- Kristen Clarkepresident and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony this week from Crystal Good, who spoke about her experience of having an abortion and expressed concerns that Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court would limit access to safe, affordable care. During three days of hearings, Judge Barrett has repeatedly refused to answer questions about her views on abortion and the future of Roe v. Wade, despite her public record opposing reproductive rights. “If confirmed, Judge Barrett will be a fifth vote to eviscerate the important protections that have been afforded by Roe v. Wade,” says Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, who also testified in the Senate this week.
More from this Interview
- Part 1: Deeply Troubling: Kristen Clarke on How Rush to Confirm Barrett Endangers Voting & Civil Rights
- Part 2: Preserving Roe: West Virginia Mom Tells Abortion Story in Heartfelt Speech Against Amy Coney Barrett
- Part 3: Dark Money & Barrett Nomination: The Link Between Big Polluters & the War on ACA, Roe & LGBT Rights
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to another issue that has so deeply concerned people all over this country, and that is the issue of reproductive rights, whether we’re are talking about IVF for infertile couples or whether we’re talking about the issue of abortion.
Crystal Good testified about her experience having an abortion, expressing concerns that Barrett’s confirmation would limit access to safe, affordable care. During three days of hearings, Judge Barrett repeatedly refused to answer questions about her views on abortion and the future of Roe v. Wade, despite her public record opposing reproductive rights. This is Good’s opening statement.
CRYSTAL GOOD: My name is Crystal Good. And I’m a sixth-generation West Virginian, a writer-poet, a small business owner, a graduate student at West Virginia University and an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse. I’m the daughter of a white mother and a Black father, and I’m the proud mother of three brilliant children. These identities are all parts of me, but not all of me. Who I am today is only possible because at 16 years old I had access to an abortion.
As a minor in a state with a parental consent requirement, that access was dependent on a judge, because, without a shadow of a doubt, I could not trust the adults closest to me. From the ages of 5 until I was 15, I was sexually abused by my white stepfather. He wasn’t convicted until 2012, more than 30 years after the abuse began. When I told the grown folks in my life, they didn’t believe me at first, and then refused to hold my abuser accountable once the truth was out.
Later, at 16, while in a relationship that brought me joy and made me feel safe, I, like 2.7 million Americans a year, had an unintended pregnancy. Immediately, I knew I wanted an abortion, a very safe medical procedure that one in four U.S. women will have in their lifetimes.
For many reasons, including the decade of abuse she did not protect me from, I couldn’t tell my mother. Instead, I sought a judicial bypass. I had to navigate not only how to get to the judge, but how to do so on a school day. I had no idea what I should wear or what information he would want. I thought I was going to court like on TV. But instead, I was ushered into his chambers. It felt very intimidating.
I told him I was a good student. I was a leader in my school. I had opportunities that many young women from West Virginia didn’t. I wanted to go to college to be a writer. I said, “Your Honor, I have a future. I choose an abortion.”
It felt like a miracle: An adult believed me. An authority figure deemed me to be in charge of my own body and my own future.
I still think what might have happened if I didn’t have a list of accomplishments or if the judge didn’t think I was competent enough to decide when to start my family, or if he believed the harmful stereotype I was raised to believe, that Black girls were fast and promiscuous. Access to an abortion should not depend on our GPA, the color of our skin, where we live, or the luck of the draw. It should not depend, in any shape, form or fashion, who your governor is or who is sitting on the Supreme Court.
My entire childhood, every adult in my life had failed me. None of them deserved to make a decision about my body. I needed compassion and trust from my government. All I got was another barrier.
There are thousands like me who are sexually abused by parents, guardians and grown-ups who are supposed to support them. Today, 37 states require parental consent or notification for a minor to access abortion. Most young people do involve their parents in their decision. But for those like me who cannot, these kinds of restrictions make abortion hard to get, because we have to travel, miss work or school, save up for weeks and pay out of pocket. The average per capita income in West Virginia is $25,479. That’s one-seventh of your Senate salaries. In Central Appalachia, Black and low-income white people struggle to access healthcare, including abortion, and to have our decisions respected.
The Supreme Court has made historic decisions that uphold our rights and freedoms: my right to an abortion, the integration of my public schools, the Affordable Healthcare Act that ensures that I have health insurance, and workplace protections for my transgender daughter. I have put my faith in the Supreme Court. And with this nomination, I am losing faith.
Although the way I have chosen to create my family is demonized by some politicians, the reality is that we’re like most families across the nation. I had an abortion. I have two sons and a daughter who is trans. I love my children. We are a proud Afrolachian family — that’s African American Appalachian. My story is my own, but represents so many people left out from the Supreme Court nominee hearings — an entire caste of people. That’s C-A-S-T-E, caste.
President Trump has been clear that he would only appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. Unfortunately, through learning about Judge Barrett’s record, I understand why the president believes she passes the test. Please, listen to people who have had abortions. Hear us when we ask you: Do not confirm this nominee. Our futures, our families, our lives depend on it. We, too, are America.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Crystal Good, a West Virginia mother, testifying Thursday against Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who once signed a newspaper advertisement that stated, “It’s time to put an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade and restore laws that protect the lives of unborn children.” Kristen Clarke, I want to ask you about this, particularly in light of what Judge Barrett said in 2006 at a commencement address at Notre Dame. She said, “Keep in mind that your legal career is but a means to an end, and as Father Jenkins told you this morning, that end is building the kingdom of God.” Kristen?
KRISTEN CLARKE: If confirmed, Judge Barrett will be a fifth vote to eviscerate the important protections that have been afforded by Roe v. Wade.
I thought that Crystal Good’s testimony yesterday was incredibly powerful. It was courageous of her to share her personal testimony. And it’s an experience shared by so many women across our country who rely on the court’s precedent in Roe to ensure their dignity, to ensure their ability and freedom to make their own personal choices about their bodies.
I believe that Senator Graham freely described Judge Barrett as pro-life. We looked at her record. And in addition to that petition that you reference, Amy, she wrote an article in 2013 in the — or, there was an article that appeared in 2013 in the Notre Dame magazine that referenced a speech that she gave called “Roe at 40.” And they described her as speaking of Roe as a case that created through judicial fiat a framework of abortion on demand and a political environment that was already liberalizing abortion regulations state by state, igniting a national controversy.
There were moments where she was asked whether she deemed Roe v. Wade a superprecedent. She refused to subscribe that label to the decision. And some of the cases that have come before her on the 7th Circuit have made clear that she has deep skepticism about Roe. I believe that, if confirmed, she will prove to be that fifth vote that chips away, if not guts, and rolls back the important protections long afforded by Roe v. Wade.
AMY GOODMAN: Kristen Clarke, in your testimony yesterday, you talked about issues of racial justice, particularly the case of Smith v. Illinois Department of Transportation, a worker there and the N-word. Describe why you felt this was so critical.
KRISTEN CLARKE: Well, I thought that it was important to bring these cases up because they show a pattern, a pattern in which she has tended to put the interests of corporations and employers over the interests of vulnerable employees.
Smith v. Illinois Department of Transportation involved a Black traffic patrol driver who alleged that he was subjected to a hostile work environment. And among the various pieces of evidence presented in that case was the fact that he was subjected to use of the N-word in the workspace repeatedly. And Judge Barrett did concede that the N-word is, quote, “an egregious racial epithet,” but ultimately concluded that this was not enough to prove that he was subjected to the sort of racial hostility that was enough to prove discrimination under Title VII in this case.
And then there was another case that we’ve heard about during the week, EEOC v. AutoZone. This is a case involving AutoZone’s decision to assign workers to different sites based on their race. They would assign Black workers to a particular store based on the race of the employee and based on the predominant race of employees served, and they did the same with Latinos. And here, the client who was at the center of this case was a Black worker assigned to the South Side of Chicago. Ultimately, the court found that employees were still paid the same and received the same benefits and had the same job responsibilities, and so Judge Barrett refused to rehear that case. But I think that that’s very dangerous. I mean, this is AutoZone essentially putting in a “separate but equal” racial doctrine in the workplace.
I think that the sum total of these two cases makes clear that she will likely look at cases involving allegations of discrimination with great skepticism and will likely always, you know, if not the majority of time, side with corporations and employers. And that’s unfortunate. As a civil rights lawyer, we bring cases on behalf of vulnerable communities to the court, and do so hoping that egregious facts like this — racial policies, racial segregation in the workplace, use of the N-word — I mean, these are the kind of smoking-gun cases that we seek to bring to the courts to vindicate the rights of those most vulnerable in our society.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Kristen Clarke, we want to ask if you’ll stay with us. You’re talking about corporate power. And in our next segment, we’re going to play an excerpt of the Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who takes us on a journey following the dark money trail and how it’s reshaped the nation’s judiciary. And then we want to get your final comments. Kristen Clarke is the executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Stay with us.