Dec 15, 2021 • 50M

Podcast: Abolitionist Lessons for a Post-Roe World

Linda Hirshman on organizing for reproductive freedom

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Pro-choice protestors in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Linda Hirshman is the best sort of legal thinker: one who recognizes the limits of the law. Unlike other lawyer-pundits, she doesn’t see the law as an immaculate realm of abstract discussion, free from political and social conflict. Rather, in her many books and articles, Linda always understands that the law is a weapon in the war between competing social visions. She’s often written on the entanglement of law and politics in books like Reckoning: The Epic Battle Against Sexual Abuse and HarassmentSisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the WorldVictory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution.

I was pleased that Linda was able to sit down with me and talk about the precarious state of reproductive freedom in the United States. Reproductive freedom was enshrined in the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) and then scaled back in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). Now it looks like Roe might be scuttled by the court altogether next year. If Roe is in fact over turned, we will not simply return to the pre-1973 status quo. As Linda rightly notes, we would instead be looking at an emboldened anti-choice movement, eager and empowered to champion and legislate ever more extreme measures. 

Linda’s forthcoming book, The Color of Abolition: How a Printer, a Prophet, and a Contessa Moved a Nation, is about the movement to abolish slavery. She’s raised the provocative comparison between the brewing civil war in the 1850s and the current moment, suggestion that moves like the new Texas law which empowers a kind of bounty hunter to go after women seeking abortion have parallels to measures like the Fugitive Slave Act. The possibility that the current moment could be the start of a much larger social conflict, one that requires a new surge of organizing, is the theme of our conversation.

(Post edited by Emily M. Keeler)

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