Why are some 4-year-olds forced to represent themselves in a court of law? How does an abused woman get a prison sentence that’s decades longer than her abuser’s?

That Bullshit Law is an animated series delving into American laws that confuse or disrupt the promise of liberty and justice for all. Each bite-size episode examines the complex ecosystem in which a law came to be, illustrating its unintended – or all too intended – consequences.  

That Bullshit Law: Failure to Protect

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On paper, failure to protect laws sound logical: Punish legal guardians who don’t intervene when their child is being abused. But the reality is far more complicated.

Some advocates say these laws have become a legal tool that scapegoats women – who often are abused themselves – for political gain. These charges have led to situations in which victims of abuse are sentenced to prison for decades longer than their alleged abusers.

That Bullshit Law: Kids Representing Themselves in Court

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When you picture someone well versed in immigration law, you probably don’t imagine a 4-year-old child. It’s surprising, but some federal courts are forcing minors – some of them toddlers – to represent themselves in immigration proceedings.

While the Constitution guarantees a defendant the right to an attorney for criminal offenses, the same right is not afforded to those charged with violating immigration law, a civil offense. In the last three years, more than 160,000 children have come to the U.S. without a parent or guardian.

That Bullshit Law: TRAP

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Roe v. Wade was a landmark Supreme Court decision that solidified a woman’s right to choose, but it was not the final word on abortion.

In fact, a lesser-known ruling that followed decades later has truly defined how and when women are able to access abortions. This ruling has led to what some call targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP laws, which have forced more than 70 clinics across the country to close. In Mississippi, there is one remaining abortion clinic.

That Bullshit Law: Voter Suppression

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The 1965 Voting Rights Act was an attempt by Congress to fix an unequal and unjust system that prevented certain minority groups from voting. Since then, it has been a crucial preventative measure to ensure that every American is afforded the right to vote. But over the last few years, local and federal lawmakers have begun passing measures that weaken it. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision mandating that states with a history of discrimination seek federal permission before changing voting laws. This meant that the 2016 presidential election was the first in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act.

That Bullshit Law was produced by the Glassbreaker Films initiative at The Center for Investigative Reporting. Glassbreaker Films aims to support women in documentary filmmaking and investigative journalism. The project is generously funded by the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation.