On paper, legislators passed the Prison Litigation Reform Act to halt what congresspeople erroneously called an epidemic of “meritless” prisoner-initiated lawsuits clogging court dockets. But the law’s effect — crushing imprisoned people’s access to the courts and limiting the federal courts’ power to remedy heinous prison conditions, especially via population control orders — was to severely narrow a key terrain of struggle for imprisoned people fighting not only for relief from abusive treatment and inhumane conditions, but also against the expansion of an intensifying regime of racialized mass imprisonment.
Those who wish to ban legal abortion are not “pro-life”; they are pro-criminalization. Those who wish to protect the right to abortion are not “pro-choice”; they are anti-criminalization. Reframing the conflict in these terms clarifies the stakes. At issue here is not a principled attachment to “life” or to “choice” but the practical question of whether terminating a pregnancy should be considered a crime.
For these activists, the issue of abortion is one of paramount importance to nothing less than the future of Brazilian democracy. It’s an institution that is besieged and deeply flawed but also somehow still imbued with the hope and creativity that animated the social movements that more than thirty years ago brought an end to the dictatorship and helped draft an inclusive new constitution. Motherhood, in their eyes, must be elective rather than obligatory, if democracy is to be upheld. As Rosado, the Catholic advocate, told me, “There can be no such thing as dignified motherhood if a woman cannot choose to not be a mother.”
A few days ago, McConnell told his Republican caucus that the new 6–3 majority is something the public “won’t be able to do much about for a long time to come.” But his confidence in the long view is misplaced. A constitutional crisis, by definition, throws into doubt the certainty or predictability of things; it is a turning point, a moment for decision and judgment. Our moment of crisis calls for the rendering of judgment on the following question: will the majority of the country allow an anti-constitutional minority, empowered by an anti-democratic constitution, to rule in perpetuity?
Reclaim the neighborhood, reclaim community, reclaim public safety
Every donation to a bail fund contributes to an alternative vision of justice by treating bail not as a neutral threshold an incarcerated person has to meet before they’re allowed to return to their community, but as an obstacle to justice that can only be resisted collectively. When a fund pays bail, it declares that pretrial detention is cruel and immoral, and that keeping someone locked up doesn’t automatically make their neighbors “safer.”
My ears rang. My rage evaporated and in its place there arose an ugly combination of hope and fear. My body lifted itself from the chair. The world sharpened, as if I were wearing new glasses. I took a step, then another, taking care to avoid the eyes of the other foreigners. My legs moved. I advanced. What would I be willing to do for a green card? For citizenship? In that moment, I realized, I was ready to do a great deal of betraying.