NCJW speaker Dahlia Lithwick addresses the issues that women are facing in the current political climate.
Featured photo courtesy of NCJW
There’s good news and bad news for women in the current political climate, said legal and political pundit Dahlia Lithwick in her keynote address to the National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan at their annual Women of Vision luncheon Oct. 24 at Adat Shalom Synagogue.
A graduate of Yale University and Stanford Law School, Lithwick has been covering the U.S. Supreme Court for 20 years; she calls it “the best job in journalism.”
A senior editor and legal correspondent for Slate, an online magazine, Lithwick, 52, is also a frequent contributor to NPR, MSNBC and C-Span. Her op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and more. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her husband, artist Aaron Fein, and two sons, 16 and 14.
Women’s reproductive rights are under attack in many states, Lithwick said. The Supreme Court agreed to hear a case, June Medical Services LLC v. Gee, that revisits what should have been established precedent, she said. The case is similar to a Texas case decided in 2016, in which the court ruled that limiting the availability of abortion clinics was an undue burden on women exercising their legal rights. The Louisiana law in the June Medical Services case, if upheld, would limit abortions to a single doctor in the entire state. Other state laws making their way through the courts put severe limits on abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest.
Lithwick says she’s concerned that upcoming cases could limit women’s access not only to abortion but to contraception.
“Things we’ve taken for granted are now on the table,” she said, with a court that includes two justices who have been “credibly accused of sexual misconduct.” This is an “existential moment” for women, she said.
Other important cases on the court’s docket deal with the rights of homosexual and transsexual people, immigration, limitations on guns and religious liberty.
Although women are much more visible in law firms and courts than a generation ago — 50 percent of Lithwick’s law school classmates were women — since the 2016 election, women have been disappearing from the legal power structure. Of the 42 U.S. attorneys appointed since 2017, only one was a woman. The 150 most recent federal judicial appointees have been 80 percent male (and 90 percent white).
But all is not gloom and doom, she said. “We in this room have an enormous amount of power. As long as we deploy it, we can make a difference.” Women need to find the “sweet spot” where activism and the law interact.
To counteract anti-woman legislation, women need to engage in “civic visibility,” she said. Women need to see and be seen by calling and visiting their elected representatives, writing op-eds and letters to the editor, and getting out the vote. “It’s tedious work but it needs to be done,” she said.
At the start of the meeting, attended by 330, NCJW Michigan presented its Josephine S. Weiner Award for Community Service to Lisa Lis, a full-time volunteer who works with Gleaner’s, Henry Ford Hospital, the Detroit Zoological Society and Forgotten Harvest. She is a past chair of the Jewish Women’s Foundation and past president of the Jewish Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy effort.
The group’s Women of Vision Award was presented to Jackie Victor, co-founder of Avalon International Bakery in Detroit. The business, started in 1997, has grown to four retail locations and 120 team members. Victor is also a strong supporter of Detroit’s urban agriculture movement and of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue.