The Syllabus: Episode 1

Welcome to The Syllabus!, where we post more information about the stories in every episode.


This week, Adrienne and Carmen took on the Kavanaugh confirmation—and uncovered two stories you may have missed while his alleged sexual misconduct dominated the headlines.

Watch Episode 1 here.

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#CancelKavanaugh

As allegations of sexual assault and misconduct mounted against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Republican lawmakers did all they could to confirm him to the court—and, in spite of outcry from across the country, on Saturday they succeeded.

Kavanaugh was accused of being involved in acts of sexual violence by at least three women—Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick. Blasey Ford alleges Kavanaugh and a friend, Mark Judge, attempted to rape her in high school. Ramirez has said that Kavanaugh aggressively exposed himself to her while they were both undergraduates at Yale. Swetnick says she was gang-raped at a party where Kavanaugh and Judge were present, and that participating in such acts was commonplace for the two boys. The allegations led to hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in which Blasey Ford testified and told her story, an FBI investigation which Democrats and feminist leaders slammed as a “sham” lacking in substance, as well as opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination by groups like the ACLU—which has only opposed a judicial nominee of his stature four times in its history.

Kavanaugh’s nomination raised concerns even beyond the extent of the allegations. His record shows a hostility toward women’s reproductive rights and access to healthcare, civil rights, workers’ rights and more. His confirmation also marks a distinct break from the ideological neutrality so often sought for the Court—and marks another victory for the Trump administration intent on restructuring the judiciary to lean right.

The Costs of Domestic Violence

An explosive BuzzFeed report by Ariana Lange highlighted the overwhelming failures of divorce law to protect—and respect—women who leave their abusers. Instead of finally being free of their abusive partners, women in 48 states may end up owing them legal fees and alimony after divorce proceedings:

Seven years ago, Paula English told police that her husband had destroyed her cellphone, nailed her bedroom door and windows shut with her inside, and then driven her to a secluded area and swung at her with a hammer. He was charged and pleaded guilty to abducting her. They divorced. But English made more money than her ex, and to her shock, he asked for spousal support. She’s still forced to send him a check every month.

If her husband had killed her that night, he couldn’t have inherited her money under Virginia law. But because she survived — he put the hammer down without bashing her head — there was no law stopping him from filing for alimony. Her attorney quickly settled with his, because going before a judge would have been a gamble for English — the court could have made her to pay a higher amount. Under the settlement, English was ordered to pay the man she thought was going to murder her $1,000 a month. When she found out, “I couldn’t speak for the longest time,” English said. She walked out of the courthouse, got into her car, and screamed.

Gov. Brown’s Insulting Abortion Law Veto

Governor Jerry Brown of California last week vetoed the College Student Right to Access Act, a law written by students and which had overwhelming support in the state legislature that would have mandated that public colleges in California provide medication abortion.

Brown vetoed the bill because he found it “unnecessary”—remarking that students could simply travel off-campus for care. But that misses the entire point of the bill, which was to expand access and provide equitable reproductive health resources for all students.

Mifepristone, “the abortion pill,” is FDA-approved and, in other countries, widely available for women who wish to self-administer, is an effective way to end an unwanted pregnancy.

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