Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Big Law Women Talk About Abortion

American Lawyer (May 11, 2016): Big law Women Talk About Abortion (Their Own), by Vivia Chen:

Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt is one of the most watched Supreme Court cases this term and received a whopping 79 amicus briefs.  One of the most talked about briefs was an amicus brief submitted by 113 female lawyers who had an abortion.  The brief was envisioned to address abortion stigma and to counter stories from women have expressed "abortion regret" that have been filed with the Court in the past.  By telling the women's personal stories the brief illustrates the importance of abortion access to women's lives, highlighting the role that abortion played in helping women access educational opportunities and escape abuse.  As one woman wrote, "To the world, I am an attorney who had an abortion, and, to myself, I am an attorney because I had an abortion.”  

Discussing their own personal stories was a shift in role for the attorneys who are used to telling their client's stories and not their own.  Like other public pro-choice activists, the lawyers had to consider whether anti-abortion stigma would negatively effect their work.   The lawyers interviewed by the American Lawyer report that that the response within their large law firms and from clients was mostly positive or neutral. Although Janice MacAvoy head of the real estate practice at Fried, Frank and lead name on the brief did receive many comments from the public.

 "People are supportive," says MacAvoy, though she admits that she's heard that "certain people at the firm were offended." But the angry messages that the women have received come from strangers. "One said, 'your mother should have aborted you, and the world doesn't need another $800 an hour lawyer,' " says MacAvoy. "I replied, 'dude, I'm actually $1,200 an hour!' "

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