REVIEW OF WOMEN OF COURAGE:
WOMEN OF COURAGE: The Rights of Single Mothers and Their Children, presents a compelling story, honestly told by my long-time friend, Mary Kay Green, of another battle in the ageless war women have fought for equal protection under the law and freedom from discrimination based on sex. The book documents the case against the Omaha Girls Club by Crystal Chambers, terminated in 1986 from her job as an arts and crafts instructor when she became pregnant out-or-wedlock. Attorney Mary Kay Green took up her case against the Girls Club.
Beyond the substantive and procedural issues presented by the case, the deeper story is how in the nation most praised for its system of government based on law, not men (use of the gender-specific term intended), judicial decisions often are made on the basis of men’s personal biases about what women ought to be--- what we who teach criminal justice and sociology call the Madonna/Whore dichotomy---and their resistance to allowing women to control their own bodies rather than on the basis of hard-fought legal recognition that women are Constitutional persons due every legal protection accorded men. Clearly, not just the Girls Club, but the courts as well, applied a different standard of morality and behavior on women than on men.
Ironically, Crystal Chambers v. Omaha Girls Club, unlike many case in the struggle for women’s civil rights, involves not the right to get an abortion, but the right not to have an abortion or be forced to give up for adoption one’s children born out-or-wedlock.
Beyond a story about law and the legal system’s reinforcing differential moral standards on women, this is a story of political connections and the continuing role of patriarchy and (dare I say it?) racist assumptions and deference to corporate preferences at the expense of respect for individual autonomy and civil rights.
William D. Staley, J.D., Ph.D.