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Law Professor Michele Goodwin Condemns Wave of “Unprecedented & Unfathomable” Anti-Abortion Laws

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Anti-abortion legislation is sweeping the U.S., including in Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri. We speak with Michele Goodwin, author of “Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood,” about the links between current conflicts between state and federal law and their historic precedents, such as Brown v. Board of Education and the Fugitive Slave Acts. “Bounty hunter” provisions in Texas’s new abortion restrictions are “plucked right out of antebellum slavery,” says Goodwin. “These are horrific times for reproductive liberty.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we end, I wanted to ask you about your specialty, the whole issue of reproductive rights, to continue on that point, but at the state level, because as all of this has been happening, I want to ask you about the near-total ban on abortions that lawmakers in Oklahoma just voted to approve this week, the bill that would make it a felony to perform an abortion in most cases, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $100,000. It doesn’t contain exceptions for rape or incest. It comes after Texas enacted its total ban — near-total ban on abortions. Nearly half of all patients who traveled out of state for their abortion went to Oklahoma. Oklahoma Republican Governor Kevin Stitt, expected to sign the anti-abortion legislation, has described himself as the country’s most pro-life governor. Can you talk about this bill, which is expected to be signed into law, and the rash of other bills being passed in Republican-controlled states, not to mention what the Supreme Court is considering?

MICHELE GOODWIN: These are horrific times for reproductive liberty, reproductive freedom. And they’re chilling times, in general, for the rule of law. What we’ve seen is that the rule of law has been made scorched earth. And we’ve seen that through the Supreme Court in how it evaluated and allowed to go into effect Texas’s S.B. 8 law, which has all of the kind of nostalgia of slavery age types of laws, with its bounty hunter provision, which is plucked right out of antebellum slavery with the Fugitive Slave Acts, which were upheld by federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court. And if you think about it, Amy — and I hope to come back on your show where we really do some deep dive in this area — you’ll see that some of what’s being framed in this new era of legislating against abortion rights are being plucked from Jim Crow, are being plucked from the age of slavery. You’ll see, for example, states going after people who help people via interstate, getting to another state to terminate a pregnancy. Well, that looks just like a page out of the white slavery laws, which were laws that were attempting to surveil Black men with white women who were traveling to another state, where they could be safe and have a healthy relationship, marriage, etc.

What these laws seek to do is, at the state level, essentially, undermine Roe v. Wade while Roe remains the law of the land. Roe v. Wade has not been overturned by the Supreme Court. But you see states engaged in a kind of behavior which is unprecedented and unfathomable. And I’ll give you a quick example, because I know that we have to go. But if you think about Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, 1954, and imagine that one year later, two years later, five years later, states like Louisiana and Oklahoma say, “Well, we don’t have to abide by Brown. That was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. We’re Oklahoma. We’re Missouri. We’re Louisiana. We can segregate, and those laws don’t apply to us.” Well, that’s the era that we are in right now, and this is why it’s so dangerous.

But I would say that anybody who’s listening to us today, who are watching, and who’s concerned about reproductive health rights and justice, if you’re concerned about that, you should also be concerned about voting rights, because the same people seeking to undermine reproductive freedom are also seeking to undermine the freedom to be able to vote. And we see that in those same states.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Michele Goodwin, I want to thank you for being with us, chancellor’s professor at the University of California, Irvine, founding director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy, host of Ms. magazine podcast On the Issues with Michele Goodwin and author of Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood. We’re speaking to her in Boulder, where she is attending the [Conference] on World Affairs.

Next up, we look at the growing calls for Russia to be tried for war crimes in Ukraine, as the U.N. General Assembly suspends Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council. And we’ll look at the double standard of international criminal law. As President Biden calls Putin a war criminal, and the question of where he would be tried, well, the U.S. — and Russia — hasn’t signed on to the International Criminal Court. Stay with us.

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