Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, is often called the world’s most powerful flight attendant. Her reaction to the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturning the constitutional right to abortion is hardly surprising, but merits consideration.
Flight Attendant Sara Nelson Condemns Supreme Court Abortion Decision
Nelson embraces a Marxist worldview and posits left-wing dogma via her powerful platform as the world’s most powerful flight attendant. It comes as no surprise that she is against the Dobbs decision, for she has been warning about it for weeks.
But I found her statement quite clarifying in explaining what she views as the stakes of the issue. This helps to explain why many flight attendants, in particular, care about the legality and availability of abortion.
“The Constitutional right affirmed by the Court in 1973 to safe access and the legal right to an abortion was transformational for women’s rights and our jobs. Cabin crew fought executives who exploited our sexuality and pushed gender inequality to undermine the dignity of our work and push the value of our labor into their own pockets. We organized to define our careers, keep our personal choices as our own, and lift up our role in saving lives as aviation’s first responders.
“Choice and self-determination are at the foundation of why we formed our union 75 years ago. In the earliest days of commercial aviation, we were allowed few choices in the workplace. Every part of our bodies and our lives were dictated by management. Airlines only hired white, single, childless women under age 32 who met specific height, weight, and male defined appearance standards. Even if you met those “standards,” getting pregnant, having a baby, choosing to marry or gaining a few pounds meant giving up your job and handing in your wings. Our first demands as a union were seniority-based scheduling, to stop managers from using schedules to coerce us to choose between sexual exploitation and earning a living.
“Today anyone with the heart of a Flight Attendant can choose this career, and through our unions we have a voice and legal standing on the job to protect our rights.
“Not everyone will make the same choices, and AFA’s members hold a wide range of personal beliefs about the topic of abortion. But the right for each of us to make our own choices about our jobs, our bodies, and our futures is fundamental. That includes the right to protect safe, legal options to anyone who seeks reproductive healthcare. As union members, we understand democracy in our workplaces and in our public square. Americans overwhelmingly support safe, legal abortion. This is not just a radical assault on our rights and settled law, it is an attack against the majority of this country and the ideals upon which it was founded.
“The Justices will not stop here. They will work to strip Americans of other freedoms we have fought for. They will strip the freedom to marry from our LGBTQ colleagues and neighbors. They will strip away our rights to birth control. They have already gutted the right to vote, and our right to fair elections free of corporate influence. Our union will continue fighting for equality and freedom for all.
“We call on airline management to stand with us and for equality, anti-discrimination, and mutual respect. It is not enough that corporations espouse these principles as core to their missions – now is the time to demonstrate this commitment to their employees and passengers. This is about our safety and our freedom. We cannot work if we are not safe.”
Whatever your views on abortion, I think this letter clearly articulates why the issue is so important to flight attendants. Furthermore, I would have likely dismissed the “Justices will not stop here…” warning, but in light of Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion in Dobbs, which said the Court should next undo protection for birth control and gay marriage, her warning is not without basis.
I do want to focus on one passage, in particular.
“As union members, we understand democracy in our workplaces and in our public square. Americans overwhelmingly support safe, legal abortion. This is not just a radical assault on our rights and settled law, it is an attack against the majority of this country and the ideals upon which it was founded.”
I can’t help but to point out that Americans (and one prominent Frenchman) actually seem quite conflicted about abortion. You ask if they support Roe and the majority say yes. You ask if they support abortion in most circumstances, and most say yes. But when you get specific, more Americans support an abortion ban at 15 weeks than oppose it. The Mississippi law the Supreme Court upheld banned abortion at 15 weeks.
And President Emmanuel Macron of France took the unusual step of issuing the following tweet:
Abortion is a fundamental right for all women. It must be protected. I wish to express my solidarity with the women whose liberties are being undermined by the Supreme Court of the United States.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) June 24, 2022
But in France abortion is only protected until the 14th week (and that represents a 2022 change to the law, which previously limited abortions after 12 weeks). The Mississippi law in question banned the procedure at 15 weeks. To be charitable, I suppose Macron was opining on the idea that abortion will become illegal and unavailable in many states as a result of this ruling. Still, Macron opposed raising the abortion limit from 12 weeks to 14 weeks, arguing “extended time limits are not neutral in terms of a woman’s trauma.” Abortion was made legal by French lawmakers in 1975, not via judicial fiat.
All that to say, if I were Nelson, I wouldn’t necessarily use majoritarian language or “settled law” to defend abortion, because viewpoints can change and do change. If abortion is a fundamental right, then precedent or the feelings of the majority do not matter: nether should be dispositive in determining the issue.
Why so much abortion coverage on Live and Let’s Fly? Because it is a huge issue that impacts millions, including hundreds of thousands in the aviation industry. Travel and the law are intertwined and this issue represents a seminal change in U.S. law. For Sara Nelson, her opposition to the Dobbs decision was not surprising, but her explanation concerning the high stakes of the decision sums up the concerns of flight attendants and invites further discussion.
image: @FlyingWithSara / Twitter