Abortion can help a woman break the cycle of poverty and even escape abuse, 368 legal professionals who’ve had the procedure argued in a groundbreaking legal brief filed with the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The brief, which supports overturning a restrictive Louisiana law, includes abortion stories from legal professionals, most on record and some anonymous, including equity partners at big law firms, career officials in state and federal government, retired judges, prosecutors, public defenders, current law students, and even a senior attorney with the Department of Justice. Some of the professionals who came forward in the brief did so “at immeasurable personal and professional cost,” the document states.
One woman of color explained in the brief how access to abortion allowed her to pursue a career in law. “Attorneys like me, women, people of color, first generation attorneys and first generation Americans, are severely underrepresented in the legal field,” she wrote in the brief. “It pains me to imagine the legion of extraordinarily talented women who came before me and had their dreams of becoming an attorney snatched from them because of their lack of access to healthcare.”
The brief uses testimonies to illustrate how abortion can change a woman’s life. Many of the legal professionals included in the document share stories of how their abortion allowed them to continue their education, break the cycle of teenage parenthood, escape abuse and ensure that their health was not fatally jeopardized by pregnancy.
In one of the most gut-wrenching stories, one woman explained that her mother died in 1959 at the age of 31 while attempting to perform her own abortion.
“My mother used a knitting needle and was dead of sepsis within 24 hours,” she wrote in an email included in the brief. “More than loss of career or marriage, or disability, she lost her life. And she was just one of thousands of girls and women who died in that terrible, wasteful way. I grew up without a mother and my family was emotionally splintered and set adrift in many ways by her death.”
“My mother used a knitting needle and was dead of sepsis within 24 hours. More than loss of career or marriage, or disability, she lost her life.”
Many of the individuals included in the brief (referred to throughout the document as “amici,” meaning “friends of the court”) are mothers and some even grandmothers ― identities that allow them to “intimately understand the demands that enforced pregnancy and childbirth would impose on women’s bodies, psyches, and lives,” they argue.
“As members of a profession that, in its shining moments, has allowed those with legal training to stand up for those who cannot advocate for themselves, Amici feel uniquely empowered, equipped, and, indeed, compelled to come forward with their names and stories on behalf of those who still cannot do so,” the 368 signatories write.
The brief was filed in June Medical Services v. Gee, the first Supreme Court abortion case to be heard since the court’s conservative majority was solidified with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. Arguments are set to be heard in March of next year. The case pertains to a 2014 Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, ostensibly in order to protect a pregnant person who has any emergency complications from an abortion procedures.
Although this requirement seems reasonable on its face, opponents of the law say it’s based on the myth that abortion is an innately dangerous medical procedure. In reality, there’s a higher rate of hospitalization for wisdom tooth removal than there is for abortion, Michelle Erenberg, executive director of pro-abortion rights organization Lift Louisiana, told HuffPost last month. Studies show that abortion is also safer than carrying a pregnancy to term.
Critics of the requirement argue this is simply another way to limit women’s access to abortion care.
The upcoming abortion case comes on the heels of a wave of extreme anti-abortion restrictions passed in state legislatures across the country. Over the last year, several states, including Louisiana, Georgia, Ohio, Missouri and Michigan, have banned abortion as early as the first trimester of pregnancy. Alabama passed the strictest abortion restriction in the country in May, banning the procedure in all cases including rape and incest. Earlier this year, Texas lawmakers were considering the death penalty for any person who gets an abortion.
Read the full brief below.