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Posts Tagged ‘legal’

It turns out that the Federal District Court Judge who will be deciding the Prop 8 case, Judge Vaughn Walker, is gay.  Unfortunately I worry that if he decides that Prop 8 is in fact unconstitutional, conservatives will be quick to blame it on his sexuality – suggesting that he’s biased.  The fact that his sexuality is even making news headlines worries me, especially because there are people questioning whether he can be impartial in deciding this case. (Walker, as it turns out, is fairly conservative as politics go – his decisions have angered the gay community in the past.) I wish this didn’t have to be an issue, but it reminds me that people who are part of any kind of majority, be it sexual, racial, or gender, always forget that they too have a sexual orientation, a race, and a gender. Just because you are a straight, white male does not mean that you are free from bias. Unfortunately, however, if a straight judge was deciding this case we would not see article after article questioning whether he be able to remain unbiased. We do not question whether he will decide in favor of the Prop 8 supporters because he is straight. We assume that being straight (or white, or male) is the neutral center, and we don’t look any deeper. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that when the decision comes out, the media will focus on the legal reasoning and not Judge Walker’s sexuality.

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Today Scott Roeder was convicted of first-degree murder of Dr. George Tiller, a late-term abortion provider in Wichita, KS. I am incredibly relieved that the judge did not give the jury the instruction for voluntary manslaughter. (Roeder wanted to argue that his motive for killing Dr. Tiller was to save the life of unborn babies, therefore reducing the charge to voluntary  manslaughter). However, not even a sentence to life in prison can lessen the incredible sadness and tragedy surrounding Dr. Tiller’s death. I fear that there are others in this country like Scott Roeder who feel that they are justified in taking the life of someone working to help women and promote female agency, in order to save the life of a fetus.  I fear that these people will not be deterred by Roeder’s conviction.  I fear that some judge in some state will be willing to give a jury a voluntary manslaughter instruction.

The loss of Dr. Tiller also means the loss of another doctor who is willing to perform late-term abortions (and abortions in general). This means that more women will lack access to safe abortions. More women will be forced into making certain decisions about their bodies, in which they really had no choice. More women will turn to unsafe methods to ending their pregnancies. Dr. Tiller’s death represents another loss of women’s rights in this country. It is another way in which women’s control over their own bodies is being stripped away.

I hope that Scott Roeder is sentenced to life in prison without parole, because it frightens me to think of what he would do if released on parole. It is at times like this that I wish I had gone to medical school and could lend a hand in providing women with safe, comprehensive reproductive health care. As a lawyer I will be able to contribute to legislative changes and protecting women’s legal rights, but it is hard to sit back and not be able to directly provide women with the medical services they desire.  I only hope that there are others like Dr. Tiller who will not be afraid to continue fighting for women’s access to abortion.

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