This year, for the first time in nearly a decade, the Supreme Court will hear a case on abortion. Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt* takes up restrictions on clinics and physicians who provide abortions in Texas, which were passed in 2013. The Court will decide whether these restrictions place an “undue burden” on women in the state.
Earlier this week, a wave of new briefs were filed in support of either side of the case. Among them was a brief representing “113 women in the legal profession who have exercised their constitutional right to an abortion.”
This document is remarkable for a number of reasons. It represents the perspectives of people who are trained in the law, but who are also personally familiar with what it means to get an abortion. It rejects the idea that women should feel shame about having an abortion; these stories are serious, straightforward, and unapologetic. And it shortens the sense of distance between those who will decide the legal merits of the case and those whose lives will be affected—this brief isn’t well-educated experts advocating on behalf of women in need, it’s well-educated women advocating on behalf of themselves. As one of the women wrote, “To the world, I am an attorney who had an abortion, and, to myself, I am an attorney because I had an abortion.”
(So, if you’re willing to share: What is your personal story of abortion, either in choosing to have one or not, or perhaps anticipating that decision? We’ll keep stories anonymous by default, although if you’re willing to use your name, let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
But the document also highlights the complexity of abortion as an ethical and legal issue. Court cases necessarily consider questions of justice in the abstract, but deciding whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is one of the most intimate choices a woman can make. This fact has defined the political fight over abortion. As Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern smartly put it: