Let’s Talk About White Privilege Y’all

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You have White Privilege. 

Did you cringe?

Roll your eyes?

Do you feel defensive?

It’s okay, I used to have the same responses.

In fact, not too long ago an old Facebook status popped up on my memories feed dealing with “white privilege.” Oh boy, was past Deanna mad! How dare someone assume they know anything about my life? How dare they discount all my hard work to get where I am today, solely based on my skin color?

I was angry and defensive.

I was also wrong.

White privilege does not mean that a white person’s life is always easy, or that they will never have any struggles to overcome. White privilege means that society as a whole is not stacked against you, and that you are more likely to be able to overcome those struggles.

Take my story as an example: in my status, I talked about being born into poverty and spending my first few years in the Louisiana Foster Care System before being adopted. I saw this as an indication that I could not possibly be privileged in any way. What I failed to see is:

  • black children are considerably more likely to be born into poverty;
  • black children are considerably more likely to be placed into foster care;
  • black children are considerably less likely to be adopted;
  • black children are considerably more likely to age out of the foster care system and be left to fend for themselves;
  • black children are more likely to repeat the cycle of poverty.

What I failed to acknowledge, is that even at the lowest point in my life, I was still better off than a black child in similar circumstances. THAT is white privilege. 

There are many other times I have benefited from white privilege as well, such as my interactions with law enforcement. I have participated in numerous protests over the years, for a variety of causes. Never once have I doubted for even a second, that the Police were there to protect me from any violence. Never once did I worry that they were there to harm me, or to protect those who wanted to cause me violence.

When police have been called on protests that I have organized or participated in, not only was I not worried about false arrest, or undue force, but I was happy to see them. I smilingly approached them straight away, introducing myself and explaining that I was a lawyer and asking if they had any questions or concerns about our protest. I was completely secure in my innocent “whiteness” and my charming “yes, sirs” and “no, sirs.” No one would ever think me a threat. THAT is white privilege. 

All of this is not to say that I do not understand why people react negatively when they hear the words “white privilege.” All too often these words are used to shut down a conversation about important issues. But it is really where the conversation should start. As white Americans, we must realize that the acknowledgment of our privilege is essential to the discussions our country needs. Only when we are able to put aside our pride and come to the table with our black brothers and sisters with the serious intention of hearing and validating their black experience, will we be able to begin healing the racial divides in our country. Only then can we “Make America Great.”

It was a long journey for me to get to a place where I could acknowledge my privilege, and I am not proud of how I handled the conversations in the past. When the old status showed up, my mouse hovered over the “delete button.” I was ashamed. But instead of merely erasing the proof of my past ignorance and pretending it never happened, I choose to use it as a reminder of how far I have come, and how far I still have to go.

Testimony on HB 388 before the LA House Health & Welfare Committee

Deanna Candler & HB388 Sponsor Rep. Katrina Jackson before the House Health & Welfare Committee

Deanna Candler & HB388 Sponsor Rep. Katrina Jackson before the House Health & Welfare Committee

My name is Deanna Candler, I am a resident of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a law student at LSU, and am representing Law Students for Life of America. I am here today to support the proposed regulations in HB 388.

Ladies and gentleman of the committee, you will hear today that these regulations are medically unnecessary, but this simply isn’t true. The proposed regulations are common sense regulations that would protect the health of women who undergo procedures in these clinics.

These regulations are needed in Louisiana- this need is evidenced by the history of violations and complaints against Baton Rouge’s own abortion facility, the Delta Clinic. The Delta Clinic has a history of botched abortions, unsanitary conditions, multiple violations, as well as of protecting rapists, going back to 1974, and continuing to the present day. Additionally, the Delta Clinic previously employed a woman by the name of Eileen O’Neill, who after leaving the Delta Clinic, surrendered her medical license due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Ms. O’Neill  went on to practice medicine without a license, in the Philadelphia abortion clinic of Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murdering innocent children who were born as a result of botched abortions, and causing the death of and  countless injuries to, the women who visited his clinic.

The women of Louisiana deserve to be protected when they walk into an abortion clinic, and this regulation would do much to assure their safety.

From a legal standpoint, this regulation will not violate the standards set up by the Supreme Court. In the landmark case, Planned Parenthood v Casey, the Supreme Court noted that “not all burdens on the right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy will be undue,” and acknowledged that a state’s interests in protecting unborn life,  in preserving the integrity of the medical profession, preventing the coarsening of society’s moral sense, and promoting respect for human life more generally, are strong enough to warrant restrictions prior to viability, even if those regulations might make abortion more difficult or expensive to obtain.

Justice Kennedy also pointed out in the 2007 case Gonzales v. Carhart, that “Medical uncertainty does not foreclose the exercise of legislative power in the abortion context any more than it does in other contexts,’ stating that State legislatures are empowered to make their own determinations of what regulations and restrictions are medically necessary.

Under these principles, the Supreme Court has upheld many abortion restrictions and regulations, including informed consent requirements, waiting periods, parental consent for minors, reporting requirements for clinics, funding restrictions, and even a total ban on partial birth abortion.

Requiring doctors to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals would serve to protect the health and safety of Louisiana women, and since they do not violate the principles the Supreme Court follows in determining whether an abortion regulation is an “undue burden”, I ask you to support this bill.

 

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HB 388, HB 305, and HB 1262 are the work of the amazing Bioethics Defense Fund! It’s been an honor to work with them on these important pieces of legislation! Learn more about this great pro-life group and their groundbreaking work at their website: http://www.bdfund.org/

The Viability of Roe, Part 4: The Misinterpretation of Legal Personhood

Another aspect important to an historical analysis of abortion is that there was widespread disapproval and prohibition of abortion during early pregnancy before, in the view of the science of the time, human life had been infused. Our ancestors’ biologically incorrect notions of when human life begins led Blackmun to assert that, historically, “abortion was viewed with less disfavor than under most American statutes currently in effect” (in January, 1973) and “[p]hrasing it another way, a woman enjoyed a substantially broader right to terminate a pregnancy than she does … today.”[1]

Regarding this important question, scholarly research reveals that recognition of the unborn as “persons in the whole sense” was largely determined by the biological and medical knowledge of each historical era[2]. The ovum and the actual nature of fertilization were not discovered until the nineteenth century, and prior to this, scientists and contemporaneous jurists supposed that human life commenced at “formation,” “animation,” or “quickening.” Abortion was seen as unquestionably homicidal only after the gestational point at which, in light of the science of the time, human life was finally understood to be present. [3]

Many legal scholars have pointed out that other areas of law, such as torts property and criminal law, all recognize the unborn child as a person with legal protections under the law.

[M]edical authority has recognized long sense that the child is in existence from the moment of conception, and for many purposes. It existence is recognized by the law. The criminal law regards it as a separate entity, and the law of property considers it in being for all purposes which are to its benefit, such as taking by will or dissent… All writers who discuss the problem have joined in condemning the old rule, and maintaining that the unborn child out of an automobile is as much a person in the street as the mother. [4]

In reference to property law, in 1941, a New York Court stated: “it has been the uniform and unvarying decision of all common law courts in respect of the state matters for at least the past two hundred years that a child en ventre sa mère (in its mother’s womb) is ‘born’ and ‘alive’ for all purposes for his benefit.”[5]

The rules of property law have not changed, and pre-born children are still afforded their just legal protections. If property law recognizes the rights of a child in its mother’s womb, it makes no sense that the court would deny them, especially since property was not the only area of law in which those rights were recognized.

By 1971, twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia allowed suits for prenatal injuries based on tort law, and an additional nine rejected the viability distinction and allowing recovery[6]. In 1953, a New York State appellate court found that:

We ought to be safe in this respect. In saying that legal separability should begin where there is biological separability. We know something more of the actual process of conception and foetal development now than when some of the common-law cases were decided; and what we know makes it possible to demonstrate clearly that separability begins at conception.[7]

This rationale was also stated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1960:

As for the notion that the child must have been viable when the injuries were received, which is claimed the attention of several of the states, we regard it as having little to do with the basic right to recover, when the foetus is regarded as having existence as a separate creature from the moment of conception.[8]

Today, only three states do not provide tort claims for prenatal injuries, nearly 3 thirty states allow for recovery at any point in the pregnancy[9]. This is yet another example of the schizophrenic nature of the Supreme Court denying pre-born children recognition under the law, when the law of torts clearly recognized their rights.

In criminal law, the quickening distinction was dropped my most a legislatures by the 1860s as medical science progressed, and today thirty-eight states have abolished the born alive rule in the lower prosecution for fetal homicide at any time in the pregnancy.[10]him him

Justice Blackmun, writing for the court in Roe, stated that the court did not need to decide the “difficult” question of when life begins, but this is the most important question to be decided. Because it is not the courts job to decide what philosophy or religion is correct, it must be scientific fact which dictates who is covered by the Constitution.  There is no doubt that human life begins at conception (also called fertilization), and even the most cursory glance into the science of fetal development would confirm this fact.[11] The court gave no rationalization for why a human and a person were separate entities, that required separate legal protections under the law, and many have criticized this distinction as similar to the one the Court made in Dred v Scott.[12]


[1] Roe

[2] Roger Resler, Compelling Interest, page 19 – 30

[3] Compelling Interest, page 26

[4] Prof. William Prosser Law of Torts at 335.

[5] In re Holtenhausen’s Will, 175 Misc. 1022, 26 N.Y.S.2d  140 (NY Surr. Ct. 1941).

[6] Abuse of Discretion , page 275

[7] Kelly v. Gregory, 282 App.Div. 542, 125 NYS.2d 696, 697 (1953).

[8]Sinkler v Kneale, 401 Pa. 267, 164 A.2d 93, 96 (1960)

[9] Abuse  of Discretion, page 283 figure 7.

[10] Abuse of Discretion, page 284-5  figure 9.

[11] See e.g.  http://www.princeton.edu/~prolife/articles/embryoquotes2.html (a compilation of quotes from recognized medical textbooks and authorities,  on when human life begins)

[12] See e.g Compelling Interest, page 20;  Justice Scalia’s dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey at 998

The Viability of Roe, Part 3: How Roe Re-wrote History

579240-closeup-picture-of-a-row-of-old-history-booksThe court begins its discussion of the merits of the original abortion case, Roe by looking at the history of abortion. While the court notes that it is universally accepted that abortion after quickening (the first movements felt in utero at about 16-18 weeks) was a crime at common law throughout history, they seem unable to decide whether this matters, and rely heavily on two articles by Cyril Means Jr. who was general counsel for NARAL[1].  Means research had a decidedly pro-abortion slant and has been criticized by many.  In fact in 2006 Joseph Dellapenna a professor at Villanova law school wrote a scathing 1200 page book refuting the “history” used in the Roe decision[2].  Historical research that was available in 1973 and has been undertaken since that time has repudiated virtually all of the court’s historical claims.[3]

For instance, apart from remarking that the Persian Empire banned abortion, Justice Blackmun’s survey of the ancient world was limited to Greece and Rome. Yet, numerous other sources indicate that abortion was condemned in the twelfth century B.C. by Assyrians, Hittites, early Hindus, Buddhists of India, and Indian law; and there is some evidence that the ancient Egyptians took a similar attitude.[4] This information was included in the works of Eugene Quay, who Blackmun cited, but failed to incorporate into his opinion.[5]

Despite the availability of other historical sources, Justice Blackmun left a gap of more than a thousand years in his survey of history, jumping from his discussion of ancient attitudes straight to Anglo-American common-law; during this thousand year period, history tells us that the majority of the world opposed abortion.[6]

The Court also claimed that prior to quickening abortion was not indictable offense under law again relying on means his article. However, English common law clearly prohibited abortion and the American colonies adopted this common law.

Before the debate about abortion began in earnest in the 1960s, it was accepted by lawyers, both ‘prolife‘ and ‘pro-choice,‘ that abortion had been prohibited by Anglo-American criminal law for 700 years and that the law’s main, if not sole, purpose was protection of the fetus.  In the 1950s Glanville Williams, the eminent Cambridge University law professor and vigorous pro-choice activist, explained the rationale of the anti-abortion legislation permeating the U.S. and England. The fetus, he wrote, ‘is a human life to be protected by the criminal law from the moment when the ovum is fertilized. ‘[7]

Another part of this “historical survey” involved the legislative history of the Texas abortion law and others like it. This legislative history was later the foundation for the court’s decision regarding personhood of the unborn child. Up until the 1960s, all but a few of the 50 states prohibited abortion except when it was necessary to save the life of the mother[8]. These abortion laws were enforced, updated and strengthened during the nineteenth century as medical understanding progressed[9].  In the oral arguments, Roe’s lawyers argued that most state laws against abortion were implemented solely to protect the woman.  This could not be further from the truth.  In fact, Justice Blackmun acknowledged that it was the attitude of the medical profession that played a significant role in the enactment of the stringent criminal abortion legislation of the late 1800s, and even quoted the American Medical Association’s 1857 report on criminal abortion., in which the AMA called abortion an” unwarrantable destruction of human life,” and called to upon state legislatures to revise their abortion laws and encouraged state medical societies to press the subject.[10]

Clearly, the historical research on which Justice Blackmun relied was at best biased and incomplete, and at worst was a complete revisionist history concocted with the sole purpose of justifying the abortion decision.


[1] Means’ two history articles were funded by the pro-abortion advocacy group, Association for the Study of Part II: Abortion (ASA).  See JOSEPH DELLAPENNA, “Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History” (2006) note 40 at 14, 143-44, 1004.  Justice Blackmun cited Means‘ two articles a total of seven times, and no other source on the history of abortion more than once.  See Roe, 410 U.S. at 136-52, 158 n.54.

[2] JOSEPH DELLAPENNA, DISPELLING THE MYTHS OF ABORTION HISTORY (2006

[3] See JOSEPH DELLAPENNA, DISPELLING THE MYTHS OF ABORTION HISTORY (2006); Robert Byrn, An American Tragedy: The Supreme Court on Abortion, 41 FORDHAM L. REV. 807 (1973); Robert Destro, Abortion and the Constitution: The Need for a Life-Protective Amendment, 63 CAL. L. REV. 1250 (1975); James Witherspoon, Reexamining Roe: Nineteenth Century Abortion Statutes and the Fourteenth Amendment, 17 ST. MARY‘S L.J. 29 (1985); Paul Benjamin Linton, Planned Parenthood v. Casey: The Flight From Reason in the Supreme Court, 13 ST. LOUIS U. PUB. L. REV. 15, 107-31 (1993) (This article, among other things, compiles 64 cases from 40 states demonstrating that the purpose of the nineteenth century state abortion prohibitions was to protect the life of the unborn child); Clarke D. Forsythe, Homicide of the Unborn Child: The Born Alive Rule and Other Legal Anachronisms, 21 VAL. U.L. REV. 563 (1987).

[4] see a Dennis J. Horan and Thomas J Balch, Roe v. Wade: No justification in History, Law, or Logic, in Abortion and the Constitution: Reversing Roe v. Wade Through the Court,  note 24 at 62.

[5] Quay, Justifiable Abortion – Medical and Legal foundations, (pt. 2) ,  49 Geo. L. J. 395 (1961), cited in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 130 n.9.

[6] See Dennis J. Horan & Thomas J. Balch, Roe v. Wade: No Justification in History, Law, or Logic, in ABORTION AND THE CONSTITUTION, supra note 44 at 67.

[7] John Keown, Abortion Distortion: A Review of Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History, 35 J.L. MED. & ETHICS 325 (2007).

[8] Linton, “Enforcement of State Abortion Statutes after Roe,” at 159–161.

[9] Forsythe, Clarke D. (2013-09-24). Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade, at. 360. Encounter Books. Kindle Edition.

[10] Roe at 141-2