June 27, 2022

Good morning.  It is the first Monday in the first week with no Roe v. Wade protections in nearly 50 years.  It isn’t really a good morning.  This is my story of before and after.

I woke up last Friday to prepare for our WBA Co-Chair Retreat.

I washed some dishes, fed my three cats and dog, and went to my daughter’s room to check to see how she was feeling as she had been sick.  I followed up on emails, drank a cup of (my favorite) Swing’s coffee.

It was a regular day.  I was happy it was Friday.

It was around 9 a.m. that I received the first email from Cory Amron of Women Lawyers on Guard, alerting leaders of the WBA and the National Association of Women Lawyers that the Supreme Court’s Dobbs opinion was out.  Our three organizations filed an Amicus brief in the Dobbs case last year, supported by 30 other women’s bar associations and women’s law student organizations.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was coming – we all did.  Once someone leaked a draft, we had all been warned, on notice, but it didn’t stop my limpness, my heart-centered hollowness, my feelings of great fear, hopelessness, anger.  True grief, again.

I texted my daughter, Kate, texted all her friends, 67+ of us joined the WBA Co-Chair retreat.  We started with a moment of silence and just listened to each other talk about who we are and what we do to take care of ourselves. We connected.  It was such an important two hours.  Thank you to our amazing board and co-chairs.  I am truly looking forward to your leadership this year.  We also issued a joint statement with the WLG and NAWL.

Once the workday was coming to an end and the co-chair retreat ended, Kate said, “Mom, you don’t seem okay.”  I said, “No.”  My wise 17-year-old said, “Well, go off all social, no insta, no Facebook, because that is all that is there, and it is too much.”

I walked outside, and I sat.  And, I sat.  Quietly, I breathed in and out, looked at the birds, cried, took in all of the sadness, fear and anger I was feeling.  Just sitting with my truth and my value.  I matter.  My daughter matters.  We do, right?  I think this is what I was feeling at my deepest core – the question that I had grown up with in rural Alabama – I am equal, right?  I do matter, right?  I am not just an object, right?

I sat and took in some of my “why” for this great grief.  (And, here, a disclaimer, please know that I am going to be talking about some pretty personal and tough material that may not be suitable for everyone.)

My mind went back to my 6th grade class.  It was my favorite year in elementary school.  My teacher was fun and creative.  I really started exploring writing in her class, and my best friend and I were so silly and just had crazy fun in class and out every day.

One day, a girl in our small class of about 20 was just gone.  She didn’t come back.  She didn’t come back to class because that 11-year-old girl had been impregnated by an older man and forced to have a child.  That little girl never came back to school.  I remember her name.

And, this was when Roe was alive and well, but it was 1985 rural Alabama.

I personally know two girls who attempted wire hanger abortions – one almost died from blood loss.

I vividly remember being terrified of becoming pregnant after a date rape when I was 16 years old.  I came home and threw away my underwear and slept naked (something I had never done in my life).  I was ashamed and felt so unhuman, like I no longer mattered.  Was I alive?  The next morning, I found the yellow pages and called the Montgomery and Pensacola abortion clinics (one way to either was 2.5 hours) to find out what would happen if I was pregnant, what my options were.  I was alone (I definitely couldn’t tell my parents) and I was terrified.  Luckily, a pregnancy did not come to pass.  But if I have this story, just think of the millions of other girls who have similar ones that didn’t end the same way.

At the WBA Annual Dinner this year in May, I spoke about how important our stories are, and how very important it is to share them so that others know they are not alone and so that we walk through our shame and vulnerability and into our strength.

I share these stories for that reason and also so that those who don’t understand what we are feeling – the great grief – can try to gain some understanding.  This is not political: it is about our humanity, our dignity and autonomy as women human beings.  We matter, we do!  A resounding YES to my grief-filled hollowness from Friday.  Yes, we do!  Yes, we are!

The Supreme Court may have told us in Dobbs that we do not matter, but that doesn’t make it so.

Let’s feel all that we feel.  Use the anger as the action emotion it is.  Anger is a catalyst.  We must work hard to transform it into life-giving justice, love and change.

The WBA will continue leading on this issue in a variety of ways.  The court loss may have come on my watch, but I have a legacy of WBA leaders to follow and many strong women coming up behind me.  None of us intend to rest until this course is corrected and reproductive justice is restored.

If you would like to stay informed about opportunities to learn and engage with the WBA, please email us at admin@wbadc.org.  If you are not already a member, we need your voice, we need your input, please join us here.

Warmly and committed,

P.S. These are my personal views and not necessarily those of the WBA except as it relates to the WBA’s programmatic actions, which are aligned with our mission, history, and operating status and guidelines.

And, Please Join us for the following two Post-Dobbs events, that are free to attend:

Register here 

Can We Talk About Roe v. Wade? How Bar Associations Can Stand Up for Reproductive Rights and Stay Intact Through Sensitive Leadership
When: Wednesday, July 13, 2022
Time: 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Register here