History lesson

Supreme Court should be wary of laws intended to protect women, professors warn

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her chambers. (Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

Throughout U.S. history, laws designed and passed by men with the ostensible purpose of protecting women have often been unfair or harmful, according to a petition filed to the Supreme Court by a coalition of history professors ahead of an upcoming abortion case. The brief cited examples included laws banning women from serving on juries to protect them from “hearing filthy evidence,” and prohibiting women from working nights as pharmacists in hospitals, but not as night custodians. The point, according to the professors, is that the court should be wary of such laws, including the contested Texas law that supposedly protects women from shoddy abortion practices by passing a host of new restrictions.

“Any new law that claims to protect women’s health and safety should be scrutinized carefully to assess whether its ostensibly protective function actually serves to deny liberty and equal citizenship to women,” said the brief, which, according to The Washington Post, was filed by 16 historians, 13 of whom are women.

The amicus brief, as a “friend of the court” filing is known, is one of dozens of such petitions filed by advocates on both sides of the issues in an attempt to persuade the justices.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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