On Behalf of Unborn Women Lawyers
“To the world, I am an attorney who had an abortion, and to myself, I am an attorney because I had an abortion.” That’s the opening line of an amicus brief filed in the United States Supreme Court regarding Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case to be heard this term to decide the constitutionality of a Texas law applicable to abortion facilities. A group of 113 female attorneys joined together to share how much more successful and happier they are now, because they had abortions.
I am a woman and an attorney. I have never had an abortion. However, needless to say, this story piqued my interest, and I felt the need to file a “reply brief.”
This is not an easy topic to discuss. Emotions rise and tempers flare on both sides of the aisle. It is almost impossible to have a productive conversation around this issue. Yet it’s worth trying. Never is the role of advocate more important than when speaking up on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.
The case. In short, two provisions of a Texas law applicable to abortion facilities are contested. One provision requires that the physician performing the abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. The other requires that abortion facilities meet the standard for ambulatory surgical centers. The state argues that it has a legitimate interest in protecting women’s health. The petitioners argue that the law unnecessarily restricts women’s access to abortions. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 2, 2016.
The amicus brief. Over 100 women lawyers joined together to support the pro-choice position. Each woman has had an abortion at some point in her life. The brief consists primarily of women’s stories. In most of the stories, a woman asserts that having the child would have prevented her from finishing school or would have prevented her from having the legal career that she envisioned.
A few things came to mind after reading this brief:
- Adoption. There is no focus on the possibility of adoption. I can understand that some of the women may not have felt capable of parenthood at the time. However, there is no discussion or recognition of the fact that adoption is an option. This would have allowed the women to be “unrestrained” in their career path and would have protected the unborn child, but this does not seem to have been considered.
- Devaluing Womanhood. To me, this issue is a perfect example of the feminist contradiction. Feminists see the ability to become pregnant as a hindrance to personal success and socioeconomic equality. Men never have to face this obstacle, and therefore, neither should women. This perspective, however, disregards womanhood. Instead of celebrating femininity, they resent one of the most innate, beautiful aspects of it.
- Self-Focused Feminism. As discussed in a prior post, the modern feminist movement encourages women to value themselves and their own desires above all else. In this case, most of these women are putting their desire for a successful career over someone else’s life. Many women come to regret abortions, and my heart goes out to them. I cannot imagine the heartache associated with that. What I find so troublesome about this amicus brief is the implication that women should have no qualms about placing billable hours over babies if the timing is not ideal.
- Unborn Women Lawyers. These 113 women claim that they have added value to society through their practice of law. They argue how unfair it would have been had they not had the chance to become attorneys. In response to that point, consider the following: Since 1973, the year that Roe v. Wade was decided, there have been well over 58 million abortions. I wonder how many of those little girls would have grown up to be lawyers? And how much more good could have been done in the world?
I do not mean to dismiss the hardships (emotional, financial, or otherwise) that these women would have undoubtedly faced had they chosen to keep or to give away their babies. That is not something to ignore or to minimize and that is not my intention. On balance, however, life wins. There are many women who have had children before, during, and after law school. While this may present difficulties, it does not prevent women from becoming attorneys.
The purpose of this post is not to analyze the legal arguments of this case. Rather, these are thoughts to consider as you write your own opinion on the topic. The amicus brief and the media around it suggest that female attorneys should be proud and empowered by this compilation of stories. I thought another viewpoint necessary. These 113 female attorneys have made their voices heard loud and clear. Before you rule, I simply ask you to consider the deafening silence of those not given the chance.