Welcome back Chaise Lounge readers and a special welcome to new readers! This week we begin a quarterly segment where we will celebrate women who have contributed to the greater good in remarkable ways. We will also kick off a regular feature that will keep tabs on the latest news in abortion access in the United States. With the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, conservative legislatures are chomping at the bit to get a case in front of the Court to whittle away at protections or completely outlaw abortion. With over two hundred anti-abortion bills making their way through state legislatures, the future of Roe v. Wade is at stake.
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A crisis is brewing in Venezuela where women are unable to afford birth control due to spiraling costs. A month’s worth of birth control pills can cost $11, more than ten times the monthly minimum wage of $1.50 if you can even find them. As a result, children are born into families that are already having great difficulty feeding the children they already have. Women are seeking unsafe abortions as a result.
Pfizer is beginning worldwide clinical trials of the COVID vaccine on pregnant women. This is excellent news as a recent study indicated that pregnant people have a 13 times higher rate of death from COVID than non-pregnant people. I wrote about this issue several months ago and am glad to see progress!
Women economists are tired of being interrupted when presenting at conferences according to an article in the New York Times. A new research paper (Dupas, Modestino, Nierderle & Wolfers) analyzing presenters by gender at economics conferences reveals “…that women presenters are treated differently than their male counterparts. Women are asked more questions during a seminar and the questions asked of women presenters are more likely to be patronizing or hostile.” This reminds me of the article about how the women Supreme Court justices are interrupted more frequently. See a pattern?
The People’s Parity Project, formed by former female Harvard Law students, is working toward ending forced arbitration and non-disclosure agreements for all workers. They have started with the legal profession itself, rating law firms on their progress - a bold move that is already making a difference.
Wowza - These Women Rock!
As we move into Women’s History month, I cannot help but reflect on the fact that we still need to set aside a month to highlight the contributions of women to the world. But here we are. So for this week’s newsletter, I want to lift the names of women who are doing some of the hard work to make the world better today for all of us.
Roberta “Robbie” Kaplan
Roberta “Robbie” Kaplan is a woman with a mission. As an attorney, she works for underdogs and does not flinch in the face of powerful adversaries. She is most famous for her arguments in the 2013 Edie Windsor case which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act which led to the legalization of same-sex marriage. While she spent much of her career in a large, traditional law firm, in 2017 she struck out on her own and formed Kaplan, Hecker, and Fink. She is suing former President Trump for defamation on behalf of E. Jean Carroll, for fraud on behalf of Mary Trump, and for fraud (again) on behalf of the participants in Trump’s ACN multi-level marketing scheme. Beyond those cases which will no doubt garner outsized headlines, Kaplan is also “suing the Nazis” (her words) who showed up in Charlottesville. That case will go to trial in October. Kaplan is also a co-founder of the #TimesUp Legal Defense Fund. She is a woman we should all thank for standing up for women in the face of power.
Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Corbett, PhD
Kizzmekia Corbett, Ph.D. is the scientific lead for the Vaccine Research Center of the National Institute of Health’s Coronavirus team. A North Carolinian born and bred, Corbett has always had a passion for science. In high school, she spent her summer break working at the UNC Kenan Labs research laboratories. She holds a B.S. from the University of Maryland Baltimore College and earned her Masters and Ph.D. degrees from the University of North Carolina. According to her Time 100Next profile, “She and her colleagues have been central to the development of the Moderna mRNA vaccine and the Eli Lilly therapeutic monoclonal antibody that were first to enter clinical trials in the U.S. and now have authorization for emergency use.”
In recent months, Corbett has become a prominent figure in the nation’s conversation over vaccine safety. She has used her platform to calm fears and concerns in the Black community. She states,
“Vaccines have the potential to be the equalizer of health disparities, especially around infectious diseases. I could never sleep at night if I developed anything — if any product of my science came out — and it did not equally benefit the people that look like me. Period.”
Margaret “Maggie” Ruto
Margaret Ruto deserves our accolades as someone who was just living her life and stumbled upon something horrific and acted upon it. She faced the strong odds of failure and worked until she could achieve justice. Let’s take a look at her story.
In 2018, Margaret, a nurse, traveled to Kenya, her ancestral country of origin, to care for her ailing mother-in-law. When she arrived, she found the villagers in chaos over allegations that a man, who happened to live near Margaret back in the States, was running an orphanage and abusing the children there. Two teenage girls had escaped the orphanage and reported being sexually abused. They also directed villagers and Margaret to the grave of a 9-month-old who had choked and died at the orphanage. By the time Margaret arrived, the man, Gregory Dow, had fled back to Pennsylvania.
After reporting the crimes to local authorities in Pennsylvania, then the State Department, and then the embassy she hit a wall. But when the local newspaper ran the story, the FBI got involved using the information that Margaret had collected. Dow was convicted and sentenced to prison until his 80 birthday. Without the courage and perseverance of Margaret, Dow would still be able to commit these heinous crimes.
Food for Thought
This woman’s TikTok went viral because she believes that there is no such thing as virginity. She makes a good point. What do you think?