Opposing Texas Anti-Abortion Law:
113 Women Lawyers Say They’ve Had an Abortion

February 8, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader:

“To the world, I am an attorney who had an abortion, and, to myself, I am an attorney because I had an abortion.” These are the words from one of the 113 women in the legal profession who are part of an amicus brief1 in a major case having to do with abortion, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (formerly v. Cole), that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 2. (An amicus brief is a “friend of the court” document where those who are not part of a case can make a presentation for one side of the case.) The women give moving testimonies about having had abortions and the huge difference it made in their lives.

The amicus brief was put together by lawyers from the law firm Paul, Weiss working with the Center for Reproductive Rights. According to a January 26 Washington Post column by Ruth Marcus, the authors of the brief at first thought that gathering the testimonies would be difficult because only retired lawyers or those working for “liberal-leaning groups” would want to go public, “fearful of offending partners or clients.” Instead, the lawyers behind the brief found that they “were just overwhelmed, not just by the number but by the breadth.” The women who stepped forward to be part of the brief are from all portions of the legal profession, including those who currently are or formerly were judges, criminal defense attorneys, legal organization attorneys, attorneys for universities, corporate attorneys, law professors, private law firm attorneys, law students, government and court attorneys, and more. The names of the 113 women along with their professional titles are in the appendix at the end of the amicus brief.

At a time when the right to abortion is under vicious attack, including from those in positions of authority and power, and even any talk about having an abortion is being shunted off to the shadows of society, the public stand taken by these women lawyers about their own abortions and on the need to defend the right to abortion is very bold and positive.

The Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole case is about an anti-abortion law in Texas, which has been at the forefront of eliminating abortion health clinics. An earlier Texas anti-abortion law three years ago forced the closure of 41 abortion clinics, leaving only 19 open in this large state. The Texas law (HB2) that is now being considered by the Supreme Court, passed a year ago, does two things. First, it requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital—which is difficult because many hospitals are reluctant to grant admitting privileges to abortion doctors because of religious or other reasons. Second, the law requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as outpatient surgery centers. Doing upgrades to meet those standards can cost $1 million or more—but the fact is that this requirement is completely unjustified because it is very rare for there to be any medical complications in abortions being done at health clinics. The clinics being targeted do not have those types of funds, which means 10 of the remaining 19 clinics will have to close, including the one in El Paso and the one on the Texas-Mexico border. This would leave the clinic in San Antonio as the closest abortion clinic in the state for those who live in west and southwest Texas.

Last June, the law was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Texas. Then in July, it was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court until it could rule on it—and this is the case the Supreme Court will hear in March.

Here are just some of the testimonies from the women in the amicus brief:

I am the daughter of a teenage mother who is the daughter of a teenage mother. I had an abortion when I was 16 years old and living in rural Oregon. I believe that access to a safe, legal abortion broke the familial cycle of teenage parenthood and allowed me to not only escape a very unhealthy, emotional[ly] abusive teenage relationship but to graduate from an elite college, work for one of the nation’s most storied civil rights organizations, and go on to graduate from the University of Michigan Law School... I often tell people—and I believe it to be true—that access to a safe, legal abortion saved my life. If I had not had an abortion, I would have never been able to graduate high school, go to college, [or] escape my high-poverty rural county in Oregon.


As a young African-American woman, growing up in the Bronx, New York—one of the poorest counties in our country—the ability to decide for myself whether I would become a teenage mother was very empowering. It is at least in part because of that decision that I was able to complete high school and college and fulfill my childhood goal of becoming a lawyer. America cannot be the land of equality and opportunity for all if we simultaneously place unreasonable limits on a person’s ability to choose how they achieve their version of those ideals.


Had I not had an abortion, it is entirely possible that I would not have been able to finish law school—I might not have even been able to manage starting law school. I likely would have lived with my mother for a time and found a way to support my unexpected family. And then—I have no idea. What did happen was law school, law firm, two excellent in house counsel jobs, two children, marriage, three step-children, six grandchildren...


Within days of accepting a full fellowship to law school, where I aspired to study women’s human rights law, I discovered I was pregnant. My plan at the time was to move from Texas to New York, where my then-fiancé and I would pursue graduate programs. A pregnancy would have made that impossible.... I know that my having had access to a safe, early abortion has not only permitted me to become the first person in my family to practice law, it has had a direct impact on individual women and on women’s equality through my work. My story is just one of many that show that when women have the power to decide when they are ready to parent, they have the power to achieve their goals, and even change the world.


I had an abortion at age 35, when I had an unplanned pregnancy with a man who had become emotionally abusive. Being able to choose the father of my children and knowing how important a safe and loving home is to children, I chose to have an abortion.... was firm in my belief that my happiness and that of any family I would start begins with the stability of my relationship with a partner. I also knew that the best chance a woman has to keep a successful career and to be a mother is to have an amazing partner. I eventually found that man and married him at age 42. We are blessed with two amazing sons. I went on to become general counsel of an international energy consulting firm, where I still work today, and know that my family and career would not have been as joyful and successful had I not had the option to choose when to start a family.

Everyone needs to hear these women’s stories—and they should be spread far and wide in taking the fight for women’s right to abortion to all corners of this country, and not just to the Supreme Court.

As Sunsara Taylor has forcefully argued: “We cannot defeat this war on women by relying on the structures of this system—their elections, politicians, the Democratic Party, or the courts. These are all part of a system that needs patriarchy, and they repeatedly compromise with and cede the moral high ground to the fascists—talking about how abortion is a tragedy or should be rare, as if there is something wrong with abortion. Never calling out these fascists for the woman-haters they are or challenging their fascist biblical literalism. Relying on them is how we’ve gotten into this mess, where yesterday’s outrage over and over again becomes today’s compromise position and tomorrow’s limit of what can be imagined. We need to get OUT of this dynamic. We must change the terms—saying and acting on what no politician will say: Forced motherhood is female enslavement.” (“Talk by Sunsara Taylor: Confronting the Abortion Rights Emergency—Fighting for Complete Liberation”)

There is an urgent need for a major outpouring throughout society to beat back the war on women and defend the right to abortion.

Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!

Stop the Patriarchal Degradation, Dehumanization, and Subjugation of All Women Everywhere, and All Oppression Based on Gender or Sexual Orientation!

1. The brief with the 113 women legal professionals is titled, “Janice MacAvoy, Janie Schulman, and Over 110 Other Women in the Legal Profession Who Have Exercised Their Constitutional Right to an Abortion.” It can be found along with the other 42 amicus briefs in support of Whole Woman’s Health at Center for Reproductive Rights Amicus Briefs in Support of Whole Woman’s Health. The 43 amicus briefs are from medical experts, scientific studies, legal experts, physicians who have performed abortions, women who have had abortions, government agencies, Republican officials, religious leaders, economists, and historians. [back]




Volunteers Needed... for revcom.us and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

REVOLUTION AND RELIGION The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion, A Dialogue Between Cornel West & Bob Avakian
BA Speaks: Revolution Nothing Less! Bob Avakian Live
BAsics from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian
Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)
WHAT HUMANITY NEEDS Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism
You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation Its History and Our Future Interview with Raymond Lotta
The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need