I was having dinner with my family to celebrate the Jewish New Year when I learned that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died. As my friend Lauren Johnson Norris posted on Facebook, “According to Jewish tradition, a person who dies on Rosh Hashanah, which began tonight, is a tzaddik, a person of great righteousness. We found that very comforting. So strange to be eating these apples and honey with this sadness.”
We have lost a woman of valor and righteousness. We have lost our warrior and champion.
Salt water next to our apples and honey.
Mixed with our sadness is the acute realization that the tragic loss of Justice Ginsburg means that a woman’s right to control her own body, already under extreme siege, is more in danger now than at any time since Roe v. Wade was decided nearly 50 years ago.
Now, more than ever, we must ensure that our representatives, at every level of government, are fully committed to protecting our fundamental reproductive rights.
I want to share with you the statement released today by my friend and Irvine Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris. It eloquently puts into words what I and many other women are thinking and feeling at this difficult and pivotal moment in our history:
“Justice Ginsburg is an icon for many women, especially women lawyers, because she dedicated her professional life to a singular focus in moving the law toward equality for women. She entered spaces where women were not welcomed and won time and again, not just because of her brilliant mind and persuasive advocacy, but because she stood on the side of equality. As a jurist, she sought to build consensus but, when that was not possible, she provided an essential voice of dissent that spoke truth to power.
The loss of Justice Ginsburg on the United States Supreme Court is devastating at a time when women’s fundamental rights to reproductive health care is under attack. The right of a woman to make autonomous decisions about her own body is the core of her fundamental right to equality and privacy. As a lawyer, mother, and advocate for women, I know that in order to drive equality, we must commit fully and actively to reproductive rights and healthcare for all.”
RBG gave us all she could. She brought us this far. Now it’s our time to carry on the fight, in her name and in her memory, for ourselves, our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters.
The LA Times has recently noted that “Religious restrictions on healthcare [at the University of California] have been developing into a public health crisis of the first order.”
The problem is that the University of California has entered into clinical and educational training contracts with religion-based hospitals that place non-scientific and non-medically based constraints on University of California personnel and students at every one of UC’s six medical schools, as well as some nursing, nurse practitioner, physician assistant and pharmacy programs.
These constraints include prohibitions on abortion (even in cases of sexual assault), sterilization procedures such as tubal ligations, provision of contraceptives, counseling patients about contraception and abortion, fertility treatments, use of egg or sperm donor outside of a heterosexual married couple, use of a gestational surrogate, use of fetal tissue, the provision of medical or surgical gender-affirming services for transgender people such as hysterectomy or mastectomy for transgender men, and physician assisted suicide or aid-in-dying.
Due to public outcry against the University of California acquiescing to these non-scientific or healthcare based constraints on medical care, in August 2019 UC President Janet Napolitano appointed an 18-member working group of faculty and administrators from across the UC system to establish guidelines for future collaborations with outside health systems that impose these constraints. UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman was designated the group’s Chair.
In January 2020, the working group issued its report.
Unfortunately, the group failed to reach agreement on whether the University should subject its employees, faculty, and students to religious and non-scientific prohibitions in their medical care.
I agree with working group member Michele Bratcher Goodwin, UCI Law School Chancellor’s Professor and founding Director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy, that UC policies “that impede, restrict, or hinder the care that UC students, faculty, or staff receive based on religious doctrine violate state and federal constitutional law as well as specific California legislation that forbid the imposition of religious doctrine on UC students, faculty, or staff. . . These actions are illegal and thus impermissible.”
Accordingly, when elected to the Assembly, I will sponsor legislation to ensure that UC employees, faculty and students receive medical care based solely on scientific and health-cased factors, and prohibiting the University of California from affiliating with any hospital that imposes non-health based restrictions on care or discriminates against LGBTQ people.
Here is my press release:
“The University of California is publicly funded to serve the people of California as a center of higher learning, transmitting advanced knowledge, discovering new knowledge, and functioning as an active working repository of organized knowledge. As a Californian, I am proud that UC is recognized as the world’s leading public research university system. It is therefore extremely disturbing that the University of California would affiliate with any hospital organization that discriminates against LGBTQ people and imposes non-health based restrictions on care.
UC employees, faculty, and students are entitled to medical care based solely on scientific and health-based factors. As a government entity committed to serving the public under the rule of law, UC and its providers and trainees must not restrict access to any lawful care because certain procedures or medical options may be controversial from a particular political or religious point of view. In particular, UC must never deny a woman’s right to receive comprehensive reproductive health care including abortion and all forms of contraception and assisted reproductive technologies, and must never refuse to provide medical procedures, such as gender affirmation for transgender people and reproductive technologies that support the ability of LGBTQ+ people to have biological children. UC must also provide the full range of medically appropriate and legally available options to patients at the end of life, including legally sanctioned aid in dying.
When elected to the State Assembly, one of my first pieces of legislation will be to ensure that UC employees, faculty and students receive medical care based solely on scientific and health-cased factors, and prohibiting UC from affiliating with any hospital organization that imposes non-health based restrictions on care or discriminates against LGBTQ people.”
The question of what a woman should do when she is pregnant but does not want to raise a child is extremely personal for me.
It is the question that my birth mother, unmarried and 16-years-old, faced fifty one years ago.
This was before People v. Belous (1969) and Roe v. Wade (1973) established a woman’s fundamental right to decide whether to give birth.
Just a few months before I was born, California Governor Ronald Reagan signed the “Therapeutic Abortion Act,” which changed California’s criminal code to permit the termination of pregnancy by a physician when there was substantial risk that its continuation would “gravely impair the physical or mental health of the mother” or when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.
I am not sure whether my birth mother would have qualified for a legal abortion under the “physical or mental health” requirements of the new law, but she could have risked terminating her pregnancy by illegal means – as more than 100,000 California women did every year before the Act’s passage. In fact, Governor Reagan said that he signed the new law to prevent the death and injury of thousands of California women each year from illegal and dangerous “back alley” abortions.
My birth mother decided not to have an abortion, and instead gave me up for adoption.
Of course, I’m happy with her choice – I would not be here otherwise. I was raised by parents who wanted and were able to care for me. I have also had the incredible joy of being able to thank my birth mother for her decision – reuniting with her and my two younger brothers several years ago.
I received a great gift from my birth mother’s decision – but I would not have wanted her to have been forced by the government to give birth to me despite being unable at that time to properly care for a child.
Whether or not to have an abortion – or whether to give a child up for adoption – is a deeply personal and often painful decision for a woman or couple to make, and it is a decision they have to make based on their own faith and values, not someone else’s – and certainly not the government’s.
Our current representative — and my opponent — for the 68th Assembly District, Steven Choi, believes otherwise.
During his political career, Choi has earned a 0% rating from Planned Parenthood.
When seeking the Republican nomination for the Assembly, he stated that “he is pro-life, and he wants to protect all lives, including those of the unborn.” He has tried to use his position in the legislature to bring back the days when thousands of women each year in California were forced to make the horrific choice between having unwanted children or illegal, dangerous abortions. He recently voted against a bill in the California legislature that would provide young people with basic contact information about reproductive health. He has been endorsed by groups that are aiming to do to California women what has been recently been done to the women of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Utah — subjecting them to the most restrictive abortion laws in decades. And he has received thousands of dollars in contributions from groups outside our district that are determined to deny women the right to control their own bodies.
As your representative for the 68th Assembly District, I’ll fight to protect and defend women’s access to the full range of reproductive health care services. That’s why I’ve been endorsed by Women in Leadership, a bipartisan political action group committed to electing women who share their commitment to women’s rights and freedoms in reproductive health, and why I’ve been endorsed by Fund Her and the Womens Political Committee.
We can’t allow politicians like Steven Choi to deny women basic human rights such as access to safe and affordable reproductive health care or allow the government to intrude into this most personal of decisions.
That’s why I need your help now to keep the decision whether to give birth a deeply personal choice and not the government’s.