Virginia Capitol Connections Summer 2022

Virginia Capitol Connections, Summer 2022 25 What is a Woman? We ask Virginia law. By BONNIE ATWOOD Can you provide a definition of the word woman? Some were stunned by the question. Some were stunned by the answer. Some—both. This was a question from Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in March, during Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination hearing. What to make of the question? Was it serious? Was it a trap? Was it an obscure reference to abortion? Transgenderism? Feminism?Who doesn’t know what a woman is? And what of the answer? Did Jackson really not know? Was she being coy? Sarcastic? Dead serious? One wonders all these things. To the many who admire Jackson, likely to be the very first Black woman on the highest court, the question was undignified, without context, not deserving of an answer. To those who do not necessarily favor Jackson, the answer was a goldmine for jokes—“I’m not a meteorologist,” “I’m not a psychiatrist,” “I’m not a climatologist,” etc. It is difficult to know what Jackson was thinking when she responded: “No, I can’t…Not in this context. I’m not a biologist.” The response raises questions: What, exactly, is a woman? What does the dictionary say? What does federal and state law say? What do biologists say?What does the man (or woman) on the street say? (We’re leaving out the word “gender,” because that’s a whole nother can of worms.) First, we turn to Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, and find: noun, pluralWomen: 1. The female human being (distinguished from a man). 2. An adult female person. It goes on from there to adjectives like a “woman plumber,” but those are definitions not needed for our purposes, or Sen. Blackburn’s for that matter. Short. Simple. Clear. For many people, this would suffice. But legal definitions, which may have been what the Senator was fishing for, are sometimes a bit more refined. Let’s see what Black’s Law Dictionary (the Bible for lawyers) has to say: Black’s goes with the plural: All the females of the human species. All such females who have arrived at the age of puberty. Okay, that works. It has three elements: 1. Adult, 2. Human, 3. Female. Virginia law is consistent with that. Section 40.1-2 of the Virginia Code defines female or woman as a female 18 years or over. Currently, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles recognizes only two sexes: male and female. But Jackson referenced biologists, so let’s turn to what they are saying.Not havingabiological dictionary,we turned to“BiologyOnline,” which defines female this way: 1. An individual of the sex which conceives and brings forth young, or (in a wider sense) which has an ovary and produces ova. We’ll skip over the other definitions, which relate to botany. So….what’s the real issue here? Why was the question asked, and why was the question not answered? The backstory may lie in the cultural firestorm in which we live in 2022. Segments of the growing trans community would have us stretch this definition. First, to those who may not have been born female, but have taken physical steps to transition to women. And more radically, there are those who would define woman as anyone who “identifies” as a woman, whether there are physical modifications or not. The final definition that we settle on will have dramatic results as to how we live our lives. Without premature judgment, let’s look at some of these expanding definitions. A few popular publications, e.g., “Smithsonian,” “Nature,” and “USA Today,” have floated the proposal that it is time to change the classification of woman. A reader of these publications would wonder Virginia Healthcare Providers Seek Reform By MADISON BRUMBAUGH The COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations to adapt, whether by reconsidering in-person work models or by adjusting productivity requirements to meet the individual needs of employees. Healthcare providers across the Commonwealth of Virginia, however, have not seen similar workplace trends toward flexibility. Among the healthcare professionals in most need of support are speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and audiologists. SLPs and audiologists are involved in the prevention, identification, diagnosis, and evidence-based treatment of various disorders. An SLP’s scope includes speech, language, social communication, cognitivecommunication, and swallowing disorders, whereas an audiologist’s scope includes hearing, balance, and other auditory disorders. These disorders can impact individuals of all ages.As such, youmight find SLPs and audiologists working in children’s hospitals, public schools, skilled nursing facilities (e.g., rehabilitation hospitals/programs), and other settings. If you know someone who once had difficulties communicating, you likely know someone who’s been helped by an SLP! If you know someone who uses a hearing aid, you likely know someone who’s been helped by an audiologist! These professionals touch the lives of many. The issues facing SLPs and audiologists today are largely the same as the issues they were facing prior to the global pandemic: challenges securing health insurance reimbursement for medically necessary services, rising patient caseloads amid staff shortages, and limited oversight of speech-language-pathology assistants (SLPAs) at the state level. The healthcare professionals that were once hailed as “heroes” are the same professionals who continue to struggle, even after mask mandates and vaccine requirements have lifted. For patients, healthcare coverage enables them to afford medically necessary care. For healthcare professionals, contracting with health insurance programs (e.g., Medicaid, Medicare) and private health insurance companies (e.g., CareFirst, Aetna) yields a steady stream of patients seeking in-network providers. However, reduced reimbursement rates have reduced the profits of in-network SLPs, audiologists, and the organizations that employ them. Britt Mowfy, an SLP and the Director of Rehabilitation at aVirginia retirement community, states that “Medicare cuts have resulted in minute cuts most places and rate cuts or annual increase suspensions. This is really driving people away from the healthcare setting.” When SLPs and audiologists leave the healthcare setting for schoolbased positions, roles as out-of-network providers, or alternative career paths entirely, patients seeking services may experience (a) longer waitlists for in-network providers due to SLP and See Virginia Healthcare Providers Seek Reform, continued on page 26 why. Is it to be fair to transgenders? Is it backlash against President Trump? What of the effect on women in sports, rape shelters, prisons? Who is conducting scientific studies on such things? How are they funded? If people who self-identify as women can, indeed, be called women, then is there any such thing as a woman? Are we looking at fad here? Is binary sex discriminatory in the same way that race can be discriminatory? Will governments buy into these new definitions? Which comes first—the definition or the law? Why aren’t we asking the same questions about men? Blackburn’s and Jackson’s thinking are still a mystery to this writer. Either way the mystery will leave a wake of angry Americans. And to those who would disagree: Hell hath no fury…well, you know the rest. Bonnie Atwood is editor of Virginia Capitol Connections Quarterly Magazine.V