As lawyers we represent the interests of others, subordinating our own to the needs of our clients, and others. So we rarely cite our own experience. 113 women lawyers have breached that wall in a friend of the court brief. The right to terminate a pregnancy has been affirmed so often that opponents of abortion have turned to indirect methods – to burden the right so much that it cannot be exercised. One such method is before the Supreme Court now. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Texas the questions before the court center on a Texas law that so burdens clinics who perform abortions that the ability to make that choice will be significantly reduced without any gain in women’s health.
The prospects of overturning that law in the Supreme Court are slim. The “police power” of the states is subject only to “rational basis” review …and formally increasing the qualifications to perform abortions is designed to meet that very low bar.
Nor is the argument of the 113 women likely to persuade them – because their rational choices will not count for much against the high moral ground claimed by opponents of abortion rights. It is not necessary to log in to Mirror of Justice or First Things, the voices of conservative Catholic lawyers to know what they will say about disrespect for life. But these 113 women – lawyers, law professors, and judges, stepping out of the shadows, illustrate a basic fact: one of three women in America will choose to terminate a pregnancy. One can lament it as a plague but there is no denying it. Opponents of abortion rights must confront the fact that millions of women not only believe they have that right – but exercise it.
Abortion opponents rarely say what measures they would support if they had their way. Criminalizing the medical procedure is the obvious one. But no one dares to say they would criminalize women who choose to obtain abortions. The women lawyers brief confronts the Supreme Court with the fact that the women whose lives they are judging are their peers and colleagues in the bar, on law school faculties, and on the bench. – gwc
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
WHOLE WOMAN’S HEALTH, et al., Petitioners, v. KIRK COLE, M.D., COMMISSIONER OF THE TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICES, et al., Respondents.
Amici obtained their abortions at different ages and life stages, under a variety of circumstances, and for a range of reasons both medical and personal, but they are united in their strongly-held belief that they would not have been able to achieve the personal or professional successes they have achieved were it not for their ability to obtain safe and legal abortions. They are 113 individual women but they represent many more of the past, present, and future members of the profession who have, like one in three American women, terminated a pregnancy in their lifetimes. Guttmacher Institute, Fact Sheet: Induced Abortion in the United States (July 2014),
SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT
“To the world, I am an attorney who had an abortion, and, to myself, I am an attorney because I had an abortion.”
Email received from an Amicus, an appellate court attorney, December 18, 2015.
In reaffirming a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion access in Casey, this Court observed that “[t]he ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” 505 U.S. at 856. The statutory provisions at issue in this case would dramatically restrict women’s ability to exercise their right to safe and legal abortions—and thus their ability to participate equally in the life of the nation—not only in Texas, but in any other state that has or will adopt similar laws. The right to terminate a pregnancy, to autonomy in decision-making and bodily integrity, should be a right in fact and not just in theory.