Readout of First Convening of Lawyers in Defense of Reproductive Rights and Justice
On Friday, White House Counsel Stuart Delery and Attorney General Merrick Garland, joined by Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, convened the first meeting of private law firms, bar associations, law professors, and public interest organizations to encourage robust legal representation of patients, providers, and third parties lawfully seeking or offering reproductive health care services throughout the country. The convening is part of President Biden’s July 8, 2022 Executive Order Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Services.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which reversed nearly 50 years of constitutional protection of the right to abortion,has already had devastating consequences. Since Dobbs, multiple states have made abortion illegal or severely restricted. And access to reproductive healthcare services is now threatened for millions of Americans. Patients seeking reproductive care, as well as the providers who treat them, face an uncertain landscape of laws.
Friday’s event connected the pro bono legal community to the reproductive rights, health, and justice community, who have been leading the fight for decades. Attorney General Garland, White House Counsel Delery, and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta opened the event with remarks highlighting the Administration’s deep commitment to protecting reproductive rights and emphasized the unique role of lawyers in times of crisis.
Attorney General Garland stressed that the Department of Justice is “working relentlessly to protect access to reproductive services” in recognition of “the crisis that it is.” He reaffirmed that the Justice Department “will consider every tool at our disposal to affirm those protections.”
Associate Attorney General Gupta, who leads the Department of Justice’s Reproductive Rights Task Force,emphasized the need for action. “It will take all of us — government lawyers, private pro bono attorneys, bar associations, public interest organizations — to do all we can to protect access to reproductive health care and to provide vigorous legal representation of patients, providers and third parties in need.”
White House Counsel Delery also underscored the importance of the legal community in the face of the Dobbs decision. He noted, similar to at the time of lawyers convening in 1963 during the civil rights movement, again “the collective talent and training of lawyers across the country can help to turn the tide.”
The Second Gentleman closed the events with a call for lawyers to join the fight to defend reproductive rights and pursue justice for women.