With the threat of an anti-abortion U.S. Supreme Court looming, a new organization is attempting to martial an army of lawyers in the fight for reproductive rights.
The group, which launched Wednesday, is a merger of SIA Legal Team and If/When/How—two existing pro-choice groups that already shape policy, file lawsuits, and inform lawyers around reproductive rights issues. But while most legal work on this topic has been focused on protecting clinics and providers, executive director Jill Adams says the new organization will also focus on providing a network of attorneys for everyday people facing reproductive rights challenges. That includes a minor being sued by the estate of her aborted fetus or a woman who has a negative birthing experience at a hospital.
“We aim to build an ecosystem of attorneys across the country who understand reproductive rights and reproductive justice values and are standing at the ready to support and protect everyday people whose rights are being trampled,” Adams said.
Adams jokingly referred to the group’s network as a reproductive rights mafia, while communications director Andrea Grimes likened it to a pro-choice counter to the Federalist Society—an organization of lawyers and law students working to push the legal system in a conservative direction. Both women said the group would fill a void in the reproductive rights movement for lawyers who want to make a difference but don’t know how.
“[Lawyers] know they have skills and knowledge and privilege and influence that could be of use,” Adams said, “but to date there has been no place for them to plug into the reproductive rights and justice movement and so all of that talent and potential has been lost.”
The group will operate under the If/When/How banner, but will continue to pursue SIA Legal Team’s mission of decriminalizing self-managed abortions. They will also focus on four other issue areas, including improving young people’s access to abortion and securing public insurance coverage for the procedure. The group will also be working on legal routes to overturning the Hyde Amendment— a ban on abortion coverage in federal health-insurance programs that Democrats are currently trying to overturn through legislation.
If/When/How already has law school chapters on 100 campuses in the U.S. and Canada and boasts more than 10,000 alumni, including reproductive rights stars like Brigette Amiri, deputy director at the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project. The merger will double the group’s staff, giving it representation in nine different cities around the country.