Where do I start?
Processing a Transition
As you probably know, a draft Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturns Roe v. Wade was leaked on May 2. I’ve been thinking about how to process this, let alone write about it, and I cannot seem to find the right words to express my outrage, disappointment, anger, hurt, frustration, and absolute fear. The possible impact of this decision, if the opinion does not stray far from its draft, is unimaginable. If the Court holds that the right to abortion is not proscribed by our Constitution, what other rights are at risk? Contraception? Same-sex marriage? Not to mention the immediate impact on reproductive health more generally.
Clinics have already closed due to violence on abortion providers by anti-abortion extremists (e.g., Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the LAST remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi). These clinics do/did not just provide abortion-related services, but general women’s reproductive care. I am lucky and grateful that I live in California and have access to healthcare, essentially 24/7, but even this feels insecure. Despite knowing that the risk of overturning Roe existed before Dobbs, I repeatedly heard, “Roe will never be overturned. That just won’t happen.” Now I hear the same sentiment regarding federal legislation banning abortion — “that will never happen.” But it could. So could interpreting IUDs, contraception pills, and “morning after” pills as abortifacients.
This year, 31 states have introduced abortion bans, with bans already enacted in Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Florida, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. This doesn’t even include Texas, which we all know has already banned abortions after about 6 weeks of pregnancy (many people don’t even know they are pregnant after 6 weeks). But even in California, where I believe abortions will remain legal and accessible, violence pervades clinics, such as the Planned Parenthood in Thousand Oaks. The National Abortion Federation tracks incidents of violence against clinics and the stats show that the violence is not going anywhere. For instance, the number of death threats more than doubled between 2019 and 2020. So did the number of assaults. Providers, nurses, clinic staff, escorts, and patients and their families are at risk and being harassed no matter the politics of the state they are in. All for providing or pursuing a constitutional right.
Extremist tactics are becoming even more sinister, utilizing strategies such as the proliferation of anti-abortion centers (sometimes called “crisis pregnancy centers” that pretend to provide pregnancy care, but really are disguised anti-abortion counseling centers) through SEO (search engine optimization),1 shopping model legislation around to lawmakers, and even “choose life” license plates.2 This extremist movement is highly organized and strategic, evidenced by its success in obliterating the right to abortion in several states and almost on the federal level.
The day of the SCOTUS leak was also my last day at Covington. At the end of May, I am starting a new role as Policy Counsel at The Blockchain Association. During my time off thus far, I’ve reflected on my gratitude for the inspiring and brilliant people I worked with (and befriended) at Covington as well as the opportunity to work on impactful matters. Covington truly embodies its commitment to pro bono. All Covington attorneys I know feel incredibly passionate about their pro bono matters and we are lucky to work on some of the more culture-shifting cases in the country. The firm has helped fight the death penalty, successfully advocated for “ban-the-box” legislation in D.C., challenged the ban on transgender military service members, recently succeeded in striking down Florida’s suppressive voting law, and the list goes on. One of my proudest moments at Covington (and in my career) was working with a brilliant team of lawyers to draft an amicus brief in Dobbs (the SCOTUS case leading to overturning Roe) on behalf of the Feminist Majority Foundation.3
Despite the horrific and unwanted outcome, our brief outlined for the Court the risks of overturning Roe through the lens of violence against abortion providers. In sum, we argued:
Regardless of whether the Justices read our fine piece of legal advocacy, our brief is filed publicly, an official court record, an example of the attorney advocacy that has led to so much change in this country. Working with the Feminist Majority Foundation taught me that the fight never stops, no matter the obstacles. Although my new role is mission driven in its own way, I will miss the ease Covington created in getting involved in the cases that drive the civil rights movement. I commit to creating this structure of pro bono work for myself to continue fighting for the causes that fire me up.
If you are struggling to process the likely outcome of Dobbs and what it means for women in the United States, I invite you to sit with the anger, let it boil inside you, clench your muscles, and when you release (and possibly scream into a pillow), think about one way you can take action this week. The outrage can be channeled into action.4 Below I’ve listed a number of organizations fighting for reproductive rights. There are volunteer opportunities and opportunities to donate. If none resonate with you, please reach out to me.
Reproductive Rights Organizations
(This is a non-exhaustive list)
National Network of Abortion Funds — donating to your local (or not local) abortion fund is a direct way to support women seeking abortions, which would otherwise be inaccessible. Some states already have laws preventing insurance companies from covering the cost of abortions, which means the cost will fall entirely on the patient. Right now, these states include Idaho, Utah, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky. And in a number of other states, those on government plans, including Medicaid, or who are on a plan in new exchanges cannot get a plan that covers abortions.
There is an entire marketing agency called Choose Life Marketing devoted to developing anti-abortion campaigns. I decline to include a link to this company as to avoid increasing their page views.
A number of other civil rights organizations signed on to our brief including, Abortion Access Front, C.A. Goldberg (a victim rights firm in NY), the National Organization for Women, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Regardless of whether or not you are ready to take action, please take care of yourself in the process. Let yourself grieve and feel the feelings. Take honest inventory of your energy and take care to not overdo it.