Statement on the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Act Ruling


For more information, please contact:

Kim Rippere, Secular Woman President: 404.669.6727  E-mail

Elsa Roberts, Secular Woman Vice President: 906.281.0384 E-mail

Last week, the Supreme Court overruled Congress and struck down section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, putting voters’ rights in nine states and several more jurisdictions in potential jeopardy and removing legislation that has prevented racial discrimination in voting laws since 1965. Secular Woman holds that all women are entitled to full and equal participation at all levels of government, and we are concerned that this ruling opens the door to discriminatory activity such as district redrawing and voting legislation subtly aimed at undermining the voting rights of minority groups.

“Voting is a right of citizens in the United States,” said Secular Woman President Kim Rippere. “It isn’t simply a matter of having the legal right; voting must also be equally accessible between polling places, and each vote must count the same.” Established in 1965 in response to violence against voting rights activists fighting to prevent discriminatory voting laws and practices, the Voting Rights Act prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race. Sections 4 and 5 require six states with a history of discriminatory voting procedures––Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia––as well as Alaska, Arizona, Texas, and several jurisdictions––to obtain advance approval before passing voting laws to determine whether they have the potential for discrimination or disenfranchisement. The Supreme Court held that section 4 of the VRA was unconstitutional because it violates equal sovereignty of states and because, in the eyes of the Court, the improvement in equality in the states affected by the VRA means that section 4 is no longer warranted.

The Court cited vast improvements in voting equality since the 1960s, acknowledging that the number of black voters has increased significantly and that there has been a one thousand percent increase in the number of elected officials of color  since the VRA was enacted. However, as Justice Ginsburg noted in her dissent to the 5–4 ruling, the fact that the VRA has worked is hardly a reason to abandon one of its key provisions. “If the statute was working, there would be less evidence of discrimination, so opponents might argue that Congress should not be allowed to renew the statute,” she pointed out. “In contrast, if the statute was not working, there would be plenty of evidence of discrimination, but scant reason to renew a failed regulatory regime.”  She went on to note that racial discrimination in voting can be much more insidious and subtle than the acts of violence of the 1960s, citing as an example the redrawing of districts to ensure white majority. Indeed, in 2012, it was the Voting Rights act that prevented Texas Senator Wendy Davis from losing her seat when Republicans attempted to redraw her Fort Worth district to dilute the Democratic voters that helped elect her. Now that section 4 of the VRA, which had the singular advantage of requiring oversight to prevent discriminatory voting laws before they were instated, has been struck down, unfair legislation and unfairly elected leaders could be in place for years before a case can be brought against the laws that helped elect them.

In a clear example of the dangers of this ruling, Texas legislators have already said they plan to instate a voter ID law that was struck down last year because federal judges ruled it would be discriminatory. The legislation requires prospective voters to present certain types of photo ID; a federal court ruled that the law would be “ the most stringent in the country,” and “will almost certainly have retrogressive effect: it imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor, and racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty.” Responding to the Supreme Court decision removing VRA section 4 last week, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced that the voter ID law would  “take effect immediately,” adding that “Redistricting maps passed by the Legislature may also take effect without approval from the federal government.”

Fortunately, the Court’s decision included a suggestion that “Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions” in the United States. Congressmen Mark Pocan and Keith Ellison have introduced an amendment that would reverse the Court decision and make voter suppression laws illegal; learn more and consider signing as a citizen co-sponsor. Secular Woman hopes that Congress finds a solution to the disturbing ramifications of the Court’s ruling; we are adamant that any discrimination by government, in voting rights or otherwise, is too much.


Secular Woman is an educational non-profit organization whose mission is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women. For more information about Secular Woman visit:

ShameLESS, Without Regret

by Kim Rippere, follow her on twitter

My abortion story is 30 years long.

When I was 18, I had a one-night stand and stupidly used the pullout method. Without any testing, I knew I was pregnant pretty quickly; but, like many teenagers (with brains that are not fully developed), I chose to ignore it. I knew the problem wasn't going away, but ignoring seemed like the best option. As a 47-year-old woman I now wonder how I could have ever made such a decision to ignore something so important.

I told two people: my best friends. Both were and are very different. One was another young woman who lived in the same medium sized town. The other was a guy who lived 3,000 miles away. He was the first person I told and he eventually became my husband, and, although we have divorced he is now still my best friend.

But getting back to my 18 year-old self. Lunch was getting earlier and earlier. I was just so hungry. Then the final straw. I went shopping with my Mom to Plums in the San Fernando Valley and she said I was “thick” in the middle. I knew I had to do something. I was also terrified that I was too many weeks pregnant to get an abortion.

Somehow, I figured out where I could get an abortion in my local community. My local friend took me to the clinic and brought me home. Honestly, I do not remember anything from the procedure; other than the relief that, given how pregnant I was, they were willing to perform the operation.

My friend brought me home with some medication and all was well. I screwed up the medication some, but no harm. This friend fell off the radar and was never heard from again. Odd, but her choice and whatever.

Fast forward 30 years to Facebook. Don't all good stories include Facebook?!? I moved quite a bit as a child and remember my middle school friends better than some high schools friends. Having an unusual last name, people started finding me and we had some short chats to reignite the ties (when I remembered them, sadly not always). But, mostly, nothing came of these.

Then, my friend who disappeared after my abortion found me. I accepted the friend request and thought “hmmm.” Whatever, it cannot hurt. One day I brought up what had happened via private message. She apologized! Turns out she is deeply religious, against abortion, and has had some of her own trials and experiences over the years that taught her “grace.” Her word. It never occurred to me that she might have had her own opinions about my choice and that was why she disappeared! As a 47-year-old woman, how could I never have considered that she might have had feelings about my abortion?

My abortion and fetus is something she gave great thought to over the years. A completely different reaction than my own; I put the whole thing behind me and didn't give it another thought. I wasn’t in denial, it just wasn't a big deal in my life. I don't think about my foot operation much either.

I have never regretted this decision and cannot imagine my life if I had made any other decision. I have been telling people since I was ten that I didn't want kids. I am and will always be childless by choice. Having the ability to choose a child-free life is of fundamental importance to me. I had an abortion and I am #shameLESS.