This is something central to a woman’s life, to her dignity. It’s a decision that she must make for herself. And when government controls that decision for her, she’s being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices. ~Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Dissent speaks 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. ~Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Before the November election, we suffered a loss that looms especially large today.
Yesterday, as I processed the altogether unsurprising news that the Supreme Court would be hearing the appeal of a state’s abortion ban that defies Roe v. Wade–a signal that the Court will be changing Roe in some fashion, if not altogether overturning it–I reflected on the power of one person who was slight of frame but larger than life.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. RBG. #NotoriusRBG. Mother. Lawyer. Justice. Lioness.
At 87 years old, she played through the pain of cancer (multiple times), chemo, broken ribs. She was a wisp of a thing – barely 100 pounds soaking wet. Her slight frame disguised the steely, determined, resilient woman that lived within.
She was fearless – almost enviably so. She didn’t hide who she was, and she didn’t hide what she believed. She wore sequined shoes, fishnet gloves, jade teardrop earrings and a myriad frilled, fringed, bedazzled collars – each having some underlying significance.
One favorite golden-hued collar she often wore when giving a majority opinion. Another fairly simple white one she considered her favorite.
But she sparkled especially in her dissents – both figuratively and literally. Her shining, metal, tough-as-nails Dissent Collar became famous.
Because she only wore it … when she disagreed.
Whenever she dissented from the majority opinion, she’d don that now-famous collar – and as the Justices were seated, well before anyone even read the opinion, the entire courtroom would know where she stood. Just by looking at her.
It sounds so formal. Regal, almost. And in the context of a Supreme Court opinion, I suppose it’s a little of both.
But at the end of the day, it’s simply standing your ground – proudly – and then ensuring the world knows where you stand.
Ginsburg understood the power of a well-written and well-reasoned dissent. Those dissents honor the moment they’re written in … but speak to the future. They show the way. Light up the road ahead. Provide a map for the next traveler, to clear their path.
Dissent may be defiance – but it’s grounded in hope. You’d not bother to dissent if you believed your opinion didn’t matter and things could never change. It would be easier to dissent without opinion, or to just go with the flow and vote with the majority.
But to dissent, to speak up publicly, to shake your head “no” and proclaim that this isn’t the right way? Well, that means you believe there’s a reason for you to go to the trouble. That you matter. That things can change and you can be part of it. That you can even lead the way.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was part of a slim majority holding together women’s right to choose their own reproductive destiny with scotch tape and sheer will.
With her passing, that majority is now almost certainly gone.
There are many frightening aspects to that fact.
But if we can take anything from Ginsburg’s life, it’s that we must dissent when it’s needed.
It’s needed, now. And it will likely take a number of forms over the next year, as the Supreme Court determines the state of reproductive justice, at least from a constitutional perspective.
I hope it will take the form of more activism in state legislatures and more attention being paid to the impact “lost-cause” red states have on the rest of the nation. I hope it will take the form of more people working to elect Democratic Senators and Congress(wo)men. I hope it will make people fight harder against voter suppression and for democratic ideas.
And I hope it will make people who have never publicly supported reproductive freedom because they never thought it would be in jeopardy … dissent.
One day last fall, we lost a lion.
May her memory be a blessing.
May her legacy be a revolution.
Let’s get to work.
Actions for the week of May 18, 2021
Tuesday: Join NARAL and Cory Booker for a #ReproRundown
Roe is on the ropes, folks. To understand why I’m concerned, check out THIS Slate article, which does a great job of explaining why the Court granting cert on this case is a terrible sign that they are willing to overturn Roe.
Then this afternoon (Tuesday, May 18) at 2:15 PM ET join Cory Booker, NARAL and @ilyseh for the #ReproRundown on Instagram Live. They will be talking about how to fight for reproductive freedom. Tune in at http://naral.us/iglive.
Note that Biden has pledged to codify Roe in federal law. That’s currently impossible because of (1) the filibuster together with the (2) slim the current Democratic majority. In other words, we need to be working extra hard to elect as many Democrats as possible because by 2022 we will probably not have Roe protections anymore. (Sorry to be so direct, but it’s just the truth of the matter.) So saddle up, folks – reproductive rights are going to be on the ballot in ’22.
Wednesday: Ethics town hall (on twitter)
Join Members of Congress, activists and organizations on Twitter Wednesday, May 19 at 12pm CT for a Twitter Town Hall on Ethics, Accountability and the #ForThePeopleAct. Sponsored by Declaration for American Democracy, a coalition including groups from the labor, racial justice, faith, women’s rights, environmental, good government, and many other important communities. Formed in 2018, they set out on a mission to take back our democracy and restore power to the people. They believe that we must build a democracy where everyone participates, every vote is counted, and everyone’s voice is heard.
See the amazing lineup of guests below and join by following #S1TownHall hashtag! Participants to include:
- Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) @SenWarren
- Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) @SenBlumenthal
- Project on Government Oversight @POGOwatchdog
- Government Accountability Project @GovAcctProj
- Norm Eisen, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute @NormEisen
- Walter Shaub, Senior Ethics Fellow at POGO @waltshaub
- Noah Bookbinder, President of CREW @NoahBookbinder
- Public Citizen @Public_Citizen
- Jana Morgan @JanaLMorgan
- Declaration for American Democracy @DFADcoalition
Thursday: Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act
One of the things that the pandemic made clear to anyone who doubted it before is the importance of fast, reliable internet access. This is a bipartisan issue if ever there was one.
Digital equity initiatives were implemented locally throughout the country, but we need to think bigger and more comprehensively.
Enter the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, sponsored by Congressman Clyburn and Senator Klobuchar.
It would authorize $80 billion for secure and resilient broadband infrastructure for communities nationwide, connecting unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban areas across the country with high-speed internet service while prioritizing unserved and persistent poverty communities.
Sounds good, right? It also does quite a bit to improve affordability, including adding $6billion for the Emergency Broadband benefit (more on that below). HERE’s the fact sheet on the legislation:
Support the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act: https://www.majoritywhip.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/One-Pager-for-AAIA-.pdf
First, see if your Congress(wo)man is already cosponsoring HERE. (There are no republican cosponsors, and if you live in MO there are no Democrats currently cosponsoring, which is disappointing. )
And see if your Senator is cosponsoring HERE. (Again, there are no republican co-sponsors.)
Then call your representative and senator, and ask them to support this legislation!
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ___. I’m calling because I want Congress(wo)man ____ / Senator _____ to support the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act. We’ve seen over the last year just how important reliable, fast internet access is – it’s as essential as roads and telephone lines, and we should treat it the same way. This is a bipartisan issue! I hope the Congress(wo)man/Senator will cosponsor this important legislation.
Friday: Spread the word about the Emergency Broadband Assistance Program
This is a great benefit that’s not getting nearly the attention it deserves. You can help!
The Emergency Broadband Assistance Program provides a temporary discount on monthly broadband bills for qualifying low-income households. If your household is eligible, you can receive:
*Up to a $50/month discount on your broadband service and associated equipment rentals
*Up to a $75/month discount if your household is on qualifying Tribal lands
*A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer (with a co-payment of more than $10 but less than $50)
The program expires when it runs out of funds, or 6 months after HHS declares the end of the COVID-19 emergency. So here’s a VERY simple action: Help get out the word by sharing the program website at: https://getemergencybroadband.org
DID YOU KNOW YOU’RE A ROCK STAR? I DID. SUPER PROUD OF YOU!
If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at
https://www.patreon.com/smalldeedsdone or via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/smalldeeds
My deepest gratitude in advance.
P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.
P.P.S.: If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!
Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.