Pema Levy

Pema Levy is an assistant editor at The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Targeting Planned Parenthood

While conservatives in Congress ostensibly aim at stopping abortion, they're going to end up cutting needed health services for poor women.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Earlier this month, the anti-abortion movement took a play out of James O'Keefe's playbook; allegedly, men began showing up at about a dozen Planned Parenthood clinics across the country, claiming to be part of a sex-trafficking operation that involved minors and illegal immigrants. At least one of the men has been tied to the anti-abortion group Live Action, which has long-standing ties to O'Keefe. After five days of this, the nonprofit alerted Attorney General Eric Holder to the possibility of a sex-trafficking operation but, more likely, a smear campaign against it. The point is to generate a scandal and turn public sentiment against Planned Parenthood in the same way that O'Keefe and his allies, fueled by the conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, brought down the community housing group ACORN in 2009. (In fact, O'Keefe himself had gone after Planned Parenthood before.) But it is just the latest in a series of attacks by anti-abortion advocates who hope to bring down Planned...

The Gay Equal Rights Amendment.

Left out of my piece on the Equal Rights Amendment -- a proposed constitutional amendment that would explicitly ban sex-based discrimination -- today is the interesting question of whether it would, down the road, protect the rights of LGBT Americans as well as women. The text of the 14th Amendment hasn’t changed, but contra Justice Scalia , it has been interpreted to extend equal rights to women. In the same way, an Equal Rights Amendment could grow to protect LGBT individuals. Recently, and increasingly, the courts have been interpreting the term “sex” to mean more than men versus women, and are beginning to include sexual orientation. As a report from the Center for American Progress recently stated , "Some judges are increasingly willing to recognize that certain forms of ... discrimination are motivated by perceived failures to conform to gender stereotypes, thus falling within the scope of current sex discrimination laws." As Felice Batlan of Chicago-Kent Law School told me, the...

Revive the ERA?

Equal protection under the law for women is no longer the elusive goal it once was.

A 1980 Equal Rights Amendment rally in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo)
When Justice Antonin Scalia's strange assertion that women are not protected under the 14th Amendment was published in California Lawyer earlier this month, feminist organizations immediately hit on one simple solution: the Equal Rights Amendment. "Nothing less will do," declared Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. In a small event on the steps of the Capitol to reintroduce the ERA, Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin warned that "women's rights are at the whim of the Court and will remain that way without the Equal Rights Amendment." First drafted in 1923 to explicitly prevent legal discrimination on the basis of sex, the ERA came close to ratification in the 1970s, but the process expired when ratification fell short by three states. The ERA was revived again in the 1980s, briefly in the 1990s, and again in 2007. Each attempt was weaker than the last. Scalia's recent statement sent shivers down feminists' spines, but his interpretation of the 14th Amendment is...

A Response to Saletan on Late-Term Abortions.

Still reeling from the arrest of Philadelphia late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell , William Saletan challenged pro-choice writers to answer the following question: Contraception or abstinence is best, emergency contraception is next best, early abortion is next best, and we should make these options more accessible, not less. But we'll still be left with some women who, for no medical reason, have run out the clock, even to the point of viability. Should their abortion requests be granted anyway? Before I answer the question, I want to make two points. First, as TAP 's Scott Lemieux noted last week, asking about late-term abortions in general really has nothing to do with Dr. Gosnell's crimes, even if it did spur this current round of debate. Second, Saletan precedes his question with several studies (though the research in this area is inadequate) revealing that around 50 percent of women who sought second-trimester abortions did so because they couldn't make up their minds. My...

Citizens United Turns 1.

Tomorrow, Citizens United , which opened elections to unlimited third-party spending on ads -- often without disclosing their donors -- turns 1 year old. The case originally came from the Citizens United group's attempt to air a movie about Hillary Clinton despite bans on third parties' "electioneering communications" within a certain number of days before an election (in this case the 2008 Democratic primary). Now, in an ironic twist, the Sunlight Foundation shows how the decision didn't just allow spending immediately before an election but actually mandated it all year round: Here’s how it works: Under IRS rules, a corporation that wants to hide the donors to its election activities and still maintain its tax-exempt status cannot have the election of candidates as its “primary purpose.” So it must spend more on “education” or issue ads than it spends on electioneering communications. That means, for example, that in order to keep its tax-exempt status, Karl Rove brainchild...

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