birth or because someone will kill her if they discover she's pregnant. And they have equally no interest in the life of the baby once she or he is born as the same anti-choicers who kidnap women to keep them from having abortions do not support governmental services to care for the child.
Photo Courtesy of QNS"They don't care if her life is in danger because of the birth or because someone will kill her if they discover she's pregnant."
So, they have no right putting their religion on other people's bodies, and they don't actually care about life. They just feign to in order to help their cause. They don't take issue with any other medical procedure. They don't take issue with men masturbating and wasting their seed. Shouldn't that sperm be saved to make a baby? And these are the same folks who are happy to see insurance cover Viagra. But if a pregnancy, even in the case of incest or rape is God's will, how is impotence not God's will? Clearly God does not want impotent men to procreate. Otherwise, he would have assured their ability to have sex.
The same arguments get played over and over and the fact that they are not arguments at all simply doesn't seem to matter. Over the years, the anti-choicers have killed doctors, kidnapped women, and blown up clinics. Yet, they claim they support life. Over the years, anti-choicers have argued that more women die when abortion is legal. Yes, they actually argue that more women die from safe, legal, accessible abortions then from resorting to having wire hangers and filthy knives and probes inserted into their vaginas while they lay on soiled sheets draped over tables set in dirty alleys and basements.
This is not about opinions. This is about statistics. This is about facts. This is about thousands of women a year who died when abortion was illegal. This is about creating a myth about abortion doctors chopping up babies and selling their parts. This is about control. This is about control. This is about control.
What anti-choicers actually want to is control women. They want to control women's bodies. They want to control women's sexuality. They see abortion as a method of birth control, as an easy out for women whoring around and carelessly getting pregnant at every turn. Take it from a women who has had an abortion. Who has walked through the screaming protestors at the clinic, who has laid on the table and heard the whir of the machine, who has suffered the pain of the procedure and the blood of recovery. Women do not have frivolously have abortions. They do not figure, “Why not have unprotected sex? Who cares if I get pregnant? I can always just pop on over to the clinic and have a painful, expensive procedure that will leave me cramping and aching and sore and bleeding for days to come."
And how do you explain the women who are anti-choicers? That's easy. Brainwashing. It is a powerful tool. It is a tool passed down generation to generation. The lies are set in place. God's law is law. Abortion kills beautiful little full term babies. A baby born as a result of a rape or a case of incest is a good thing coming out of something bad. Only sluts get abortions. There is a stronghold on the minds of women who still believe they in any way need a man to survive. Side note – they don't.
It's all wildly ridiculous and it is all wildly offensive. If anti-choicers were really about protecting life, why not stop things at the source? What about the men who get them pregnant? Why not control them instead? Why not give them reversible vasectomies? Why not teach them to be pure? Why not have them vow their virginity to their mothers until marriage? Why not teach them that birth control is their responsibility? Why not, hmmm? Why not? Why not indeed.
The abortion battle is not about abortion. It never was. The abortion battle is about reminding women of their place. The abortion battle is about controlling women and their bodies and sexuality. The abortion battle is about continuing the nauseating “boys will boys" mentality that will forever mean they need mommy to clean up their messes. They need women to be chaste because it suits the story they have created for themselves.
But it's a story that simply does not make any sense. It's a vision that perpetuates that virgin/whore complex. It's a vision that infantilizes women. It's a vision that kills women. It's a vision that leads to unwanted babies. It's a vision that simply cannot be tolerated any longer.
It's simple. A separation of church and state is still the law of our land. So, there is no reason to make abortion illegal because the religion of some does not support it. Women have a right to their bodies and healthcare. So, there is no reason to make abortion illegal just because men want that control instead. Lives are saved when abortion is safe, legal, and accessible to ALL women. So, there is no reason to make abortion illegal because some people refuse to accept the facts that women die when abortion is illegal and babies suffer and die when they are unwanted.
This resurgence against abortion, like the horrible and devastatingly restrictive laws just passed in Mississippi and Iowa is a distraction. It is an attempt to chip away at women's autonomy. It's the same as suggesting insurance shouldn't cover birth control. It's the same as offering no sex ed or abstinence only education which is the same or worse. It's the same as purity balls.
My mother was so upset when she found out I was headed to Washington for the Pro-Choice March. She wasn't upset because I was supporting abortion rights. She was having upset that I was having to march for the same rights she had marched for decades prior. It is insanity that we are back here having this conversation again, or perhaps more to the point, still.
We have to pay attention. We have to vote in elections. We have to protest. We have to educate. We have to fight. If you think Handmaid's Tale could never happen. Think again. Walls come down one brick at a time until there is nothing but rubble. Abortion rights must stand lest the world of freedom and equality that we are still at work building is at risk of crumbling to the ground.
5 Min Read
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."
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.