Advocacy

WBA’s Advocacy Committee considers the WBA mission when making recommendations for issue statements, sign-ons, letters of support, amicus brief development, etc.:

Maintaining the honor and integrity of the profession; promoting the administration of justice; advancing and protecting the interests of women lawyers; promoting their mutual improvement; and encouraging a spirit of friendship.

WBA’s Advocacy Committee has developed a form for members and other organizations to request WBA’s engagement. You can use this form to request that the WBA sign a statement, make a social media post, post a blog, sign a letter, participate in a program, sign on to or endorse legislation, or provide testimony. Requests will be considered by the Advocacy Committee and some actions may require a Board discussion or vote.

WBA Initiative on Advocacy

This Initiative report, prepared and compiled by Bridget Bailey Lipscomb, WBA President, 2021-2022, discusses WBA’s history of advocating for women, the 2021 membership survey, the Dobbs amicus brief, the Advocacy Committee’s Town Hall, the 2021-2022 advocacy activities, and the future of WBA’s advocacy efforts.

WBA Issue Statements

In our Centennial Year (2017), the WBA honored our history and mission by initiating a project to develop a series of Issue Statements on topics of preeminent concern to our members and to all citizens. Since then, we have developed statements on issues that focus on core societal concerns. The WBA believes it is just for women lawyers to take a leadership role in advocating for improvements in each of these areas.

WBA Statements

The WBA develops statements in response to current events that are of preeminent concern to our members and to all citizens.

Joint Statement Condemning the U.S. Supreme Court Decision and Underlying Reasoning in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health

Women Lawyers On Guard Inc.National Association of Women Lawyers, and the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia submitted an amicus brief on behalf of women’s legal organizations in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.[1] Our brief challenged Mississippi’s unconstitutional 15-week ban on abortion as a violation of the right established by Roe v. Wade and its progeny to end a non-viable pregnancy without state interference. Thirty women’s bar associations and women’s law student organizations joined the brief.

Amici argued that application of the foundational legal principle of stare decisis requires Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban to be struck down as unconstitutional under the reasoning of Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. While stare decisis does not favor preserving misguided, erroneous, and outdated precedents such as Plessy v. Ferguson (which upheld racial segregation under the “separate but equal” doctrine), the opposite is true when it comes to cases that recognize new or expanded liberty interests that afford additional rights to individuals. Those cases, such as RoeBrown v. Board of Education, and Lawrence v. Texas, should be upheld. The Court itself observed in Casey that changing the law simply due to a change in the Court’s membership would make the Court appear to be a political institution. The brief also argued that, for 50 years, women, including women attorneys, have relied on the rights guaranteed by Roe and Casey to advance their careers and achieve greater gender parity. Despite these gains, inequality and inequity persist, and the gap will assuredly grow rather than shrink if these constitutional rights are restricted or extinguished.

We are extraordinarily disappointed, but not surprised, by the ruling of the Court. We are, however, shocked by the reasoning used to support this decision. With the stroke of a pen, this tragic decision creates a generation of women that have less agency over their own bodies than their grandmothers and abrogates constitutional rights that we have relied on for nearly 50 years. This decision will have monumental consequences for individuals and their families in this country. As we have seen in other scenarios, pregnant people will not stop seeking abortions, but they will now have to go to much greater lengths, with predictable dire consequences, to exercise their rights to choose when and whether to have a child. People of color and those struggling to make ends meet, who currently have inequitable access to abortion care, will be even more disproportionately affected as their options become more elusive. Additionally, we do not need a crystal ball to foresee other significant personal liberty rights – birth control, marriage equality, and even interracial marriage – that may be challenged on this basis. The public’s trust in and respect for the Court has now been severely damaged. People perceive that a handful of Justices’ personal, religious, or political beliefs have prevailed over precedent and stability of the law. Whether individuals will be forced to bear children will now devolve in a chaotic manner in each state, and more than half the states are expected to make abortion illegal immediately upon issuance of the Dobbs decision. We will never stop fighting for the right of every person to make this highly personal decision in private, without being subject to state control over their body.

[1] As in our brief, the term “women” is intended to include all persons capable of becoming pregnant, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic, except where used in proper nouns or to describe case holdings, quotations, or statistics.

“Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.”
JUSTICE BREYER, JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR, and JUSTICE KAGAN, dissenting.

The Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia (WBADC) is a champion of tolerance, diversity, and respect for all. We are concerned about the growing atmosphere of fear and hatred in the United States and the increasingly inflammatory rhetoric, which was recently the basis for the U.S. House of Representatives resolution (H. RES. 489), passed on July 16, 2019, by a vote of 240-187. WBADC supports this resolution as an affirmation of the principles and human rights for which we stand.

The resolution opens with compelling statements concerning the founding of our country including: “Whereas the Founders conceived America as a haven of refuge for people fleeing from religious and political persecution, and…[the Founders] all emphasized that the Nation gained as it attracted new people in search of freedom and livelihood for their families…” and “Whereas American patriotism is defined not by race or ethnicity but by devotion to the Constitutional ideals of equality, liberty, inclusion, and democracy and by service to our communities and struggle for the common good…”

The resolution declares that the House “believes that immigrants and their descendants have made America stronger, and that those who take the oath of citizenship are every bit as American as those whose families have lived in the United States for many generations.”

The WBADC was founded by women who fought for (among other rights) the right for all American citizens to vote. Throughout its more than 100-year history, the WBADC has advanced and protected the interests of women and women lawyers, including issues of equality, liberty, inclusion, and democracy, and through its Foundation, serves the legal and related needs of women and girls. As women lawyers and members of the bar, we feel it is important to stand up on behalf of those who are oppressed, discriminated against, or denied access to justice and basic human rights.

In the WBADC’s February 2, 2017 statement regarding the Executive Order Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, we declared that, “Immigrants seek out the United States as a place of opportunity, freedom, and most importantly, safety.”

The WBADC has long celebrated those who fulfill their dream of becoming naturalized citizens. Since the early years of the Association, the WBADC has taken part in naturalization ceremonies at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by annually hosting a welcome celebration for new Americans and their families following the ceremony.

The WBADC continues to support efforts that remind all of us of the founding principles upon which our country was established and continues to stand.

WBA Statement on Executive Order Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the US

Statement of the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia Regarding
Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States

The Trump administration recently issued an Executive Order (“EO”) limiting the admission of both immigrants and nonimmigrants (including visitors, students, and workers) from seven countries with predominately Muslim populations, and of refugees from all countries. This EO has raised significant concern among many groups, including the humanitarian and legal communities. The Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia (WBADC) shares many of these concerns.

During the course of its almost 100-year history, the WBADC has worked directly to advance and protect the interests of women lawyers, and through its Foundation, served the legal and related needs of women and girls. Therefore, the WBADC views with grave concern the restrictions set forth in the EO, which may have a severe and significant impact on the well-being and safety of immigrant and refugee women and children.[1]

Immigrants seek out the United States as a place of opportunity, freedom, and most importantly, safety. Through our Foundation’s work with D.C.-based organizations, the WBADC has a first-hand view of the many challenges already facing immigrant women and children. “The two orders dial back years of progress and put women and girls fleeing violence in a very precarious position, one in which many will face being denied safety or protection when they need it most,” said Archi Pyati, Chief of Policy and Programs at Tahirih Justice Center, a past Foundation grant recipient. To the extent the EO as written or enforced puts immigrant and refugee women and children in harm’s way, the WBADC is deeply troubled.

Founded on the principle of promoting the administration of justice, the WBADC holds dear the notions of due process, equal protection under the law, and freedom of religion. The EO raises serious questions regarding these ideals, as highlighted by the actions of the former Acting United States Attorney General, federal judges and state attorneys general across the nation. As an active legal organization committed to ensuring integrity in our profession, we share the concerns expressed by other groups and legal professionals over these recent developments.

The WBADC is heartened that many in our profession have acted in their capacity to express their concerns over this EO, including immediately answering the call to service by forming ad hoc legal clinics at many of the country’s airports. The legal profession is fundamentally about service and advocacy, and we support our colleagues – many of whom are women– who are literally on the ground ensuring that those affected by this EO are afforded the legal counsel and representation to which they are entitled.[2] The WBADC encourages our members who would like to be involved in the many efforts surrounding this EO to seek out other local voluntary professional legal organizations to offer your time and talents, as well as the non-legal community to support these efforts because respect, humane treatment and compassion are nonpartisan qualities that we proudly embrace and protect.

[1] https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-08-08/it-s-now-clear-most-syrian-refugees-coming-united-states-are-women-and-children; https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/07/refugees-and-migrants-fleeing-sexual-violence-abuse-and-exploitation-in-libya

[2] http://www.americanbar.org/publications/perspectives/2016/spring/in_public_interest_women_follow_their_passion.html

WBA Sign Ons

In addition to drafting and signing on to amicus briefs, the WBA joins with other organizations in advocacy efforts, and signs on to letters and statements in response to current events that have an impact on women and women attorneys.  The statements are made with the WBA’s mission in mind.

In July 2024. WBA joined other voluntary bars to express our concern about the ongoing judicial vacancies in the DC Superior Court and the DC Court of Appeals.

“Judges are vital to our system of government and democratic ideals. Judicial vacancies adversely impact the operation of the District of Columbia courts and the timely administration of justice for people who live, work and do business in the District. When our courts lack a sufficient number of judges, the current judges and their staff are stretched beyond capacity, and litigants encounter significant delays.”

In May 2023. WBA joined other voluntary bars to urge the DC Council to maintain funding levels for the Access to Justice Initiative.

WBA signed on to a DC Vote letter to bi-partisan House and Senate Leadership expressing concern about the numerous measures introduced that would undermine critical local decisions made by the people of the District of Columbia and their elected leadership.

H.J. Resolution 24, “Disapproving the action of the District of Columbia Council in approving the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2022” and H.J. Resolution 26, “Disapproving the action of the District of Columbia Council in approving the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022,” were transmitted from the U.S. House of Representatives for agreement by the U.S. Senate. The two measures undermine critical local decisions made by the people of the District of Columbia and their elected leadership. WBA signed on to a DC Vote letter urging the Senate to reject the H.J. Res 24 and H.J. Res 26 and preserve the self-governance of the 700,000 people of Washington, DC.

On June 1, 2020, people gathered in Lafayette Square to protest the systemic racism prevalent across the United States that led to the the murder of George Floyd. Federally-controlled military and law-enforcement units advanced on those assembled, firing powerful rubber pellets and other munitions into the crowd, without warning and without provocation, pushing the law abiding gathering out of Lafayette Square by force. WBA signed on to a DC Vote letter calling on Congress to 1) give local DC officials control over the DC National Guard, in line with each state; 2) revoke the President’s authority to federalize the local DC Metropolitan Police Department; and 3) pass H.R. 51, the DC Admissions Act, to make DC a state and to end more than two hundred years of oppression. Statehood is the permanent solution to make the residents of Washington, DC full citizens of the United States. Click here for the letter.

WBA wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Office of the Secretary, in support of the adoption of the Biden-Harris Administration’s draft rules implementing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. In accordance with our mission, the WBA knows that women deserve access to the health care they need, free from discrimination, in order to advance their careers and achieve greater gender parity. Despite gains throughout the years, inequality and inequity persist, and the Biden-Harris Administration’s draft rules will help to close the gap by honoring the constitutional rights of women. At a time of unprecedented attacks on reproductive rights, now more than ever, people seeking access to care need strong nondiscrimination protections. Click here for the letter.

WBA signed on to a letter to Congress from organizations dedicated to combating sex discrimination and promoting the health and economic security of our nation’s families. The letter urges Congress to support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a bill to promote nondiscrimination by ensuring that pregnant workers are not forced out of their jobs unnecessarily or denied reasonable job modifications that would allow them to continue working and supporting their families. The bill promotes the health and economic security of pregnant women, their babies, and their families without harming the economy. Click here for the letter.

Free the Pill Coalition

WBA is a member of the Free the Pill coalition, a group of more than 150 reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations, research and advocacy groups, youth activists, health care providers, prominent medical and health professional associations, and others who share a commitment to ensuring more equitable access to safe, effective, and affordable birth control to people of all ages, backgrounds, and identities in the United States. Coalition members support over-the-counter (OTC) birth control pills that are affordable, fully covered by insurance, and available to people of all ages. To express their commitment, coalition members sign on to our statement of purpose.

June 2023
WBA urges the Senate to act immediately to address the pending nominations and fill the vacancies on the DC Superior Court

October 2015
WBA urges the Senate to act immediately to address the pending nominations and fill the vacancies on the DC Superior Court

May 2009
WBA urged President Obama to appoint a woman to fill the Supreme Court vacancy that resulted from Justice Souter’s retirement. (PDF)

January 2009
WBA congratulated President Obama on his election (PDF) and urged him to support DC voting representation in Congress and to look to qualified local jurists and attorneys when making appointments to Judges Appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. (PDF)

February 1988
WBA past president Janine Harris gives testimony (PDF) at the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession hearing in Philadelphia, PA.