A 158-year-old law was taken down this Thursday. Many wonder if this could this be a change for women in India.
India’s supreme court struck down “Section 497,” a colonial-era law regarding adultery. Under this law, a man could be imprisoned for five years for engaging in sexual relations with a married woman without the consent of her husband. In opposition, if a woman’s husband was unfaithful, she would not have been granted the same legal right.
“Section 497” of the Indian Penal Code took down the law, calling it retrograde and discriminatory toward women. “It’s time to say that a husband is not the master of his wife,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra read from the judgement. “Legal sovereignity of one sex over the other sex is wrong.”
The verdict from Misra and the five-panel jury were united in the decision, declaring the law, a clear violation of fundamental rights granted in the constitution.
“The adultery law is arbitrary and it offends the dignity of a woman,” Mirsa said, according to NPR. The five-panel jury added the “archaic law long outlived its purpose and does not square with constitutional morality.”
Justice D.Y. Chandrachud was also questioning the double standard immersed in “Section 497” during the four day hearing. He asked, “you asked exact fidelity from a woman but not from a man?”
A Kerala native, Joseph Shrire, was the one who urged India’s supreme court to reexamine the validity of Section 497. According to an article printed in CNN, Jayna Kothari, an attorney and executive director of the Center for Law and Policy Research in Bangalore said, “It is a big victory for women’s status and position within marriage and within families. The adultery offense was used really as a threat against women by their husbands.”
In regard to the “sanctity of marriage” this constitutional law had been sprung by family rights activists, who insisted it necessary to preserve social stability.
Within the Indian government, a coalition was led by Prime Minister Nareadra Modi, who supported adultery as a criminal offense, suggesting that rather than completely forgoing the law, it should change to a gender neutrality status with the same punishment for men and women.
However, during the ruling, the Supreme Court dismissed concerns of the abolishment. One person from the ruling said, “Each partner to a marriage is equally responsible to keep the sanctity of marriage intact.”
One other person, according to an article printed in CNN, said, “ ‘Section 497’ destroys and deprives women of dignity and is destructive of women’s dignity, self-respect as it treats women as chattel.”
In a statement posted to Twitter, opposition Congress Party MP and president of the Party’s Women wing, Sushmita Dev, spoke of the ruling as an “excellent decision.”
“A law that does not give women the right to sue her adulterer husband and can’t be herself sued if she commits adultery is unequal treatment and militates against her status as an individual separate entity,” she said.
From the Times View, this is their hope: “We hope the government will now show good sense in accepting the verdict and not seek a review.”
Chief Justice Mira also hopes to bring about a change in Indian society, “we are of the view that there cannot be a patriarchal monarchy over the daughter or, for that matter, husband’s monarchy over wife. That part, there cannot be a community exposition of masculine dominance.”
From an article printed in the Times of India, Chief Justice Noriman also commented on the need for change:
“This archaic law has long outlived its purpose and does not serve with today’s constitutional morality, in that the very object with which it was made has since become manifestly arbitrary, having lost its rationale long ago and having become in today’s day utterly irrational. On this basis alone, the law deserves to be struck down,” he said.
Columnist Jason L. Riley describes abortion’s “outsize toll” on the African American population in an opinion piece published by the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.
Riley hopes to reshape the conversation on abortion sparked by President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee: “As Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination tees up another national debate about reproductive rights, is it too much to ask that abortion’s impact on the black population be part of the discussion?” Riley asks.
Riley first documents blacks’ evolving views on abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Prior to Roe, African Americans viewed abortion less favorably than their white counterparts, according to Riley. Fannie Lou Hamer and Whitney Young, both prominent civil rights activists, regarded the practice as genocidal. Jesse Jackson, meanwhile, deemed abortion “murder” and stated that blacks “used to look for death from the man in the blue coat and now it comes in a white coat.”
Now, however, African Americans espouse radically different views on abortion: modern black civil rights leaders routinely partner with abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood, Riley notes. A telling Pew Research report conducted in 2016 reveals that 62% of black Americans believe abortion should be legal “in all or most cases,” compared with 58% of whites and 50% of Hispanics.
Pro-abortion attitudes have taken a devastating toll on America’s black population. Riley points to New York City, where every year the number of aborted black babies outweigh the number of black children who survive pregnancy. As a result, ugly inequalities mark comparisons between black and white abortion rates: black mothers in New York terminate pregnancy at three times the rate of white mothers, while births heavily outnumber abortions among whites and other non-black ethnic groups.
Similar disparities exist in other regions of the United States: Riley cites a 2014 study which found that nation-wide, black women received 36% of all abortions, even though they account for just 13% of America’s female population. Higher abortion rates among black women persist even after controlling for income.
Riley concludes with a sobering assessment of abortion’s impact on black Americans:
“When you combine the amount of black violent behavior directed at other blacks with the number of pregnancies terminated by black women, the rate at which blacks willingly end the lives of one another is chilling. . . . Racial disparities in abortion rates are no less disturbing than racial disparities in income, crime, poverty and school suspensions. Why are people who want to lecture the rest of us about the value of black lives pretending otherwise?”
Email Jason L. Riley at Jason.Riley@wsj.com or reach him via Twitter at @jasonrileywsj
On July 9, President Donald Trump announced his nominee to fill the vacant Supreme Court Justice slot. Brett Kavanaugh was selected from a pool of twenty-five conservative options, a list that had been narrowed down to four candidates in the last week before the announcement.
Kavanaugh has over twelve years of experience as a judge, issuing approximately 300 opinions, according to Fox News. Appointed to the federal appeals court by President George W. Bush, Kavanaugh is well-known for his dedication and admiration of the U.S. Constitution. Addressing an audience of senators and public officials, he highlighted his “reverence” for the document that the Supreme Court is tasked with upholding.
Supreme Court judges generally fall into three different philosophies. Constitutionalists believe in judging cases strictly as the Founding Fathers would have commanded them to. Precedence means that decisions should be made in reference to past cases. Finally, pragmatism is the philosophy that judges should use their own convictions and apply them to the law. Kavanaugh has exhibited strong constitutionalist qualities, with an additional respect for precedence. This yields interesting results when analyzing his stances on abortion.
The Constitution does not explicitly mention abortion, obviously, making this hot-button issue often more difficult for constitutionalists to deal with. When asked about Roe v. Wade in 2006, Kavanaugh stated that he would respect the precedent set by the ruling but refused to state a personal opinion. His relative silence on the issue has worried some Pro-Life supporters, though others have theorized that he has dodged the subject to ensure swift confirmation.
Last October, Kavanaugh commented on his first major case involving the right to life in October 2017, when an undocumented immigrant teenager in U.S. custody sought an abortion. Though the appeals court involved ultimately supported the young woman’s decision, Kavanaugh dissented, insisting that she had no such right. While Pro-Life activists applauded this decision, others were quick to say that his decision emphasized the rights of immigrants, rather than the right to life.
In the coming weeks, a spotlight will be shed surrounding the history of Kavanaugh’s decisions and convictions. Undoubtedly, the media will report on the judge with increasing scrutiny, as the deadline to confirm him looms closer. Until then, it is important for Pro-Life supporters to avail themselves of resources to learn more about this potential Supreme Court Justice.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that California pregnancy centers which oppose abortion must no longer advertise the practice. The state of California had required all licensed pregnancy clinics to provide clients with information about low-cost abortion and contraception options—regardless of the clinics’ religious beliefs or stance on abortion.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion for the Court, which decided the case—National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra—on a 5-4 vote. California may publicize government-sponsored abortion programs, stated Thomas, but the state “cannot co-opt the licensed facilities to deliver its message for it.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy’s concurring opinion emphasized pregnancy clinics’ First Amendment liberties: “Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. [California’s law] imperils those liberties,” Kennedy wrote.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch also deemed California’s law unconstitutional. Meanwhile, Justice Stephen Breyer expressed the minority’s dissenting view from the bench.
Breyer argued that the Court should honor a previous 1992 decision in which it required Pennsylvania doctors to inform their patients about adoption services. Why should states not similarly require pregnancy centers to inform clients about abortion services? Breyer asked. “As the question suggests, there is no convincing reason to distinguish between information about adoption and information about abortion in this context,” he stated.
Perhaps the First Amendment itself provides the distinguishing test Breyer seeks. The government clearly compels pregnancy centers which oppose abortion on religious or moral grounds to violate their convictions via mandatory abortion advertisements. Physicians, however, likely do not oppose adoption for religious or moral reasons; thus, the state cannot possibly infringe on their “freedom of thought or belief” by compelling them to publicize information they already endorse.
Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer Michael Farris recognizes that freedom of speech and conscience constitute the proper basis for the Court’s decision. “No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates their convictions, especially on deeply divisive subjects such as abortion,” Farris stated. “In this case the government used its power to force pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for abortion. The Supreme Court said that the government can’t do that, and that it must respect pro-life beliefs.”
Farris’ organization represented the pregnancy centers in the case. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had previously ruled against the clinics in a unanimous verdict which upheld the entirety of California’s law. Thus, the Supreme Court’s decision represents a heartening turn of events both for pregnancy clinics in California and the national pro-life cause.
In a heartening decision for pro-life advocates, the US Supreme Court opted not to overturn Arkansas’ ban on abortion by medication. The Court heard arguments pertaining to the law on appeal from a lower court, but declined to offer an opinion. The case now returns to the lower courts via a remand from all nine of the nation’s top justices.
Abortion provider Planned Parenthood initiated the suite, and may still ask a federal judge to block Arkansas’ law. “Arkansas is now shamefully responsible for being the first state to ban medication abortion,” said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president. “This law cannot and must not stand.”
Laguens argues that the courts should consider the law an “undue burden,” since it also imposes radical limits on conventional abortions in Arkansas. Indeed, under the statute two of the state’s three abortion clinics would close their doors, leaving only one facility operational.
Arkansas has attempted to legalize similarly robust protections for unborn children in the past, including a recent effort to institute a 12-week abortion ban. That law, however, succumbed to a blocking order by a federal appeals court.
Arkansas’ newest pro-life measure may similarly fail to withstand judicial scrutiny: In 2016, the Supreme court struck down comparable abortion restrictions in the landmark case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
Family Council Executive Director Jerry Cox, however, remains optimistic. “This is very good news for people who care about the safety of women in Arkansas,” he stated. “This is a pro-life victory not only for the women of Arkansas, but for women across the nation. I’m sure other states will be looking at Arkansas and considering following our example.”