Women Lawyers’ Lives, Careers Will Suffer Without Abortion Right, Brief Warns Justices

Women Lawyers’ Lives, Careers Will Suffer Without Abortion Right, Brief Warns Justices

Pro-abortion rights protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on May 21, 2019. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

Reposted from The National Law Journal (Read the full article)
By Marcia Coyle

Losing the right to determine when to have children would devastate women’s ability to advance their legal careers and achieve gender parity, more than 30 organizations of women lawyers and law students told the U.S. Supreme Court in an amicus brief in the new term’s latest abortion fight.

The organizations, in the brief by Mia Guizzetti Hayes, counsel at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, emphasize “reliance” on the abortion right as the key factor in the justices’ analysis of whether to accept Mississippi’s request that they overturn their landmark abortion rights rulings in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

“Mississippi’s claim that women have been able to reach society’s highest echelon without reliance on the right to decide to end a pregnancy is simply wrong,” the brief states. “While Congress has passed some laws that provide some support for parents, many women throughout the legal profession continue to experience significant setbacks to career advancement if they cannot decide the timing and size of their families. Amici members have personally relied on the guarantee of bodily autonomy to advance their own careers and women’s position in the legal field as a whole.”

The amicus brief by Hayes, associate Ciara Copell and a team of Willkie Farr lawyers is one of more than 50 filed in recent days on behalf of the Mississippi abortion clinic in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Thomas Dobbs is head of the state’s Department of Health.

Mississippi initially asked the justices in its petition for review to decide whether all pre-viability prohibitions on abortions are unconstitutional. The state said the case could be decided without overturning Roe or Casey. But when it filed its brief on the merits after the court granted review, the state explicitly urged the court to overrule Roe and Casey as “egregiously wrong.”

The lead organizations on the Willkie Farr amicus brief are Women Lawyers on Guard, the National Association of Women Lawyers and the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia. Other organizations include Oregon Women Lawyers, the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, Asian Pacific American Women Lawyers Alliance, North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys, Rhode Island Women’s Bar Association, Hawaii Women Lawyers and Women’s Law Student Association at the University of Wisconsin School of Law.

The brief highlights statistics about ongoing discrimination against women lawyers in the legal profession, particularly mothers and women of color. For example, women represent less than one-fourth of law firm equity partners, despite representing 40% of associates; 54% of women in the law are fully in charge of arranging child care as compared with just 1% of men, and 32% of women in the law are responsible for leaving work early for child care as compared to just 4% of men, and women are also likely to be passed over for certain projects after returning from maternity leave because of assumptions about their need to participate in child care.

Gender parity, the brief states, is not expected to occur until 2181, according to one study.

“Considering the limited resources and opportunities available to women lawyers with children, particularly against the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic, losing the ability to decide whether and when to have their children, and how many children to have, would undoubtedly be detrimental to women lawyers’ careers,” the brief states.

Willkie Farr’s Copell, whom Hayes called “instrumental in putting together the brief, said, “As soon as the Supreme Court took up this case, we were very eager to get involved.” The firm also filed an amicus brief in the 2020 abortion case, June Medical Services v. Russo.

Women Lawyers On Guard, Copell said, was “ready to go” as soon as the court took the Mississippi case. It and the other two named organizations became the core group behind the amicus brief. “They utilized their network across the country with other women lawyer groups to get a critical mass,” Copell said. “Willkie used our network to reach other other women’s lawyer organizations. It was a conscious decision to include law students as well as they are going through the same things women lawyers have been and are still going through.”

The amicus brief is reminiscent of a powerful amicus brief filed by women lawyers in the 2016 case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. In that brief, filed by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, 113 women lawyers signed their names and detailed their own abortion stories and the abortion rights’ impact on their careers and families.

A Paul Weiss team of lawyers has been assisting the Center for Reproductive Rights in the Mississippi abortion case since the litigation began.

Reliance on the abortion right has only grown with the passage of time, the new amicus brief tells the court.

“Under the principle of stare decisis, the court in Casey upheld the central holding in Roe in part because it recognized that ‘an entire generation has come of age’ relying on ‘Roe’s concept of liberty in defining the capacity of women to act in society, and to make reproductive decisions.’” the brief states. “Now, close to thirty years after Casey, this statement applies to every woman of childbearing age in the United States.”

Copell said the justices have expressed that reliance is one of the most important factors. “Here it’s a little bit of a slam dunk in the fact that women have relied on this right for the last 40 years,” she said. “It was a particular honor to write this one from the perspective of women lawyers who have both professional and personal knowledge on this subject matter.”

Hayes added, “We’ve planned lives, careers, education and families in reliance on this right.”

Letter from Cory Amron re: Joint Amicus Brief Submitted to U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health

Letter from Cory Amron re: Joint Amicus Brief Submitted to U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health

Pro-choice protesters march down Congress Avenue and back to the Texas state capitol in Austin, Texas. Photo: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

Dear Women Lawyers on Guard Inc.,

There is no doubt that the Mississippi 15-week abortion ban is unconstitutional (as, of course is the Texas 6-week ban- but that’s another case.) However, because the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it is pretty clear that they are planning to severely restrict women’s reproductive rights guaranteed for almost 50 years by Roe v Wade, Casey and their progeny, if not overturn these cases. Why do we say this? Because the conservative Fifth Circuit appeals court found that the Mississippi ban was clearly unconstitutional. So if the Supreme Court were to follow precedent, they would have no need to take this case.

Women Lawyers On Guard Inc. has just filed an amicus brief before the Supreme Court in the Dobbs case. It argues strongly that the Mississippi ban should be struck down under precedent of Roe, Casey, etc. and that stare decisis and reliance dictate this result. WLG’s co-leads on the brief are the National Association of Women Lawyers and the Women’s Bar Association of DC. Willkie Farr served as our pro bono counsel. 28 additional women’s bars, women’s law student groups, or women’s legal organizations have signed onto the brief in which we argue that women and particularly women lawyers have relied on these reproductive rights to plan their families, get their education, pursue their jobs and careers.

Amicus for the State of Mississippi has said that women have made these strides without the need for reproductive rights. That’s balderdash.

Here’s a link to our brief.

We have spent hundreds of volunteer hours on this amicus effort. We would appreciate any donation you can make to help us continue our operations. WLG is a 501(c)(3) organization -donations are tax deductible.


Thank you for your contribution to our efforts. To donate click here.


My best,


Joint Amicus Brief Submitted to U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health

Joint Amicus Brief Submitted to U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health

Organizations of Women Lawyers Defend Women’s Constitutional Abortion Rights in Joint Amicus Brief Submitted to U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health


Elaine Metlin, Women Lawyers On Guard, emetlin@gmail.com
Karen M. Richardson, National Association of Women Lawyers, krichardson@nawl.org
Carol Montoya, Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia, carol@wbadc.org

September 20, 2021 — More than 30 organizations of women lawyers and future legal professionals, led by three notable U.S. organizations of women lawyers, submitted an amicus brief in support of respondents in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which could overturn Roe v. Wade and the almost 50 years of constitutional jurisprudence guaranteeing reproductive freedom to women.

Led by Women Lawyers On Guard, National Association of Women Lawyers and the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia, and submitted by Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP as counsel for amici, the brief lays out what is at stake if the Supreme Court overturns or weakens Roe.  Women and their families, including women attorneys, have relied heavily on the constitutional guarantee of the ability to decide whether to have an abortion when exercising autonomy over their lives, health, families and futures. Loss of the rights guaranteed by Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey would decimate women lawyers’ ability to advance their careers and achieve gender parity in the legal field.

Co-leads of this brief issued this joint statement regarding the brief:

Women Lawyers On Guard Inc.: “Women Lawyers On Guard is proud to co-lead this amicus brief explaining why the Supreme Court should uphold Roe and Casey under the doctrine of stare decisis.  A key factor of the stare decisis analysis is societal reliance.  Women’s reliance on the reproductive rights guaranteed by Roe and Casey has forever changed society and enabled women to make great strides in the fight to achieve equality.  But even with reproductive freedom, progress toward gender parity in the legal profession has been agonizingly slow.  Women attorneys often pay a price for having children and many of them leave the legal profession altogether due to childcare responsibilities.  This cost is largely borne by women, not men.  If women lose the ability to plan their families, all of these gains will quickly be in serious jeopardy.  Roe and Casey must be upheld because they were correctly decided and because we simply cannot go back to a time where women have no freedom to make intimate decisions about their own bodies and lives,” said Cory Amron, President, Women Lawyers On Guard; Elaine Metlin, Co-chair, Amicus Committee, Women Lawyers On Guard.

National Association of Women Lawyers: ”The National Association of Women Lawyers is proud to co-lead this amicus brief with more than 30 organizations of women lawyers and future legal professionals. Women’s reliance on the reproductive rights guaranteed by Roe and Casey has enabled women to make great strides in the fight to achieve equality. Without bodily autonomy, including the legal right to decide whether, when, and by what means to have the number of children they desire, women cannot be fully equal under the law or professionally. The negative consequences that would result from overturning well-established legal precedent implicate every facet of women’s lives and health,” said Karen Richardson, Executive Director of the National Association of Women Lawyers.

Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia: “The Women’s Bar Association of DC proudly joins this brief to support the well-established legal precedent that women have a constitutional and fundamental right to privacy, which long has included access to reproductive health care including abortions,”  said Sadina Montani, Immediate Past President of the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia and partner at Crowell & Moring.

Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, counsel for amici: “We are proud to partner with these leading organizations supporting women in the legal profession and to bring the unique perspective of women lawyers and law students to the critical issues at stake in this case,” said Heather Schneider, partner at Willkie and lead counsel on the brief.

“This case raises serious issues that significantly affect women’s constitutional rights and the advancement of women attorneys. We hope our brief sheds light on the impact of this case on women in the legal profession,” said Mia Guizzetti Hayes, counsel at Willkie and counsel of record on the brief.

The brief specifically highlights the central role that Roe’s and Casey’s constitutional right to bodily autonomy has played in the advancement of women in the law, as well as the steep hurdles still faced by female lawyers generally—and especially female lawyers of color and those with children—that will only become harder to surmount if that right were revoked or weakened.  While it is true that there are many more women lawyers and judges today than there were when Roe and Casey were decided, there is still discrimination against women—especially mothers and women of color—in the legal profession. For example:

  • Women represent less than ¼ of law firm equity partners, despite representing 40% of associate ranks.
  • Women of color in particular represent only 15% of law firm associates and fewer than 4% of law firm partners.
  • 54% of women in the law are fully in charge of arranging childcare as compared to just 1% of men, and 32% of women in the law are responsible for leaving work early for childcare as compared to just 4% of men.
  • Women are also likely to be passed over for certain projects after returning from maternity leave because of assumptions about their need to participate in childcare.
  • Women, especially women of color, report being treated particularly badly after having had children, reporting being passed up for promotions and given low-quality assignments; being demoted, paid less, and treated unfairly for working part-time; and other disparate treatment stemming from the misperception that women lawyers who are parents have chosen the “mommy track.”
  • These transgressions are felt more deeply since COVID-19 began. Women are working more hours from home than men and are less likely to use third-party day care services.  About half of women with children under age 13 consider becoming part-time or leaving the legal profession altogether.
  • Even without factoring in children, 70% of women of color report have left or seriously considered leaving the legal profession.

The amicus brief is also signed by nearly 30 other organizations dedicated to supporting women lawyers and law students.

    Women Lawyers On Guard Inc.

    Women Lawyers On Guard Inc. (WLG) is a national, non-profit organization that seeks to harness the power of lawyers and the law to preserve, protect, and defend the democratic values of equality, justice, and opportunity for all.  WLG focuses on securing the equal treatment of women by challenging laws and practices that discriminate against women, including gender-based violence and harassment and attempts to curtail women’s reproductive rights.  https://womenlawyersonguard.org/

    National Association of Women Lawyers 

    The mission of the National Association of Women Lawyers is to provide leadership, a collective voice, and essential resources to advance women in the legal profession and advocate for the equality of women under the law. Since 1899, NAWL has been empowering women in the legal profession, cultivating a diverse membership dedicated to equality, mutual support, and collective success. To advance its mission, NAWL participates as amicus curiae before the United States Supreme Court and other federal courts in cases pertaining to women’s equal treatment under the law. https://www.nawl.org/

    Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia

    The Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia (“WBADC”) is one of the oldest women’s bar associations in the country.  Since 1917, it has advocated for the advancement of women in the profession and upheld its mission to maintain the honor and integrity of the legal profession, promote the administration of justice, advance and protect the interests of women lawyers, promote their mutual improvement, and encourage a spirit of friendship.  As an organization, WBADC is a catalyst for women helping women, and in support of its mission, it participates as amicus curiae before the Supreme Court of the United States and other courts throughout the nation to advocate for women in the legal profession and women’s rights more broadly. https://wbadc.org/

    Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP

    Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP is an international law firm of approximately 1,000 attorneys with offices in Brussels, Chicago, Frankfurt, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Milan, New York, Palo Alto, Paris, Rome, San Francisco and Washington. The Firm is headquartered in New York City at 787 Seventh Avenue. https://www.willkie.com/

    WLG files important abortion-rights amicus brief

    WLG files important abortion-rights amicus brief

    WLG has filed its own amicus curiae brief in the Sixth Circuit case of Bristol Regional Women’s Center, P.C., v Slatery in support of the appellees, the clinics that successfully challenged Tennessee’s 48-hour statutory waiting period for abortions. [Brief HERE].  Bristol Regional, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, sued the State of Tennessee, arguing that the waiting period was unconstitutional.  At the conclusion of a four-day bench trial, the District Court held that the statute imposed significant burdens on those seeking abortions in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Tennessee appealed and asked the Court of Appeals to overturn that decision and hold that waiting periods on their face are constitutional, and to ignore or reject the facts found by the District Court in its comprehensive and detailed 136-page opinion.

    The Milbank law firm drafted this brief and our Amicus Committee Co-Chairs honed the argument: that the Court of Appeals must give the District Court’s factual findings deference and apply the “clear error” standard.  “There is no ‘abortion exception’ to the clear error standard…” argues our brief.  And, in fact, the Sixth  Circuit itself has “pledged to uphold a district court’s findings of fact unless those findings “strike us as wrong with the force of a five-week-old, unrefrigerated dead fish.’”  There was no error here by the District Court, let alone clear error.

    One would think that this argument – that the Court of Appeals must apply the clear error standard to the trial court’s factual findings — would be obvious and unnecessary.  But circuit courts all too often play fast and loose with the normal appellate rules when it comes to abortion cases.  In fact, just after we filed the brief, the entire Sixth Circuit ignored its own rules and precedent when it decided to hear the case en banc as an initial matter, bypassing entirely the three-judge panel that seemed likely to follow the law and keep the district court’s injunction in place.  Our brief, reminding the Court of Appeals of its role and duty to apply the clear error standard, is now an even more pointed reminder that the rule of law should be respected.  CRR was very appreciative of our amicus brief.

    Practical Tips: Breaking Through the COVID Wall

    Practical Tips: Breaking Through the COVID Wall

    Did you miss International Women’s Day?  No matter — we don’t need just one day; we need every day.  And we have a program to help, on April 8th.

    The headlines scream about the devastating effect of the pandemic on women and people of color in our country:  Female unemployment hit double digits — a first since 1948. Unemployment among Blacks and Latinas is significantly higher than among White women and men. The pandemic has increased the burdens of child care, elder care, and family care on women. Involuntary home schooling has fallen mostly to women, adding to their already overloaded days. Many women are falling out of the workplace as a result- and not because they want to or can afford to.  This gender regression after years of at least some progress is alarming.

    Women Lawyers On Guard can’t solve all these problems, but we are presenting a program of practical tips and advice for women, their partners, and families that can help. Come (virtually) and bring your significant other to Breaking Down the COVID Wall: Women, Families and Surviving the Pandemic, Thursday, April 8, 5 PM East Coast Time, 2 PM Pacific Time.  Our expert panelists (below and at the RSVP link) will offer strategies and tips for: coping, mental health for adults and children; relationships in a pandemic; navigating the new school environment, and resurrecting or saving your devastated or damaged career.

    Please RSVP HERE and you will receive a link to this complimentary program.

    Cheree Price is a school psychologist with the Montgomery County Public Schools and was recently named School Psychologist of the year by the Montgomery County School Psychologists’ Association.
    Jennifer Reynolds is a psychotherapist specializing in the development of skills for teens and adults to cope with stress caused by loss, relationships, work, school and life changes.
    Phillip Reynolds is a mental and behavioral health professional who works to identify and maximize strengths while cultivating relationships, performance, and community.
    Lisa Horowitz is an attorney and career coach who works with attorneys at all stages of their careers to create an actionable strategy to navigate career transition and advancement.

    Finally, some good news

    Finally, some good news

    Finally. Some good news for women in this country after four rotten years. The Biden-Harris administration will soon constitute a Gender Policy Council, with one full-time Co-Chair and additional staff, and with the elevated status of a White House initiative. It will collaborate with every agency, and every cabinet member will participate, working on a “government-wide approach to gender equity and equality.”  See today’s New York Times article, HERE.

    Also, we are pleased to announce the second in WLG’s Work/Life Imbalance program series:  “Hitting the COVID Wall:  Women, Families and Surviving a Pandemic”.  We have a diverse panel bringing diverse perspectives, practical advice and tips:

    Philip Reynolds and Jennifer Reynolds: therapists talking about mental health and coping issues for adults;
    Cheree Price, school psychologist, discussing children’s educational challenges and their mental health;
    Lisa Horowitz, career coach, bringing us advice about overcoming the devastating consequences to women’s careers from the pandemic; and
    Congresswomen Abigail Spanberger has been invited to discuss legislative solutions to issues that are disproportionately affecting women, particularly women in the workplace.

    Stay tuned for a date and a final panel.

    In the meantime, we soldier on.