(HOST) Commentator Madeleine Kunin says that the most recent supreme court nomination has reminded her of a kids’ game she used to play.
(KUNIN) A lot of American women feel like they are playing a version of the children’s game, “Mother, May I?” when the leader would tell us, you may take one step forward and three steps backward.
The battle for Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat has just begun, but
one conclusion is already clear – women are going to have to
fight to hold on to what we have, rather than what we could gain.
Take the Harriet Miers nomination. It is very difficult to extract
the ounce of sexism, which surfaced in the debate over her qualifications.
She was done in by the far right, but all sides questioned her qualifications. I can’t help but ask, would the same treatment
have been given to a similarly qualified man?
Now, we have Samuel Alito.
No pressure this time to nominate a woman.
Been there, done that.
Even though most of the women on the short list were as con- servative as Alito, it would have been heartening for the country
to acknowledge that one woman on a nine member Supreme
court is a step backward.
What we know of Alito from his record indicates that he wants
to retreat on the most central of women’s issues – the right to choose.
When deciding whether a woman needed to notify her husband
to obtain an abortion, he ruled in the minority, upholding that requirement, recognizing that it could create hardship, even dan- ger, but that the state must have already taken that into consider- ation.
Later, the Supreme Court, thanks to the swing vote of Sandra Day O’Connor, called this provision unconstitutional.
On the Family and Medical Leave Act, Alito ruled that a state could be exempted from that law, a setback for working families.
His ruling on the appeals court on the death penalty, immigrants’ rights and civil rights, make it clear that Samuel A. Alito Jr. is no Sandra Day O’Connor.
There is no debate about his qualifications and neither is there speculation about whether he will shift the court to the far right.
The jury, on both counts, is in.
But should we have expected anything else?
This is the kind of judge George Bush promised, and now he has delivered.
The bigger question will be whether the country will retreat from some of the equal opportunities it has granted to women, minori- ties, and the most vulnerable.
As I listen to my 20 year old college students, they can’t believe that the choices they had grown up with, could be denied.
Will a far right court go against the grain of public opinion to such a degree that it will generate a fresh outcry, a surge of activism, which even the Supreme Court cannot ignore?
Or, do we continue to play,”Mother May I?, or rather “Father May I?”, and take three steps backwards, when we’re told?
This is Madeleine May Kunin.
Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont.