Legal Community Launches Initiative to Defend Abortion Rights
As the US Supreme Court looks poised to strike down Roe v. Wade, Bay Area attorneys band together to provide legal assistance to those seeking abortions
SAN FRANCISCO (June 1, 2022) – The Bar Association of San Francisco and San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu today announced the launch of the Legal Alliance for Reproductive Rights. The alliance is a volunteer effort by law firms that intend to provide free legal services to those who will be affected if Roe v. Wade is struck down by the United States Supreme Court, causing people in many states to lose their rights to reproductive justice. Currently, over 20 law firms have joined the Legal Alliance for Reproductive Rights, with more expected to follow in the coming weeks as the group formalizes its structure.
“The spirit of San Francisco has moved our legal community to defend against the current threat to basic reproductive rights,” said Bar Association of San Francisco President Mary McNamara. “Law firms responded instantly to the looming crisis presented by punitive trigger laws and proposals to criminalize abortion in a number of states,” she said.
The Bar Association of San Francisco Executive Director and General Counsel Yolanda Jackson stated, “the Bar Association of San Francisco has a long history of supporting reproductive justice. We stand for the rights of every citizen to be treated with equal dignity under law.”
“This is the most precarious time for reproductive rights in our lifetimes,” said San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu. “I'm grateful our Bay Area legal community is stepping into the fight to defend access to reproductive healthcare and protect those in need of legal assistance. During this moment when fundamental rights are at stake, we welcome legal communities around California and our country to join us.”
Health care providers applauded the new initiative. Dr. Michael Shrader, President of the San Francisco Marin Medical Society stated “The end of Roe vs. Wade promises to bring large numbers of vulnerable, pregnant women to California seeking care, including abortions. As physicians we are committed to seeing that such care is available to them, but some are likely to need legal assistance as well for various reasons. The SFMMS is thus also committed to working with City Attorney Chiu and lawyers of the Bar Association of San Francisco to see that women needing care do not suffer from this ill-advised Supreme Court decision. The health of patients anywhere must take precedence over politicized medical issues that should be left to women and their own caregivers.”
“Planned Parenthood Northern California extends our profound gratitude to the Bar Association of San Francisco for this initiative,” said Planned Parenthood Northern California CEO Gilda Gonzales. “Participating law firms and lawyers are setting the example for the nation on how reproductive freedom partners and allies can and should step up in this moment.”
The Legal Alliance for Reproductive Rights will connect pregnant people and providers facing civil suits and criminal charges related to seeking or providing abortions in California and other states with member law firms who will represent them on a pro bono basis. The member firms will also assist in pro bono civil and criminal defense in other states where the right to choose no longer exists.
The alliance is still taking shape and is excited to start taking cases when at operational capacity. Matters the alliance could assist with include:
- Defense in vigilante lawsuits against pregnant people, providers, and assisters who are seen to have aided a person seeking abortion in California or in other states
- Representation of providers and organizations who receive subpoenas seeking records
- Advising hospitals, clinics and medical professionals on policies relating to HIPAA and cooperation with private litigants or law enforcement
- Affirmative litigation, including constitutional claims, that relates to blocking harmful state laws like travel bans from taking effect
- In states where abortion may be criminalized, partnering with public defenders to assist in the criminal defense of those who have had abortions, providers or organizations
Under Chiu's leadership, supported by the Legal Alliance for Reproductive Rights, the City Attorney's Office will be reviewing affirmative litigation opportunities to protect reproductive rights, advising policymakers on measures to protect abortion access in San Francisco and provide safe haven for pregnant people from other states, and partnering with other California public law offices on these matters.
The law firms that have joined the alliance include:
- Altshuler Berzon LLP
- Arguedas Cassman Headley & Goldman LLP
- Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP
- BraunHagey & Borden LLP
- Clarence Dyer & Cohen LLP
- Conrad Metlitzky Kane LLP
- Crowell & Moring LLP
- Durie Tangri LLP
- Farella Braun + Martel
- Glenn Agre Bergman & Fuentes LLP
- Hanson Bridgett LLP
- Keker Van Nest & Peters LLP
- Lewis & Llewellyn LLP
- Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP
- Moeel Lah Fakhoury LLP
- Morrison & Foerster LLP
- Nassiri & Jung LLP
- Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
- Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
- Ramsey & Ehrlich LLP
- Rogers Joseph O’Donnell PC
- Swanson & McNamara LLP
- Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP
The Legal Alliance for Reproductive Rights expects to be operational and available to assist with cases later this year.