Anita Hill: The Optimist Says It Is Possible to Overcome Roe V. Wade by Pulling Together

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Anita Hill finally has a different kinda spotlight. 

Hill accepted the Webby for Public Service & Activism, General Series (Podcasts) on Monday, more than 30 years after she testified before an all-white and all-male panel.

The winner was “Because of Anita,”A series exploring the impact of Thomas’ 1991 testimony against Hill. Hill’s testimony came decades before the #MeToo movement and discussions around women’s rights became accessible to all corners of the country thanks to the internet and the advent of social media.

“I think the best antidote is when somebody tries to get you down, you don’t give up and hang in there, and I’m really fortunate that’s possible for me,”Hill spoke for Inside Edition Digital. “You know, it’s not always possible for victims and survivors to move forward and as one woman said, make lemonade out of lemons. So for me, being here, being engaged 30 years later is just beyond just what I thought would happen 30 years ago. There’s been 30, I’m looking for 35 and 40.”

In 1981, Hill became Thomas’ attorney-advisor when he was the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. When he was elected chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 1982. The following year, she quit the job. 

A report from the FBI of a private interview with Hill was leaked to media after President George H. W. Bush appointed Thomas, then a federal court judge, to fill the Supreme Court slot left vacant by retiring Associate Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marsh. At that point, the Senate hearings on Thomas’ confirmation to the nation’s highest court– a lifetime appointment– had been completed, but the hearings were reopened and Hill was called to publicly testify. 

Hill, who was working for Thomas in October 1991, testified that he made unwelcome sexual advances towards Hill and initiated inappropriate conversations about pornography and his anatomy. Other women reportedly came forward with their own stories about Thomas’ alleged harassment, but they were never called to testify. Thomas refuted Hill’s claims, which were viewed with suspicion by some elected officials who she had previously testified to. 

New York Times/CBS Poll Surveys conducted at the conclusion of the hearings revealed that Americans believed Thomas by 58% to 2%. According to the poll, only 26% of women believed Hill. Thomas was confirmed in a close vote of 52 to 48.

Today, the Supreme Court is quite different from what it was in 1991. This is the most diverse group of justices ever. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a Latina, was the first Latina ever to be confirmed to the Supreme Court by former President Barack Obama in 2009. The following year, Justice Elena Kagan was confirmed. 

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s third nominee for the high court, was confirmed in 2020. She is the youngest female to ever serve on its bench. Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black woman to be elected to the court in April 2022. After Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement, she will take his place. 

“It really was just beyond,” Hill said of Brown-Jackson’s confirmation. “[It’s with] Thrill, excitement and hope, that I view Kentanji Brown-Jackson’s confirmation. I know that she will be in the minority on a lot of decisions, but that minority can be a powerful voice. And I think it’s an opportunity at this time to speak to the American public. Not just to other members of the courts or other members of the legal profession, but to speak directly to the American public about why what is happening in our courts is so important at this moment and I hope it’ll get people engaged.

“I know she’s gonna be fantastic,”She went on.

Hill’s optimism is informed by the company Brown-Jackson will find herself in when she sits on the bench. 

“She has some wonderful colleagues like Justice Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor has really started to be very active and vocal in her opinions,”She spoke. “So they may not be majority opinions, but what you have to remember and what lawyers always remember, is minority opinions can become the majority opinion in time.”

Brown-Jackson is preparing to join the Supreme Court at a time where the 6-3 conservative majority appears ready to overturn two landmark decisions– 1973’s Roe v. Wade and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey– that established and reaffirmed a woman’s right to an abortion.

An initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito obtained by Politico earlier this month and later confirmed to be authentic by Chief Justice John Roberts, Alito rejects both decisions’ legal reasoning, writing, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” 

“It’s been a long-term strategy, and it’s been executed well,”Hill expressed his admiration for the decision. “That’s the short answer.”

The court’s decision will not be finalized until it is published, which is expected to happen in the next two months, Politico reported. The votes in place at the moment aren’t finalized. Justices may change their votes in advance of a decision.  

Chief Justice John Roberts described the leak as a betrayal and a grave breach of trust. The marshal of court has been directed to investigate the source.

However, a poll was conducted Published by ABC News and the Washington Post in AprilA majority of Americans believe the Supreme Court should uphold Roe v. Wade. 54% of Americans believe the 1973 Roe decision should remain, while 28% think it should be overturned. This is a difference of roughly 2-to-1.

Many in favor of a woman’s right to an abortion were outraged by the leaked opinion and took to the streets to protest the undoing of progress. Hill is ever hopeful because of such grassroots movements “that we can overcome decisions, like the one that was leaked, by pulling together as a culture, as a society, and say we want something better. We want more,”Hill spoke for Inside Edition Digital.

Hill accepted her Webby after receiving a standing ovation. Confined by the ceremony’s five-word-speech limits, she cut straight to the chase and implored the audience to do what she’s fought for for decades and appears poised to energetically continue to do. 

“Take equality seriously,”She stated, “For real.”