What do the Catholic Church, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the United States Air Force Have in Common?

5:10 AM

Hey, You. Yes, YOU. I gotta tell you something. I can't take it anymore. Like I just can't. I literally can't even. I am proverbially sick, and actually tired of this nonsense. Let me begin by saying that this is not a dismissal of any one's beliefs, in fact, it's the exact opposite.

The following is to say that we're not all as far apart on the political spectrum as we think. I'm so sick of people, you know who they are, telling us there's no common ground, that we can't work together.  What am I talking about? I'm talking about abortions, i.e. women's health, i.e. women's reproductive rights. I'm talking, mostly, about the government telling women what to do with their bodies, their pregnant bodies in particular.

 I know, I know, it's totally a lot for a Friday morning. But, last night Kellyanne Conway told the world that she doesn't identify as a "feminist in the traditional sense" because the movement is "anti-men," and "pro-abortion."

Ya see, us Americans are really good at forgetting our own history, particularly when it involves women's history, and especially when it's in regard to reproductive health.  So, what do the Catholic Church, the American Civil Liberties Union and the United States Air Force have in common?

Well, FYI Kellyanne Conway, in 1970 only one of them was "pro-abortion" and it's not the one you might think.

 No, it's not a bad bar-level joke. Not rhetorical. The answer is Susan R. Struck. Captain Susan R. Struck, actually. Who's that you're asking?

Wellllllllllllll, here's the story (from A-to-Z ya wanna get with me, ya gotta listen carefully - sorry, sorry #IDigressForSpiceGirls):  Captain Struck began her service in the United States Air Force on April 8, 1967 as a commissioned officer. She served on active duty until October 16, 1970 when she was recommended for honorable discharge by a duly constituted Board of Officers. While serving in Vietnam, Captain Struck became pregnant.

 This Board she appeared in front of was essentially a "pregnancy panel," convened in accordance with the then-statue that allowed the U.S. military to discharge any person (read: woman) who became pregnant while serving. The panel would "decide" if the servicewoman was pregnant and then file for her discharge.   Not only is military service a sacrifice, outstanding patriotic, and a commitment, it's also the way that hundreds of thousands of Americans have made (and continued to make) their living. This means that men and women in the military have a property interest in their service - that is the legal mumbo jumbo way of saying, people have the right to be paid for their work, and that work can't be cut off without a fair process.

 This is problematic for a few reason, so come on this journey with me:

  1. Only female service persons get pregnant. #ItsScience 
  2. Only female service persons were getting discharged/fired. Their male counterparts weren't getting dischanged/fired for getting someone pregnant. 
  3. This left women with only 2 options: loose their job, or terminate their pregnancy. 
TIMEOUT: Remember this is 1970, and the landmark decision Roe v. Wade hasn't come out yet. This means that abortions are illegal in the United States. TIME-IN!

 This is where I get annoyed. THIS is where I get mad. See, although abortions were illegal, they were not illegal when it was "convenient" for the government. They were not illegal, and were in fact regularly performed on military bases.

We come from a country where our government has a lonnnnnnnnnnng history controlling women's bodies. Our government has historically forcible sterilized women - particularly women of color, poor women, and prison populations.  Here, our government placed women in a position where they had to choose between their livelihood and a child. A little corrosive... but maybe that's just me.

 Any-who - Captain Struck was a Roman Catholic and didn't believe in abortions and didn't want to get one. She wanted to carry her child to term, and give it up for adoption.

So what's a gal to do?  Well, the Captain said "not today, Satan," to the Department of Defense and got herself a lawyer. Who was her representation you might ask? The one, the only, the glorious and nortoriois, Ruth. Bader. Ginsburg.   Yes, that's right. RBG, the now-Supreme Court Justice, was then an ACLU attorney working in the women's division.

If RBG had it her way, Struck v. Secretary of Defense would have been the landmark case.  So why wasn't it? Because after being heard by the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circut, and as it was waiting to be heard by the Supreme Court, the military realized one BIG THING: telling women what to do with their bodies is never a good idea.

 Knowing they would lose, the military internally changed its policy. The case became moot, and the "pro-choice" language-that-could-have-been died with it. We are barely a generation removed from circumstances where being pro-choice meant the right not to have an abortion. This matters. This is important.

This issue isn't about morality, or religion. This is about the government being able to dictate the lives of women and their families we have to realize that this fight goes together and goes both ways, and the more we forget that, the father apart they can push us. So even if it only the slightly fraction, even if it's just a small landing - know that you and I aren't so far apart.

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