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reproductive rights

NJ Governor Murphy delivers remarks on reports of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade 

Roe v Wade, 410 U.S. 113, was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. 

Roe fueled an ongoing abortion debate in the United States about whether or to what extent abortion should be legal, who should decide the legality of abortion, and what the role of moral and religious views in the political sphere should be. 

This debate continued even after the Court’s ruling on January 22, 1973, where the Supreme Court issued a 7–2 decision in favor of “Jane Roe” (Norma McCorvey) holding that women in the United States had a fundamental right to choose whether to have abortions without excessive government restriction and striking down Texas’s abortion ban as unconstitutional.

Roe v Wade, reproductive rights, abortion

Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) and her lawyer Gloria Allred on the steps of the Supreme Court, 1989. (Photo attribution: Lorie Shaull, on Flickr.)

However, this past Monday, on May 2, 2022, Politico obtained a leaked initial draft majority opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito suggesting that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v Wade. Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the authenticity of the leaked document in a statement released a day later, although he noted that “it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case

Read about Women of Color Reproductive Rights

In response to this news, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued a statement yesterday, May 3, 2022, regarding the future of reproductive rights in New Jersey.

New Jersey Governor

NJ Governor Phil Murphy. (Photo source: Phil Murphy on Flickr)

“I want to briefly address the reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has voted to overturn the long-standing precedents of both Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey and eliminate the federal protection of a woman’s reproductive freedom.

Quite frankly, while enraging, this news is hardly surprising. This is exactly why we took the step we did earlier this year in enshrining every New Jerseyan’s full reproductive rights into state law. 

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. ( Photographer: Steve Petteway / Public domain)

When I stood with lawmakers in October 2020 to introduce the Reproductive Freedom Act, it was just six days after Donald Trump selected Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. 

 It was as clear then as it is now that this Court, stacked with Trump appointees, could not be trusted to protect women’s reproductive rights.

 If the Court takes this awful step, this decision will have no impact on New Jersey state law or the full right to reproductive freedom under our state law. This remains fully intact, because here in New Jersey, instead of hoping for the best, we prepared ourselves for the worst.

Throughout my governorship, I have fought for a single, basic principle: this must be a decision made between a woman and her doctor, period.

If a right-wing Supreme Court cannot recognize this simple truth, our elected officials in Washington must take matters into their own hands. 

Congress must immediately pass federal legislation protecting the reproductive rights of all Americans, everywhere across this nation. If that means reforming the filibuster, then we need to reform the filibuster.  

We must ensure that every American woman has the freedom that every New Jersey woman has.

And if this Congress won’t protect reproductive freedom, America needs to elect a Congress in November that will.”

As we wait for further developments regarding the state of reproductive rights on the federal level, all eyes are on the Supreme Court.

Ketanji Brown Jackson

Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmed as Supreme Court justice: 4 essential reads

Matt Williams from The Conversation shares insights from legal scholars on the history and meaning behind Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation.


The phrase “in a historic vote” gets thrown around a lot in journalism – and it isn’t always warranted. But shortly after 2 p.m. EDT on April 7, 2022, a Senate roll call confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson as the next U.S. Supreme Court justice – the first Black woman to sit on the bench.

The elevation of Jackson to the Supreme Court will not change the ideological setup of the bench – which would continue to be split 6-3 in favor of conservative justices.

Nonetheless, it is an important landmark in the history of the court – of the 115 justices on the Supreme Court since it was established in 1789, 108 have been white men.

Race featured in Jackson’s confirmation process; so too did attempts to define her “judicial philosophy.” The Conversation has turned to legal scholars to explain the meaning of Jackson’s potential ascension to the court.

1. Realizing MLK’s ‘dream’

The Senate Judiciary Committee vote moving Jackson’s confirmation toward a final Senate roll call took place on April 4, 2022 – 54 years to the day since Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The significance of the date was not lost on American University’s Bev-Freda Jackson.

King’s words came up in Jackson’s confirmation hearing. Republican lawmakers suggested that his vision of an America in which people are judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” was at odds with critical race theory, a concept much maligned by conservatives that holds that racism is structural in nature rather than expressed solely through personal bias. Their implication: that Jackson believed in critical race theory and therefore rejected King’s vision.

Martin Luther King

By Yoichi Okamoto – Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. Image Serial Number: A1030-17aPublic Domain.

Bev-Freda Jackson argues that this is a distortion. “By recasting anti-racism as the new racism, conservative GOP leaders … use King’s words that advocated for a colorblind society as a critical part of their national messaging to advance legislation that bans the teachings of so-called divisive concepts,” she writes.

“Ketanji Brown Jackson is the very dream that King envisioned,” Jackson notes. “But he died before seeing the results of his nonviolent movement for social justice.”

2. On the shoulders of pioneers

Now confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice, Jackson has broken through the ultimate glass ceiling in terms of legal careers. She did so so on the shoulders of pioneering Black female judges.

University of Florida’s Sharon D. Wright Austin notes, even now, “relatively few Black women are judges at the state or federal level” – which makes the achievement of those who have made it to this level all the more remarkable.

Of the judges highlighted by Austin, there is Judge Jane Bolin, who became the country’s first Black female judge in 1939, serving as a domestic relations judge in New York for almost four decades. Later, in 1961, Constance Baker Motley became the first Black woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court. In all she argued 10 cases before the court, winning nine of them. Meanwhile, Judge Julia Cooper Mack is noted as the first Black woman to sit on a federal appellate court, having been appointed in 1975 and serving 14 years on the bench.

These women are to be celebrated and remembered. As Austin writes, “Representation matters: It is easier for young girls of color to aspire to reach their highest goals when they see others who have done so before them, in the same way that women like Jane Bolin, Constance Baker Motley and Julia Cooper Mack encouraged Ketanji Brown Jackson to reach hers.”

3. Echoes of the past

The fact that a Black female Supreme Court justice is long overdue is testament to the slow progress the U.S. has made toward racial – and gender – equality.

Margaret Russell, a constitutional law professor from Santa Clara University, saw signs of this lack of advancement during parts of Jackson’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings.

Questions directed at the would-be Supreme Court justice were, according to Russell, tantamount to race-baiting. They also sounded eerily similar to criticisms that then-Supreme Court nominee Thurgood Marshall, the first Black American nominee to the court, faced in his own confirmation hearings in 1967.

Both Jackson, now, and Marshall, then, stood accused by senators of being soft on crime and were asked about how they intended to bring race into their legal decisions. “Are you prejudiced against white people in the South?” Marshall was asked by a known white supremacist senator. Similarly, Jackson was asked during her confirmation hearings if she had a “hidden agenda” to incorporate critical race theory into the legal system.

“I find it striking,” Russell writes, “that race has surfaced in such a major way in these hearings, more than five decades after Marshall’s nomination. In some respects, there has been progress on racial equity in the U.S., but aspects of these hearings demonstrate that too much remains the same.”

Ketanji Brown Jackson

President Joe Biden, with Vice President Kamala Harris, greet Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in the Blue Room of the White House, after officially nominating her to the Supreme Court, Friday, February 25, 2022. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

4. What Jackson would bring to the Supreme Court

Jackson’s historic achievement of becoming the first Black female Supreme Court justice may distract from the fact she is also eminently qualified to sit on the highest court in her own right.

Alexis Karteron of Rutgers University-Newark notes that the Harvard Law-trained Jackson went on to clerk for Stephen Breyer, the retiring justice she is set to replace. She has served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission as well as acting as both a trial court and appellate judge.

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Jackson is also the first former criminal defense attorney to be nominated to the Supreme Court since Marshall. This puts Jackson in a unique position on the bench. Karteron writes that having served as a public defender “will help [Jackson] understand the very real human toll of our criminal justice system. … The criminal justice system takes an enormous toll on both the people in the system and their loved ones. I believe having a Supreme Court justice who is familiar with that is incredibly valuable.”


Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives and updates an earlier version originally published on April 4, 2022.The Conversation

Matt Williams, Breaking News Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

SCOTUS Sonia Sotomayor to swear in Kamala Harris in historic first for women of color

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in tomorrow by Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a historic first for women of color. The news that Sotomayor would have a role in Wednesday’s inaugural ceremony came at the end of last week.  

A historical moment for women of color

The ceremony will make history as Harris becomes the first woman of color to become vice president and will take her oath from the first woman of color to sit on the Supreme Court.

Ms. Harris chose Justice Sotomayor for the task, calling the justice a figure of national inspiration.

“Judge Sonia Sotomayor has fought for the voices of the people ever since her first case voting against corporations in Citizens United,” Harris wrote on Twitter in 2019. “As a critical voice on the bench, she’s showing all our children what’s possible.”

Justice Sotomayor, who was confirmed to the Supreme Court in 2009, also swore in Joseph R. Biden Jr. for his second term as vice president in January 2013.

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Harris reflected on the moment that she’ll take the oath of office as vice president in a recent interview with NPR saying, “I will be thinking about my mother, who’s looking down from heaven. I will be thinking of all the people who are counting on us to lead.”

Additionally, Harris has chosen to be sworn in using two bibles. One previously belonged to Mrs. Regina Shelton, who was like a second mother to Harris while the other belonged to the late civil rights leader and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who has been an inspiration to Harris throughout her career. 

Kamala says goodbye to California

first woman of color

United States Senate, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As Harris prepares to take office as vice president, she says goodbye to her seat as California Senator. Harris, who was also the first Black woman to serve as a senator for the Golden State, won her seat in November 2016 and was sworn in January 2017. At the time, Harris was California’s attorney general. 

Harris formally resigned as California Senator yesterday, but she assures Americans that her work is not done since she will preside over the chamber once she is sworn as the first female, first Black, and first South Asian woman vice president of the United States.

“And this is not goodbye. As I resign from the Senate, I am preparing to take an oath that would have me preside over it,” Harris wrote in an op-ed piece for the San Francisco Chronicle. “As senator-turned-Vice-President Walter Mondale once pointed out, the vice presidency is the only office in our government that ‘belongs to both the executive branch and the legislative branch.’ A responsibility made greater with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate.”

However, Harris hopes she will not have to use her power as a tie breaker too often. 

“Since our nation’s founding, only 268 tie-breaking votes have been cast by a Vice President. I intend to work tirelessly as your Vice President, including, if necessary, fulfilling this Constitutional duty,” she wrote.

“At the same time, it is my hope that rather than come to the point of a tie, the Senate will instead find common ground and do the work of the American people.”

Kamala Harris will be sworn in at tomorrow’s inauguration ceremony in Washington D.C. It will be a historic first for women of color but Harris promises that, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Her living legacy

When asked when will there be enough women on the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously replied, “When there are nine.” Many people were shocked by this response. But why? As Ginsburg herself said, “But there’s been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” As only the second appointed female Supreme Court Justice, Ginsburg spent her entire career challenging preconceived notions about women and fighting for our rights.

She has become an icon for women and young girls and her recent passing on September 18th has left our country in mourning. Many fear for the future of gender equality in the U.S. now that Ginsburg’s seat in the Supreme Court will likely be filled by another conservative judge appointed by President Trump. But her legacy toward gender equality will not be forgotten and as a nation we will continue her fight for the future she dreamed of, where one day there will be nine!

The life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Joan Bader was born to Nathan and Cecilia Bader March 15, 1933. She grew up in a low-income, working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Throughout her childhood, her mother was a major influence in her life, instilling in her the value of independence and a passion for education.

On her mother’s teachings, Ginsburg once said, “My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.”

Cecelia Bader never attended college herself. Instead she worked in a garment factory and her earnings went toward paying for her brother’s college education. This selfless act left a tremendous impression on Ruth, who spend the rest of her academic career working diligently at her studies.

In 1954, Ginsburg graduated top of her class from Cornell University and later that same year she married fellow law student, Martin D. Ginsburg.

Her academic achievements in the years that followed include attending Harvard Law School as one of eight women in a class of over 500, becoming the first female member of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, transferring to Columbia Law School, graduating top of her class once more, and all while balancing new motherhood and caring for her ill husband.

Despite her outstanding academic record, Ginsburg still faced gender discrimination during this time. At Harvard, she was chided by the law school’s dean for taking the place of qualified males, and later after graduating from Colombia Ginsburg faced difficulty securing employment. However, Ginsburg would eventually rise up to become one of the most influential women in the country.

Fighting for gender equality

Her fight against gender inequality was fought slowly, incrementally, over many decades. People are never ready for sweeping change, and so to change the minds of those around her–who were predominantly men–she needed to play the long game.

In a recent article for The New York Times, Linda Greenhouse writes, “As a lawyer appearing before the Supreme Court, she presented herself as a modest incrementalist. She had to. If she had come before the court as a social revolutionary, the justices — never having viewed the Constitution as having anything to say about women — would have recoiled. Instead, they swallowed the bite-size portions she served to them, and assumptions about the respective roles of men and women — primary wage earner, primary caretaker — that had been baked into the law for eons disappeared, one case at a time.”

This was Ginsburg’s style. She brought people around to her ideas, and fought long and hard to bring about the changes she believed in.

“Fight for the things that you care about,” she once said, “but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

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Throughout her career she worked to make changes for women and make our country a more fair and equal place. She has been honored with countless awards and recognition for her hard work. In 1999, she was awarded the Thurgood Marshall Award by the American Bar Association for her contributions to gender equality and civil rights and in 2002 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She received the American Bar Associations highest honor, the ABA medal, in 2010 and just last month she was selected as this year’s recipient of the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal “for her efforts to advance liberty and equality for all.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

U. S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, right, receives the LBJ Liberty & Justice for All Award from Lynda Johnson Robb, left, and Luci Baines Johnson at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 30, 2020. (LBJ Foundation Photo/Jay Godwin)

Ginsburg’s life was one of great accomplishment and we have become a better, more just nation because of her diligent work. Still, there is much more to be done. She has carved the path forward for us, now we must all follow in her footsteps to continue her legacy.

Continuing Ginsburg’s legacy

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The Courtroom doors draped in black following the death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Spetember 18th, 2020.
Credit: Photograph by Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.

In recent years, Ruth Bader Ginsburg gained almost a celebrity following among younger generations. Fondly dubbed “Notorious R.G.B.” as a play on the name of late rapper “Notorious B.I.G.”, Ginsburg has become a beloved icon to women and young girls who look up to her as a role model.

On her legacy, Ginsburg said, “To make life a little better for people less fortunate than you, that’s what I think a meaningful life is. One lives not just for oneself but for one’s community.”

Now her legacy is in our hands to continue. As we move forward as a nation, we should remember her words. We, as a society, must work together to make life better for everyone in our communities. Equality is not just for the privileged few, but for all. In recent years, many U.S. citizens seem to have forgotten what freedom and equality really means, and what this country stands for. But Ruth Bader Ginsburg never let her vision for equality waver. She fought until the very end, so that equality could prosper in our nation.

We must now channel her fierce energy and passion into our work as we continue to build a fair and just future for the next generation.

Here I leave you with some parting words from Ginsburg that we should all take to heart.

“Dissents speak to a future age. It’s not simply to say, ‘My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.’ But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow….We are a nation made strong by people like you.”