Ten Questions with Caroline Biggs

{This month features Urban Theorist/Feminist/Fashion Socio-Historian Extraordinaire Elizabeth Wilson. Author of dozens of books and countless articles, she has earned quite the international following for her groundbreaking scholarship on fashion, urbanity, and modernity—and the lifelong devotion of at least one budding academic-fashionist. <3}

Describe yourself in one word.

Energetic

 To date, what do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Bringing up a daughter. 

What or whom has been your greatest source of inspiration?

My partner.

What quality in others do you find the most admirable?

Kindness. 

What quality in others do you find the most deplorable?

Spiritual Meanness

What are your three favorite texts?

Marcel Proust, A La Recherche du Temps Perdu

Walter Benjamin,  Arcades Project

Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights 

If you could spend one day in history, when and where would it be?

A day during the Russian Revolution

Finish the thought: “Feminism is . . .”

The recognition that men and women are equal.  [Discussion of presumed innate or learned psychological and other differences is irrelevant to this truth].

What is something about you others would be surprised to know?

In lots of ways I am quite conservative.

 What are your words to live by?

The stiff upper lip is much underrated.

 

{Endless thanks and admiration for Elizabeth Wilson. xx}

{Photo courtesy of The Idea Store.}

Researching New York : A Sneak Peek at This Year’s Conference

  {Director of the Women’s History Program at Sarah Lawrence College, Rona Holub, shares the abstract for her upcoming presentation at this year’s esteemed “Researching New York” conference series.} 

In Defense of a “Noble Metropolis”: The Irish and German Immigrant Response to New York State’s Attack on Home Rule in New York City, 1857

In April of 1857, the New York State Legislature passed new laws, regulations, and charter revisions that threatened the very fiber of the social and political lives of the poor and working class immigrants of New York City.  Part of this effort involved the dissolution of the city administered Municipal Police and the creation of the state run Metropolitan Police Force. Members of these two separately appointed and administered forces beat each other up at city hall in New York City on June 16, 1857.  The question of who was in charge of the city hung in the air.  On July 4, 1857, mass violence broke out in New York City followed by major civil disorder on July 5, July 12 and 13.  The July violence involved “gangs” and mostly Irish and German residents of the city.  These violent incidents were connected.  Politicians, nativists, and moral reformers in New York State had formed a coalition and set out to stem the tide of immigrant political power.

The violence that broke out, beginning with the Police Riot itself, was a reaction to the imposition of one set of values over another, over the belief that one way of life was better than another,  that one religion was better than another, that political power belonged in the hands of some people but not others.  Contemporary newspapers generally emphasized the “gang war” nature of these outbreaks.  Clearly these disturbances represented much more than gang rivalry and turf wars.  Such spontaneous civil disturbances, often represented as “merely” gang driven episodes sparked by  “criminal elements,” had political overtones.  People who felt that their freedom and ability to govern themselves was being undercut by the state rebelled.  They reacted as “true” Americans, as “freemen,” whose rights were being usurped.  They conveyed a narrative in which they asserted that they should have the same rights as other white male citizens to govern themselves.  It is not a coincidence that at least two of the riots were apparently started by members of the Dead Rabbits, a pro-Democrat, Irish gang attacking members of the Metropolitan Police Force.  The new force represented the powers that hated, derided and attempted to enforce their mores and values on the immigrant population and control the political processes of the city.  The residents of the wards where violence broke out reacted in protest against what they deemed as the usurpation of their rights.

Thus, the violence between the police forces in June and that which erupted in July are connected and represent anxieties, fears, and a wide array of interpretations of self interest among the growing multitude of people entering and living in the city.  This paper describes the events of this month-long period of violence and disruption and interrogates its meanings.  It proposes as well that how these events came about and were handled might have impacted the worst civil violence ever to occur in the city which took place six years later, that is, the Draft Riots of 1863.  Could these have been prevented or at least diminished had the meanings of the 1857 riots been understood and the events addressed differently?

{Researching New York 2011–Upheaval & Disaster, Triumph & Tragedy: Aftermath will be taking place at the University at Albany, State University of New York, November 17 and 18. For more information go to nystatehistory.org.}

Big Smelly Ol’ Apple

John Walker is a Sarah Lawrence graduate who really likes the internet a lot.

You know how when you’re in your first real (read: high school) relationship, and you celebrate one-month “anniversaries” because you think that’s what grown-ups in love do?  Well, hop aboard the Inane Train, because this weekend marks my one-month anniversary of living in New York City. (read: Bushwick)

Ah, the Big Gay Apple, a truly cosmopolitan melting pot where people of all cultural backgrounds can come together as an integrated collective of individuals.

For many of the city’s residents, accustomed to such highly valued levels of diversity found in urban life, it must be difficult to imagine living in some intolerant, backwoods town.  I did just that this summer, and let me tell you that rural Wisconsin is, like, SUPER racist.  OH, and homophobic, too!  They just don’t. get. it.  They just don’t understand what it’s like to respect the differences of others, as city dwellers do.

Can you even picture what life is like even just a couple of hours upstate?  All the white people!  All the straight people!  It’s like they’re trying to section themselves off from those not like them.  That’s one reason why I, and really all who move to New York City, have chosen not to section myself off from those unlike me.  Living in a self-constructed bubble would do nothing but fuel ignorance and hatred among people.  Thank God urbanites actively counteract such things.

The spirit of the Civil Rights Movement lives on, and the progression of positive cross-cultural interaction is astounding.  These days, it is pretty unbelievable that people of color were denied such fundamental human rights and dignities due to the race.  I mean, it’s not like they were gay or anything.  Like most progressive NYC residents, I often go entire days without seeing color.  If only the rest of the country could be like New York when it comes to race relations. (Especially the South!  So racist!)

It’s unfortunate that queer people are still discriminated against.  Hello! It’s 2011!  At least New York, in the wake of legalizing same-sex marriage statewide, offers a safe haven for we, the not exactly heterosexual.  But I know that someday, in the not too distant future, discrimination will finally come to an end.  It’s really on its last legs right now.

Until then, we’ll always have New York City, a post-racial, post-gender, post-asldjl;kadvl;knsalkkjlsdlksklsslk

/satire

Ok, I think you get the point.  Racism isn’t southern, homophobia isn’t rural, and we shouldn’t be dummies about it.

Hey, I never said I was a creative-writing student.

Real talk now: Here’s my true list of pros & cons regarding living in NY instead of rural Wisconsin.

PROS

-       I like being able to make out with guys on the regular.  New York fulfills this need.  I never said I was a role-model.

CONS

- New York actually smells really bad.  I literally dry-heaved the second I stepped out of Grand Central in September.  By removing myself from NY for the summer, I’ve lost all funk tolerance.  As someone who is used to smelling bad (also on the regular), I’m not even being dramatic.  Don’t believe me?  Go to an idyllic heaven, like rural Wisconsin, for 4 months, and then plop yourself right back into Midtown.

            {If you want to learn more about hate crime statistics in New York state, check out the NY State Division of Criminal Justice Services’ “Hate Crimes in New York State: 2010 Annual Report,” available at http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/crimnet/pubs.htm}

On Being a Woman: and The Eyes that Never Sleep

{K. Reece is a writer with a BA from Wellesley College and an MFA candidate at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the assistant editor at Sarah Lawrence magazine.}

Even above the overstimulation and freneticism that characterize this city, what jarred me most in my move to New York was the proximity to such astonishing wealth. These people were April Wheeler’s “golden people,” as Richard Yates describes in Revolutionary Road. “I still had this idea that there was a whole world of marvelous golden people somewhere,” April says, right before cheating on her husband. “People who knew everything instinctively, who made their lives work out the way they wanted without even trying, who never had to make the best of a bad job because it never occurred to them to do anything less than perfectly the first time.”

I imagined that I’d found them, and my proof was the alligator-skin loafers of a well-tailored woman I saw at a New Yorker festival reading, streamlined tuxedos adorning dapper men on the lit steps leading up to Lincoln Center after an opera, the towering and ornate apartment buildings on the upper east side complete with doormen, and the large, thick paper bags from Barneys and Bergdorf’s that gorgeous women hustled into the taxis of bored drivers on Fifth Avenue.

My years of subscribing to Vogue became unnecessary. All I had to do now was park myself outside the Plaza Hotel to see those glossy pages in three-dimensions, high-definition.

It only took me a few months, though, to realize that I actually don’t find such wealth attractive. The things that seemed to make this city so infamously rich were rarely that which could be bought by money, which I no longer had anyway.

And I found I loved the things in New York that I’d always loved. The forgotten brick wall behind a gas station I pass on the bus that had been painted mint green, and is now weather-beaten, peeling, a stunning combination of tiny stacks of white and gray rectangles. Trash and broken umbrellas. The old man with a grizzled white beard selling used books on the corner of 110th and Broadway that schools me in pronouncing Nabokov’s name when I ask if he has a copy of Pale Fire. A pile of sea blue glass on the shimmering pavement of the sidewalk that looks like a tiny lake, each perfect square of glass a still wave, with edges that sprawl and curve back. The things other people don’t usually look at, the moments that pass quickly—the unlovely things.

But ultimately, I’m irritated by this city because none of that exists. Everything has been looked at. Nothing escapes someone’s set of curious or appreciative or critical eyes.

I was once waiting for a friend in the 96th street station when I spotted a bright red balloon stuck in the rafters. It bobbed poetically, trying to escape but only knowing how to float up, further into its captivity. Streams of people flooded by through the station’s doors underneath it, oblivious. I wished for my camera, until I looked horizontal again, and saw a young woman aiming her own to the ceiling.

On one of my train rides, a young woman with a twisted satin headband and black leather gloves balanced a cup of coffee on her lap with the same hand that held her quilted purse. With her other hand, she held up a hardcover book with a tattered ivory cover. Her large bottom lip hung low, her mouth gently open with concentration. A redheaded girl next to her, petite with two shopping bags and no makeup, noticed me noticing the other woman. And I watched her notice everyone in the train, her green eyes restless and careful. You can tell how new someone is to the city by how wide their eyes get on the train, by how much they look, and by the amount of novelty that registers in their features.

You can be anyone here—and also, no one. A guy outside my apartment in Harlem asked for my phone number three times, not because he was being persistent, but because he didn’t remember having seen me before. The third time, I finally turned to him and pulled out my phone, typed in “Gordon” and showed his number to him.

“Don’t you remember? You gave me yours because I refused to give you mine? A long time ago.”

He smiled, and scratched his temple.

I shook my head and turned to walk away.

“Well damn, girl!” he said finally. “Call me sometime.”

When I lived in Harlem, I would walk four blocks to get on the subway.

Regardless of the weather, plenty of people—mostly men—constantly populated the sidewalk. As with most men on the streets and my block, I refused to make eye contact, feigning indifference to the way they would stand outside the shops on Broadway with their shoulders cocked at a northern angle. One group of men often stood outside a bodega on 139th, and they made it their occupation to watch women walk. Each time I passed them, I wouldn’t look down or away, but straight ahead, often missing their eyes by less than a foot of air.

The sky wasn’t available in Harlem as it is in Brooklyn, where I live now, and where buildings and apartments often don’t grow above three or four stories. And on the sidewalks, men tend to keep their eyes to themselves. People don’t move as fast in Brooklyn, it seems, and my eyes can move enough to notice flecks of oil on the wet streets, some pooled in concentric circles of magenta, electric green, and deep orange. Rough lines of red spray paint speak a language on some of the sidewalks and streets, and all the crosswalks are faded.

I can handle babies grabbing the straps of my purse. I can even handle the people who play music through their headphones at decibel levels that wound my eardrums. But it’s men’s eyes that I can’t handle. It’s men’s eyes that light a rolling fire of fury under my ribs and between my shoulder blades. Stare unflinchingly as they may, their looks and attention to the curves of my body do not render me an original beauty, not even beautiful. Their eyes make me a cheap thrill, a free thing they won’t remember using. Particularly on days when I feel unattractive, I become aware that despite my vegetarian, pacifistic affinities, I could kill if I had to.

The third of my three best friends got married this August in Montana, where we all grew up. With a sound that can only be described as a guffaw, my mom’s single, fifty-one year old brother told me when he picked me up at the airport after the wedding that at twenty-five, I’m an old maid.

The last night visit in Montana, I went on a date with a boy I’d had a crush on throughout high school. He was older than me, and even though we’d never dated, I was fairly certain he enjoyed the show I performed next to him in Economics with my bare legs, exposed in shorts and short skirts.

Two hours and three beers later, at a bar across from the restaurant we went to, the back of my knee folded over the top of his, we’d somehow moved on from our shared love of Hemingway to politics. He remembered a nickname I had at our conservative, public high school: “fem-Nazi.”

“So you don’t think you have privilege as a straight, white male?” I said, after he told me that his beliefs are shaped by the time he spent in the military, not by where he lives.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Privilege. You know, that you are afforded certain benefits, and don’t personally have to think about whether you can get married, or get a job, and so you’re not worried about them politically.”

He told me that where he lives, he’s actually a minority because of the Mexican population. But I finally got him to admit that balancing the budget was his political bottom line.

“You see people as economic agents with definable relationships to one another,” I said, speaking with the quickness and abstraction alcohol usually provides me.

But he laughed at my persistence, looked away from me, and took a drink of his beer.

“Well, Kate, you know, you’re making me feel a bit bad about myself. I guess you’re right. I just don’t care that much about social welfare.”

I smiled victoriously at him, but my heart sunk. He was much cuter than I remembered, the right level of hardworking and chivalrous. But this could go nowhere.

Even though he used the word “miraculous” to describe capitalism and expressed disregard for the sacred shades of gray that seduce my emotion and energy, I made out with him in the front seat of his dad’s work truck like we were sixteen.

At one point, I traced the large, convex curve of his bicep, tattooed with a Celtic cross, and he flexed, jokingly telling me that he worked for that muscle, and could take full credit for it.

But aren’t I right? Is it not genuine chance—an arbitrary, and perhaps fortuitous fluke—that I’m not the mother yelling at her crying kid who sprawls on the dirty floor of our quiet subway car; the same subway car that is the bedroom of a man who sleeps now, slumped against the unforgiving metal rails on the left side of the pale blue bench, all of his belongings stacked in a splitting suitcase that also slumps, against a two-wheel dolly—like the ones my father always used to move our boxes into the next biggest house we bought—in Portland, Montana, Phoenix, Cleveland.

I hate that I can’t not pay attention. I hate that I care, and that that care often reflects not authentic benevolence, but insecurity about where my edges touch those of others—what these vague and omnipresent New York audiences see when—if—their eyes travel over me.

[More] Poems from Jamie Agnello

{For our “City Issue,” Jamie is back with three more of her celebrated poems (inspired by the character of Chuck Bass on “Gossip Girl”). What’s more New York City than Upper West Side-Prep-School inspired poetry? You can find more of these linguistic gems at  http://ilikedyoubetterbefore.tumblr.com/ }

Bad News

Look, anyone who trades in

their trust fund for a fanny pack

flies in the face of all that is

holy to Chuck Bass.

If it cost more than 10 grand,

it earns a proper name.

Everyone out there wants to be us.

We are what you aspire to.

You’re gonna tell me that the life

of a YouTube filmmaker

is better than this?

There is no outside world

that I do not show you.

Stop talking.

Start partying.

I’m Chuck Bass.

The Handmaiden’s Tale

Welcome to the Upper East Side.

Little Jenny Humphrey manages

to get my pants off—

and have me not enjoy it.

Quite the accomplishment.

Well, hello, angel.

Beautiful…and mean?

I’ve got chills.

Care to dance with the poor devil?

You’re getting warmer,

which is an achievement

because you’re already hot.

If I was your man,

I wouldn’t need clues to find you.

I’m Chuck Bass.

Victor/Victrola

Alfonso made me an omelet.

I may have washed it down

with a Bellini or two.

Your position in my esteem

has been replaced by your voicemail.

Victory party. Here. Tomorrow.

I’ll send a car.

A burlesque club:

a respectable place

where people can

let loose.

Pure escape.

You’re ten times hotter

than any of those girls.

Why don’t you get up there?

This is the perfect thing.

I’ve been waiting for this.

What happens at Victrola

stays at Victrola.

I’m Chuck Bass.

{Chuck Bass photo courtesy via Giovanni Rufino/The CW}

{Ed Westwick and Taylor Momsen photo courtesy of tengossip via splashnews}

{Victor/Victrola photo courtesy via The CW}

Welcome to R/V October 2011: The Legal Issue

Welcome to the R/V LEGAL ISSUE! We are beyond thrilled with the response and popularity of last month’s POP CULTURE ISSUE—we’ve been linked, quoted, and shared from NYC to Beirut—and readership has grown to numbers that exceeded even our highest hopes! Most importantly, we are having so much fun conceptualizing and creating a dialogue that appeals to a WIDE RANGE OF FEMINISMS and the issues that affect us both historically and everyday.

At RE/VISIONIST, we strive to encompass feminism in its most complex form and appreciate it for what it truly is: multi-faceted, diverse, frequently political, sometimes superficial, often hostile, at-times humorous, and above all, the good fight.  WE [as feminists] are just as variable and diverse as feminism itself and our readers are no exception. Just as there is no single most-important feminist argument, there is no one-way to write about feminism.

This month brings us to the litigious-side of inequality, or rather, institutionalized racism and sexism. Law is arguably the most powerful vehicle for social change—and that can work both ways. Revisiting monumental Civil Rights cases such as Loving v. Virginia, while celebrating New York’s legalization of gay marriage, can make it even harder to comprehend present-day (yet seemingly archaic) legal battles. Even more upsetting is the actuality that gendered and racial inequality exists WITHIN the legal framework—and that a lot of those serving to preserve “justice” are some of the most bigoted-people out there—making it even harder to know whose side the law is really on.

That being said–R/V is proud to feature a law review from co-Editor, Amanda Seybold! We’re also proud to welcome Brianna Leone and Emma Staffaroni to the R/V family as web-editors and columnists–you can see from the weekly links, this month’s articles, and the gorgeous editorial pics why we’re thrilled to have them!

Sexism, like any inequality, has several faces—from Pat Robertson to Britney Spears. Sometimes, it’s as blatant as pay inequity and other times it is so embedded in our understanding of how things are that we don’t even notice. This is why we have to work to cover as many bases as possible; we have to include—not exclude—to keep fighting the good fight.

 

{. . . and it IS the good fight.}

xx

Caroline

The Legal Issue:

{ENJOY!}

Reproductive Justice: A Timeline by Emma Staffaroni

Emma Staffaroni is a first-year Master’s candidate in SLC’s Women’s History program. A ruthless feminist, she slays haters with her pen and then eats them for dinner, covered in cheese. She also enjoys basset hounds, trains, and red wine.

Full disclosure: I am 23. That means that up until the last couple of years, most of the fighting for women’s reproductive rights in the United States took place before my time. When I first learned about Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case affirming a woman’s right to choose, I was exactly the same age that my mom was in 1973: fifteen. Fifteen is a big age; it is a tempestuous time. It is, in my opinion, a bit too late for a young woman to be learning about the right to choose. Unfortunately, 2003 was right smack in the heart of the “Bush years”, so even though my Connecticut public high school dodged most of the abstinence-only education craziness, our health class still shimmered with overtones of SEX IS DIRTY AND WRONG. My mom and I are thirty years apart, but as fifteen-year-old women we got similar messages from our public education system.

For me in 2003, learning about some court case that legalized abortion thirty years ago might as well have been ancient history. “Cool,” my simple, teenage brain thought. Glad they took care of that! Of course it wouldn’t be until my Women’s Studies classes in college that I’d understand why abortion had been illegal in the first place. Up until around 1930, abortion practices were often crude and dangerous, leading to thousands of deaths. (For that reason, many prominent feminists and suffragists were against the practice – not for any kind of religious reason, but because it was a dirty, scary thing that killed women.) When practices started to improve in the 30s and 40s, mortality rates dropped significantly.  Sure enough, the Supreme Court justices who ruled on Roe in 1973 reasoned that with modern medicine’s advances, legal barriers were no longer appropriate or relevant.

My mom was in college when the Hyde Amendment barred all federal funding for abortions. I was in college when, in the midst of health care reform debates, Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Representative Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA) tacked onto the healthcare bill an amendment in their names that would have blocked any federal funds from covering a health plan that includes abortions. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment passed in the House but was shot down in the Senate. Little did I know that it was just the beginning of an onslaught against women’s choice starting with the mid-term elections in 2010. The parallels of history are uncanny – I can almost hear “The Circle of Life” playing.

For lots of women’s rights activists, the politics of the reproductive justice movement feel like a nauseating merry-go-round – in part because it rests on a paradoxical notion of freedom. Roe v. Wade granted the right to choose based on the Constitutional right to privacy. “Privacy,” of course, gets redefined and circumscribed anew with the changing demands of society, technology, and the state. The 1992 ruling of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey is a lesson in this; by evoking language of public health, the court created space for state intervention in women’s experience of reproductive freedom and autonomy. The Casey ruling, while affirming the right to an abortion, also created cracks in the foundation through which state regulation and limitation could seep.

But this tension between individual freedom and state intervention is problematic for many feminists because it vilifies the state’s role in protecting women. Indeed, the entire Bill of Rights is about keeping the government’s nose out of the individual’s business. And yet in so many ways, this view of freedom – the hands-off kind – is precisely that which has eroded the welfare state and placed barriers to President Obama’s full vision of universal health care.

Nevertheless, bodily autonomy is the most fundamental and basic of all rights for a woman. It recognizes her personhood and separates her childbearing capacity from any child-rearing imperative. By isolating the act of abortion from its context, i.e. the woman involved, the anti-choice movement “keep[s] women slaves to their biology,” in the words of Ellen Willis. “They do not concede women the right to an active human existence that transcends their reproductive function,” she writes.

Gloria Steinem takes it even further. In an interview in 2004 before Bush was re-elected, Steinem presaged the destructive effects of another four years of right-wing government. When asked about Bush’s evocation of Christian law, Steinem responded that “pro-life” is not really about religion.

I think the deep reasoning here… is to control women’s bodies as the most fundamental means of production. Because unless you control that process, you can’t make the decisions about how many workers a country needs, how many soldiers, what races should reproduce more than others. The ability to control reproduction is one of the two pillars of nationalism. The other is the ability to control territory. I think this goes very deep and really does not have that much to do with religion. …The cloaking of political imperatives in religious language is the problem.

What the right to bodily autonomy ultimately represents, then, is women’s full participation in democracy. If we don’t own our bodies, then we don’t own our lives. It’s as simple as that.

No matter how far we’ve come (or haven’t) it is crucial for women of my generation to know what women of my mother’s generation witnessed firsthand. It is vital that we see the links between the kinds of attacks on women’s autonomy that followed Roe in the late 70s and early 80s, and the rehashed attacks on Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers we face today. If we want to prevent the current anti-choice movement from pulling the historical rug out from under us, we need to remember our history and keep fighting for it. We must understand why we have the rights we have, and also why they are still in jeopardy.

So, with a little help from the Historical and Multicultural Encyclopedia of Women’s Reproductive Rights in the United States, I’ve put together a timeline of some of the cornerstones of the reproductive justice movement since the 1960s. Starting with Griswold v. Connecticut and leading up to the aforementioned Casey ruling, this will hopefully provide a longer-view of the circuitous route of justice for women in this country. If we want current fifteen-year-old young women to, thirty years from now, still hold the same status as women do today, we best know our history.

Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) – This case came about when Estelle Griswold, the executive director of Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, opened a birth control clinic. Three days later she was arrested for dispensing contraceptives to a married couple. The Supreme Court invalidated this law by a majority of seven to two, ruling that a constitutional right to privacy protected the right of married couples to use contraceptives. Many amendments in the Constitution created “zones of privacy” that protect one’s home, one’s person, and one’s possessions. These zones would be key for the eventual Roe ruling.

Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) – This was the step between Griswold and Roe that further articulated privacy. It affirmed the reproductive autonomy of every individual, married or not. This meant that the individual was to be “free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”

Roe vs. Wade (1973) - In this ruling, the Supreme Court stated that the rights recognized in Griswold and Eisenstadt are “broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” This decriminalized abortion in all U.S. states. With developments in modern medicine the laws against the procedure, which had been in place to protect women, were no longer necessary. This decision also established the trimester principle.

Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth (1976) – This was the first Supreme Court ruling on a state law that attempted to restrict and discourage abortions in the years after Roe. The restrictions in this law will sound familiar, as many states have rehashed similar and more draconian laws today. Danforth succeeded in defining viability of the fetus as “when the life of the unborn child may be continued indefinitely outside the womb by natural or artificial life-support systems”; the case also succeeded in requiring abortion providers to keep records for public health officials. Aside from that, the Supreme Court struck down Danforth’s demands that married women must receive the consent of their husbands, which is a term that has held since.

Hyde Amendment (1976)- This amendment prohibits the use of federal funding for abortions. This affects Medicaid recipients, federal employees (1983), disabled women on Medicare (1988), military personnel & Peace Corp volunteers (1979), Native American women (1988), residents in D.C. (1977), and women in federal prisons (1987). There were a few exceptions: when the woman’s life was in danger, when two physicians certified that the woman would suffer long-term damage, and when the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. In 1981 this changed to only include exceptions for preserving the woman’s life. In 1993 it expanded to include pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Some states fund abortions beyond the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas City v. Ashcroft (1983) – This case reaffirmed the fundamental right for a woman to obtain an abortion but also clarified the boundaries of that right. The Supreme Court ruled against the Missouri statute that all second-trimester abortions had to be performed in a hospital; six out of nine justices found this unconstitutional. However, the Court ruled in favor of Missouri’s other restrictions, including the most highly contested “two-physician rule.” Missouri did not even require two physicians to be present for childbirth, yet this rule was seen as an “accepted medical practice,” so the Court upheld it. A similar setback was the parental consent ruling, which the Court upheld. Minors would be forced to get parental consent unless they could prove maturity and receive a “judicial bypass.” Ashcroft is seen as both a victory and a setback for reproductive rights. It granted a lot of latitude for states to impose restrictions on the abortion process.

Global Gag Rule (1984)- Ronald Reagan instated the Global Gag Rule or “GGR” which denies family planning funds to any foreign NGO that – with its own non-U.S. money – provides legal abortion services and counseling, gives information or referrals about safe abortion, or even takes part in a public debate that improves access to services.  This has been overturned and reinstated, back and forth, between conservative and liberal presidencies. Most recently, Obama overturned the GGR in 2009.

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992) – Many believed that this would be the case that would overturn Roe, but it did not. Instead the conservative majority in the Supreme Court weakened the ruling but kept it in place. Southeastern Pennsylvania had instated the 24-hour waiting period, as well as the mandated counseling services. For the first time, the Court accepted the notion that the state had an interest in protecting “the health of the woman and the life of the fetus that may become a child.” This limited the scope of the Roe rights by introducing the “undue burden” standard. Put simply, as long as the state’s intervention does not burden the woman’s right, it is legitimate. (Of course this can be interpreted in myriad ways!) This opened the door for a number of state regulations, most recently the “TRAP” laws or Targeted Regulations for Abortion Providers – laws which actively target abortion-providing clinics with regulations that block their funding and force them to jump through hoops.

 {Battles on the horizon} – Since the 2010 mid-term elections, abortion providers in states like South Dakota and Indiana have faced unprecedented opposition. Women in those states may know that their right to an abortion exists at the national level, but it doesn’t seem that way in their own backyards. For an up-to-date and thorough look at the full extent of regulations across the United States today, check out this comprehensive graph. It is organized by type of regulation: from parental consent requirements, to waiting periods, to mandatory counseling and ultrasounds, to blocked insurance funding. These attacks not only degrade women’s basic healthcare access but they also undermine the legal system. As citizens we want to have faith in the courts, but more often than not individuals with power (e.g. conservative governors) get the last word. What’s next for the reproductive justice movement? What will this graph look like thirty years from now?