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Mourn Justice Ginsburg, Fight to Close Irwin Detention Center

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg changed the way the law sees gender… She changed the course of American law… She touched the lives of generations of men and women… She pushed for a full and inclusive definition of equality.”

Those are just some of the ways people have described Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy in the days since her death. Now tens, probably hundreds of thousands of well-wishers are getting ready to file past her body as it lies in state at the Supreme Court and then in Congress.

So much she changed. So much remains still to be changed. It will be many days before we know what impact her death will have on the election, or her life on the years ahead.

But I can’t help thinking that rather than filing past her corpse, one fitting way to honor the historic justice would be to take action on some unfinished feminist business. Justice Ginsburg is on my mind today, and so is Nurse Dawn Wooten.

Dawn Wooten is the ICE whistleblower who, earlier this month, called out abusive medical practices against immigrant women at a detention center in Georgia.

Thanks to Wooten and movement groups working in collaboration across the South, Irwin County Detention Center now stands accused of disregarding CDC COVID-19 treatment and prevention guidelines as well as denying medical care to detainees.

Most chilling, Irwin stands accused of routinely sending immigrant women to a particular gynecologist outside the facility—whom women accuse of conducting high rates of hysterectomies, including hysterectomies conducted on at least 17 women without consent or even their full understanding.

Nurses have raised their concerns about the private, for-profit detention center in Georgia before, but until now, there has been no action. Now there’s outrage, a Congressional investigation in the works, and one Cameroonian woman who was facing deportation after a non-consensual sterilization has been released.

For too long, the white-dominated women’s movement, even as it fought for abortion rights, paid little attention to sterilization abuse, particularly of women of color and queer and trans women. That abuse has a long, shameful history in this country going back to colonization and slavery.

Mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living, they say. Now is the time to mourn Ruth Bader Ginsburg and fight like hell for living breathing, actionable, racial, reproductive and gender justice.

Laura Flanders interviews forward-thinking people about the key questions of our time on The Laura Flanders Show, a nationally syndicated radio and television program also available as a podcast. A contributing writer to The Nation, Flanders is also the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller, BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species.  She is the recipient of a 2019 Izzy Award for excellence in independent journalism, the Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award for advancing women’s and girls’ visibility in media and a 2020 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship for her reporting and advocacy for public media. lauraflanders.org

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