3325 – Power Dynamics Of Adoption; Defying The Supreme Court w/ Gretchen Sisson, Ryan Doerfler

It’s an EmMajority Report Thursday! She speaks with Gretchen Sisson, sociologist at the University of California, San Francisco, to discuss her recent book Relinquished: The Politics of Adoption and the Privilege of American Motherhood. Then, she speaks with Ryan Doerfler, law professor at Harvard University, to discuss his recent piece in Dissent Magazine entitled “We Are Already Defying the Supreme Court”, co-authored with Samuel Moyn. First, Emma runs through updates on Trump’s immunity and hush money cases, the US’ new foreign aid package, Israel’s impending invasion of Rafah, continuing crackdowns on anti-war student protests in the US, Arizona politics, Harvey Weinstein, the TikTok ban, the resignation of Ariel Henry, and repression of dissent in Iran, before expanding on the conversation about activism on campuses, and the GOP’s insistence on maintaining the parallels with the 1960s anti-war movement. Gretchen Sisson then joins, first walking through extensive research she conducted with women who have relinquished children to the private adoption system, exploring how and why they make the decision, and how they reflect on the process some years later. Next, Sisson walks Emma through the myth of the relationship between abortion and adoption, and the reality of a distinct divide between those who seek the two options, alongside the myth of a “high supply” in the adoption market, with (once again) the inverse seeing many adoption clinics closing due to a lack of available children for adoption. Expanding on this, Gretchen explores how the “market” influence of the adoption industry shapes a largely coercive and exploitative relationship between adoption agencies and women who would often prefer to keep their children, a relationship that is largely reflective of the industry’s roots in the family separation projects practiced against Indigenous and Black communities in the US. After touching on the major role that major Christian religious institutions have played throughout the history of the private adoption industry, and the relationship between private adoption and the foster care system, Emma and Gretchen wrap up the interview with an exploration of how many mothers come to feel very critical of the adoption system and how it failed both them and their child. Professor Ryan Doerfler and Emma then look to the long history of non-compliance – and even outright defiance – in the face of Supreme Court rulings considered unjust, with Professor Doerfler walking us through the more extreme precedents set by the presidencies of Abraham Lincoln and FDR to issue direct challenges to the court, alongside the much more recent tradition of administrative non-compliance or policy loopholes as seen in the fights for affirmative action, student loan forgiveness, and more. After stepping back to look at the myth of Marbury v. Madison’s role in legitimizing judicial activism – a tactic that the Supreme Court would not truly take on until the Civil War era, Professor Doerfler explores how the conversation around the ever-changing scope of the Supreme Court became isolated from the public to solely and intra-governmental affair over the second half of the 20th Century, in a weird conflation of the rule of law and the rule of the courts. Ryan and Emma look at the current era of backlash to the Supreme Court, from the Hobbs decision to attacks on the administrative state, and what we can do to get Democrats to start fighting back, before wrapping up with a brief conversation on the stunning bravery of anti-war student activists at Harvard and across the US.

And in the Fun Half: Emma is joined by Matt Binder as they watch Channel 4’s interview with an anonymous IDF member on the prevailing perspectives within Israel’s military, also diving into the continuing wave of student protests against Israel’s genocide in Gaza, and the violent police repression seen at UT Austin, USC, and Emory that has continued the parallels with the 1960s anti-war movement on campuses like Kent State. They also dive into the continuing smears against students from both Netanyahu and the ADL alike, and watch Edward Said attempt to grapple with the same double standards some four decades ago. Chris from the Bay Area debates which generation killed American class politics, and Wisconsin Senate candidate Eric Hovde botches his public pledging of the ‘legiance, plus, your calls and IMs!

Check out Gretchen’s book here: https://www.relinquishedbook.com/

Check out Ryan’s piece in Dissent here: https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/we-are-already-defying-the-supreme-court/

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