Opinion: What’s A Feminist to Do (about the Tara Reade-Biden Accusation)
Opinion: What’s A Feminist to Do
(about the Tara Reade-Biden Accusation)?
By: Former federal prosecuter & sex crimes prosecuter, Julie A. Werner-Simon
(The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of WLALA or its members)
Enough with the glee, by some, suggesting that feminists are being “hoisted on their
own petard” with respect to the Tara Reade-Biden accusation. There’s a cascade of
commentary claiming that those who support women’s empowerment and the “Me Too
movement” are being hypocritical, and that “woke” women are treating the sexual
misconduct allegation against Biden differently than they have allegations against the
president and other public figures. They are not.
As a former federal prosecutor and an Alaska sex crimes prosecutor, I can
attest that those urging Biden to lay low on the topic (even though he has emerged from
his basement and denied the charge) recognize that these one-on-one sexual
misconduct cases involving adult participants are rarely charged and are tough to
prosecute. To further riff on Hamlet, here’s “the rub.” Women who care about each
other, their communities, and the greater world, cannot ignore the fact that such
“accusations” have not precluded others from securing either the presidency or
Supreme Court appointments. With this as a backdrop, they also know the accusation
against Biden is not disqualifying.
What’s a feminist to do?
First, assume it’s all true. Know that unless the offender is a predator
(and is of a particular political persuasion à la Harvey Weinstein), and the
accusations are charged within the statute of limitations, there will be no prosecutions.
The single allegation against Biden and the majority of those against the president fall
outside the statute
–of –limitations, even though many states and the District of Columbia
(where Reade alleges her assault occurred) have extended their sexual abuse
statute of limitations laws due to the backlog in DNA processing of rape kits and the
proliferation of older-adults recounting sexual assaults occurring in childhood.
Time-barred claims equate to no prosecutions.
As a result, the choice for president this November will be between two white men in
their 70’s accused of sexual misconduct: one, the president accused multiple times
(around 40 so far referenced in the public record) and the other, Biden, one accusation – for now.
Second, where both candidates for elective office have been accused of sexual
misconduct, a voter making the selection must be pragmatic and use critical thinking to
decide which candidate is better for women’s lives, both collectively, as a whole, and individually.
Below are three issues which a feminist should consider when deciding for whom to vote.
They are: (i) women’s bodily autonomy, (ii) appointments to the federal courts, and (iii) access to health care.
(i) Women’s Bodily Autonomy
Our president’s view of women’s lives and bodies is clear. He told radio host Howard
Stern about the perks of owning beauty pageants to include going into the contestants’
dressing rooms and watching them undress. It’s also is well known that our president
told Access Hollywood that he could “do anything to women” – that he “does not even
wait” and he “grabs them by the pussy.”
But even more than that, this administration has consistently denied women birth control
medication to include birth control pills, family planning services, scientific and
medically-based information about health care, as well as abortion. The president has
supported efforts to defund Planned Parenthood which provides gynecological services,
cancer screenings, birth control, and abortion services to mostly economically
disadvantaged women. Further, he has used at least two of his State of the Union
addresses to stress that he “cherishes innocent life” over that of any woman.
The other candidate, Biden, a long-time hugger who last year said he would do better
with recognizing the personal space of others, has consistently supported a woman’s
right to choose, her right to have access to birth control, and the federal funding of
(ii) The Appointment of Federal Judges
As of May 29, 2020, this president has appointed 196 (Article III) federal judges with
lifetime tenure; that’s over 25% of the federal judiciary. They are overwhelmingly white and
male, many possessed with the view that women’s bodies are subject to governmental
control, and some who consider women to be “hosts” for fetuses which, they argue,
should be granted the legal status of “personhood.”
Moreover, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who for a period of 11 months
permanently blocked the Supreme Court appointment of Judge Merrick Garland, has
stated he intends to “leave no judicial vacancy behind.”
McConnell called the Senate back in session in May to confirm more federal
judges, to include McConnell’s 37-year-old former protégée, Justin R. Walker. Walker is
a constitutional “originalist,” who has both (i) criticized the Supreme Court’s upholding
of the Affordable Care Act (which granted health insurance coverage to millions
of previously uninsured people) and (ii) supported the “religious liberty”
interests of the few who want to congregate-for-religious-services over the public-
health-concerns of the many, who are abiding by state and local stay-at-home rules.
One presidential candidate promises more of the same for these lifetime federal
judgeships, and this will mean the ascension of even more judges who have been rated
unqualified by the American Bar Association. The other candidate, in the role of Vice
President, vetted and supported the confirmations of the two most recent female
appointees to the United States Supreme Court: Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena
Kagan. He promises that more judgeships (should any be left) will be filled by the
selection of jurists with experience, who are pro-choice, and who embrace anti-
(iii) Health Care Access as A Right
The Trump administration and 18 red-states, despite the Co-Vid 19 pandemic, are still,
even today, pursuing a case in the United States Supreme Court scheduled for
argument in October, California, et al., v. Texas, (certiorari granted on March 2, 2020,
in No. 19-1019, now No. 19-840) in which they all are asking that the court declare the
Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. This outcome would automatically deny health
care coverage to over 8 million people, including those with pre-existing conditions,
young people under age 26 (and still on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26),
and others, including women seeking health care. One candidate seeks to toss the
Affordable Care Act; the other wants to enhance the Act’s coverage.
* * *
This year, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment
giving women the right to vote. Women must not squander the opportunity for which
our forebearers fought. We cannot “opt-out.”
My hero, feminist, suffragist, and abolitionist Lucy Stone (1818–1893), spent most of her
adult life working to give women and minorities access to the ballot box. She believed
that the essence of voting was making rational choices, and that any individual of the
age of majority “capable of independent rational choice is rightfully entitled to vote.”
We are rightfully entitled. With this entitlement comes the obligation to be informed, to
be analytical, and to have the long-game in mind. Come November, we must exercise
our right to vote. Our lives and those of other women depend on it.
By: Julie A. Werner-Simon
Former Federal Prosecutor, 1986 – 2015 including positions as:
Senior Litigation Counsel of Major Frauds Section &
Deputy Chief, Organized Crime Strike Force
Alaska Sex Crimes Prosecutor, 1983-1986
Fellow & Instructor, Constitutional Studies, Southwestern Law School