summer 2005
table of contents
Articles Online

Social InSecurity
Bad and Good News for Title IX
Female Pundits Missing
Radical Muslim Prayer
Hip Hop and Feminism


Rwandan Women Lead Rebirth
Saudi Feminist Princess
French Women Do Get Fat
Networking Corner

Cover Story
Urgent Report: What’s at Stake if We Lose the Supreme Court

Public Triumphs, Private Rights
| Ellen Chesler
The Polls Speak: Americans Support Abortion | Celinda Lake
Talking Points: Judges and Filibusters | Kathy Bonk
Five Rights Women Could Lose | National Partnership for Women and Families
An Unlikely Feminist Icon | Review by Ann Blackman of Becoming Justice Blackmun: Harry Blackmun's Supreme Court Journey

More Features

The Green Motel | Rebecca Clarren
The Dialectic of Fat | Catherine Orenstein
Hanan Ashrawi: Creating a Common Language | Rebecca Ponton
Still Carrying the Torch | Emily Dietrich


Summersgate | Lisa Wogan

Power Plays | Martha Burk

A Shot Against Cervical Cancer
| Mary Jane Horton

Portfolio: Zana Briski | John Anderson

She Who Once Was | Rebecca McClanahan

Hollywood Producer Orders Up a Sunset | Aleida Rodríguez
| Eloise Klein Healy

Deja New | Lee Martin

Andrea Dworkin | In her own words

Book Reviews
Celeste Fremon on Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas’ Promises I Can Keep
Michele Kort on Johnette Howard’s The Rivals: Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova
Susan Straight on Alia Mamdouh’s Naphtalene: A Novel of Baghdad
Sarah Gonzales on Isabel Allende’s Zorro
Samantha Dunn on Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation

Plus: Great Reads for Summer

Run, Sisters, Run! | Donna Brazile

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  FEATURES | summer 2005

Ms. Urgent Report
Hanging By A Thread:
What’s At Stake If We Lose
The Supreme Court

A battle rages in the U.S. over the “nuclear option” to eliminate Senate filibusters for judicial nominees. Make no mistake — the push for the nuclear option may focus today on federal circuit-court judges, but it paves the way for the Senate to rubber-stamp President Bush’s choices for the U.S. Supreme Court.

A replacement for ailing, 80-year-old Chief Justice William Rehnquist could be sought as early as this summer. Justice John Paul Stevens is 85 and two justices are in their 70s, so other retirements might follow. Bush could propose as many as three new Supreme Court justices before his term expires.

So what’s at stake for women in this battle over judicial nominees?


If the makeup of the Supreme Court shifts, women could lose most, if not all, of the constitutional gains we have made since the mid-1960s — and that includes the right to privacy.

As reproductive-health expert and Margaret Sanger biographer Ellen Chesler points out, in the first part of the urgent report in Ms. magazine, that right provides the basis for legal access to abortion and even birth control. Losing it could turn back the clock, as a series of intertwined decisions on reproductive rights would unravel.

If Roe v. Wade — last affirmed by a narrow 5-4 Supreme Court ruling — is reversed, legal dominion over abortion reverts to the states. Many of today’s state legislatures would ban abortion or even make it a criminal act.

Next, the radical right would probably push for limiting availability of contraceptives — first for teenagers, then for single women. Finally, they might try to withhold certain types of contraception from married women.

Pharmacists who say their religion forbids birth control are already refusing to fill contraceptive prescriptions. Will new, more conservative courts back them up?

Urgent Report: Public Triumphs, Private Rights
The appointment of just one new conservative justice to the Court could threaten all constitutional protections for abortion — and perhaps for contraception, as well >>

But rolling back reproductive rights is only the first act in a nightmare scenario that could come to pass if right-wing judges take over the federal courts and the nation’s highest court. On Page 36, we point out four other crucial women’s rights that could easily be lost with the change of just one or two votes on the Supreme Court.

The majority of people in this country, men and women, do not want to go backward on women’s rights: The polls are clear on this, as preeminent national pollster Celinda Lake, who has followed reproductive-choice issues for more than two decades, points out on Page 37.

So what can you do? You can and must let your friends and community know what’s going on. Kathy Bonk, one of the nation’s leading feminist communication analysts and strategists, has outlined some concise talking points (see Page 38) that you can use to advocate for a federal judiciary that will preserve our cherished rights.

Don’t be left out of this debate. Women’s voices are needed in this fight — we have way too much to lose.


More from Ms.' Urgent Report:
Read Ellen Chesler's story on what Estelle Griswold and Margaret Sanger risked to help women gain access to birth control and abortion — and how just one Supreme Court justice could take it away.
- Kathy Bonk proposes "talking points" for how to frame the debate on federal judicial appointments.
- Pollster Celinda Lake looks at the numbers : The majority of Americans support a woman’s right to a legal abortion, as they have for the past 15 years.
- Five Rights Women Could Lose under an ultraconservative Supreme Court.
- Ann Blackman reviews Becoming Justice Blackmun: Harry Blackmun’s Supreme Court Journey by Linda Greenhouse.

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