Two days ago, the City released a statement signed by all five members of the Davis City Council in response to the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Sadly, the statement is wishy-washy and lacking in any sort of call to action. One wonders why they even bothered.
Those who moved to Davis recently may not be aware that the City Council voted to make Davis a pro-choice City in 1989. The LA Times quoted then-Mayor Michael Corbett: “The resolution is a political act to support women’s choice to choose their own morality. . . . I know that will alienate people, but that’s the way I see it.” That was bold leadership, leadership that is sorely lacking in today’s City Council. Are we still a pro-choice city today?
There are, it should be acknowledged, some positive elements to Tuesday’s statement, namely where it says:
…we cannot ignore the broader negative implications of this decision for women and for all marginalized groups.
The strides afforded women, especially women of color, in areas of education, upward mobility, and freedom from domestic abuse are inextricably linked to the right of body autonomy women have enjoyed for 50 years.
Furthermore, at this moment in addition to the fear and despondence felt across the nation by women there is also the creeping dread that other hard fought rights and protections are in danger of being lost. The fear felt among marginalized groups about the security of their place in the world is heavy.
These words rightly recognize the harms to women and other marginalized groups from the Supreme Court’s ruling and from other potential rulings (Justice Clarence Thomas has hinted at implications for overturning gay marriage and contraception rights).
But right after issuing these strong words, the City Council’s statement goes on to undermine them by saying that they need to “always respect all opinions and provide a safe environment for everyone to voice their opinions and live their values.” So – we need to respect the opinions that would ignore the broader negative implications for women and for all marginalized groups? We need to respect the opinions that would undermine the ability of women (especially women on color) to further their education, experience upward mobility, and be free from domestic abuse – their ability to live? We need to respect opinions that would go so far as to outlaw contraception and overturn gay marriage?
Yes, of course, the City Council needs to follow the First Amendment’s free speech dictates. But it needs to move beyond the idea that “all opinions are equal” when some of those opinions undermine the fundamental ability of people to function and flourish in society. Some opinions are not deserving of respect.
The City Council assures us that “we will not criminalize or assist in criminalizing women's reproductive rights.” Well gee, thanks. I would hope so, especially considering that it would be go against Californians’ constitutional right to privacy. (Note that in November, citizens will have the opportunity to take state abortion policies a step further by voting on whether to amend the California Constitution to explicitly protect a person’s right to an abortion and birth control).
On NextDoor, someone asked me what else I would have had the City Council say or do. I replied, “I would like them to reiterate their support for Davis as a pro-choice city. I would like them to think creatively about how we can help, e.g., by helping people who need to travel to this area for abortions (which includes people within CA who lack abortion providers in their area). They could promote, or at least express their support for, the newly proposed CA constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights. I am sure other people have other suggestions. The CC could gather them.”
We are going forward with our citywide celebration of “Independence Day,” but should we really be celebrating freedom when we are not all free?
Davis deserves a stronger City Council, and with two seats open for re-election (the ones currently held by Dan Carson and Gloria Partida), we have the opportunity to move toward one.