Wendy Kaminer

Wendy Kaminer is a former senior correspondent for The American Prospect and a contributing editor at The Atlantic Monthly. She also serves on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union.

A lawyer, social critic, and former Guggenheim Fellow, she writes about law, liberty, feminism, religion, and popular culture. Her latest book is Free for All: Defending Liberty in America Today. Other books she has written include Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety; True Love Waits: Essays and Criticism; It's All the Rage: Crime and Culture; I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional: The Recovery Movement and Other Self-Help Fashions; and A Fearful Freedom: Women's Flight from Equality. Kaminer's articles and reviews have appeared in many other publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, and Newsweek, and her commentaries have aired on National Public Radio.

Before embarking on her writing career, Kaminer practiced law as a staff attorney in the New York Legal Aid Society and the New York City Mayor's Office.

Wendy Kaminer retains copyrights to all her articles.

Recent Articles

Reproductive Entitlement

nce women were considered disabled by pregnancy or the mere possibility of it. Before the modern civil rights era, women could be fired because they were pregnant or not hired because they seemed likely to become pregnant. From the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth century, women were excluded, under law, from presumptively masculine occupations that were considered incompatible with their maternal functions; they were also subject to protective labor laws that limited their hours of work and their work assignments, in order to preserve their ability to bear and care for children. The drive to define women as human beings first and mothers second has been central to demands for equal rights, and in the 1970s, feminists succeeded in outlawing pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. Women are no longer considered disabled by fertility. Today, however, they may lay claim to being disabled by infertility. It is no small historical irony (and not exactly a sign of progress) that...

An Imperial Presidency

Terrorism was expected to bring back big government, but lately it seems that federal power isn't growing so much as it is coalescing in the White House. Some in Congress have reacted to recent power grabs by the Bush administration with appropriate outrage. But the tendency of Congress to guard its own power shouldn't obscure its now historic role in stripping power from the federal courts. Attacks on the judiciary have intensified since September 11 but, like terrorist cells, they have been growing for years. This has been an ominous development. The twentieth-century rights revolution, which helped to liberate racial minorities, women, and gay people and increased the fairness of criminal prosecutions, was largely occasioned by the willingness of the federal judiciary to begin enforcing the Bill of Rights. That, of course, is why many social conservatives hate the courts. Since they came to power in the 1980s, conservatives have been working to deprive the federal courts of their...

Screen Saviors

Protecting civil liberties is an exercise in déjà vu. On March 20, 2001, for the third time in five years, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia seeking to enjoin a federal law aimed at protecting children from the ravages of the Internet. First, the ACLU successfully challenged the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which prohibited "indecency" in cyberspace and was struck down by a nearly unanimous Supreme Court. Then Congress enacted the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), criminalizing the commercial dissemination of speech deemed "harmful to minors;" the ACLU went back to the Third Circuit, which invalidated COPA (in a decision that may also be reviewed by the Supremes). Now, along with the American Library Association, the ACLU is challenging the Children's Internet Protection Act (CHIPA), which conditions federal support for the nation's public schools and libraries on the installation of blocking...

Courting Unsafe Speech

It is possible, of course, that computer-simulated images of virtual children having virtual sex may encourage pedophiles to act on their impulses or may assist them in seducing children. There is, however, little or no empirical evidence that these images have such dire effects. Congress criminalized virtual child porn anyway. The Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 (CPPA) prohibits computer images that "appear" to show actual children engaged in sex; it also bans advertising, promoting, or describing any sexually explicit images "in such a manner that conveys the impression" that actual children are depicted. Antiporn activists insist that this ban on virtual porn is essential to protecting children and enforcing laws against actual child pornography, since prosecutors may not be able to distinguish the actual from the virtual variety. Free-speech advocates charge that the CPPA allows for the prosecution of thought crimes, by criminalizing non-obscene renderings of imaginary...

Judge-Made Rights

O n October 2, 2000, the European Convention on Human Rights will be incorporated into English law through the Human Rights Act. Britain ratified the international convention some 50 years ago, but did not codify it domestically and give English courts and English judges the power to enforce it. Litigants have had to travel to Strasbourg, France, to the European Court of Human Rights, in order to have claims under the convention vindicated. The European convention, adopted shortly after World War II, is hardly an unequivocal declaration of rights: A few rights are absolute, notably the rights not to be tortured or enslaved, and the convention is fairly forthright in its guarantee of fair-trial and due-process rights; but expressive rights--freedom of thought, religion, speech, and assembly--are greatly qualified. Speech rights, for example, are expressly limited by whatever restrictions are "prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national...