An Independence Day Reflection on Dobbs

7/4/22 – Melissa A. Hailey

Every Fourth of July, we Americans have the privilege of observing Independence Day.  It is on its face a day of fun filled with good food, fireworks, and time with friends and family.  It is at its core a celebration of American freedom – an annual reminder that we, as a Nation, chose to chart a course for ourselves rooted in liberty, autonomy, and justice.  

I spent this Independence Day (finally) reading the entirety of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.  Like everyone else who got word the date the decision was issued, I’ve known for over a week that the Court overruled Roe and Casey.  I’ve listened to podcasts, read news reports, and talked to friends about the shock and weight of it all.  But I needed time to garner the courage and self-discipline to sit down, read the full text, and come face-to-face with our new normal.

It was harder than I expected.

In a well-penned, impassioned dissent dripping with desperation for someone to hear, Justice Breyer (now retired) wrote on behalf of the minority of the Court:

The most striking feature of the majority is the absence of any serious discussion of how its ruling will affect women.  By characterizing Casey’s reliance arguments as generalized assertions about the national psyche, it reveals how little it knows or cares about women’s lives or about the suffering its decision will cause….

[T]he expectation of reproductive control is integral to may women’s identity and their place in the Nation.  That expectation helps define a woman as an equal citizen, with all the rights, privileges, and obligations that status entails.  It reflects that she is an autonomous person, and that society and the law recognize her as such.  Like many constitutional rights, the right to choose situates a woman in relationship to others and to the government.  It helps define a sphere of freedom, in which a person has the capacity to make choices free of government control.  As Casey recognized, the right orders her thinking as well as her living.  Beyond any choice about residence, or education, or career, her whole life reflects the control and authority that the right grants. 

Withdrawing a woman’s right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy does not mean that no choice is being made.  It means that a majority of today’s Court has wrenched this choice from women and given it to the States.  To allow a State to exert control over one of the most intimate and personal choices a woman may make is not only to affect the course of her life, monumental as those effects might be.  It is to alter her views of herself and her understanding of her place in society as someone with the recognized dignity and authority to make these choices.  Woman have relied on Roe and Casey in this way for 50 years.  Many have never known anything else.  When Roe and Casey disappear, the loss of power, control, and dignity will be immense. 

There is nothing I can say here that was not adequately – indeed eloquently – addressed in the Dobbs dissent.  It is a critical read for anyone who cares about women’s rights, human rights, and/or equal rights in America.  Please download and read for yourself the entirety of the Dobbs decision here:

What I can offer, as a woman, stepmom, aunt, friend, attorney, and full-time participant in the ever-evolving and currently disappointing American experience, is this formal statement of our firm, put out in reaction to Dobbs:

Hailey | Hart is a women-owned and managed law firm.  We stand on the shoulders of generations of women who came before us and fought for our right to be equal participants in the workplace and society.  We owe our success and breadth of opportunities to them and the people who supported and sacrificed for them.  Our firm stands in solidarity with all people who feel marginalized and stripped of their basic human dignity to make highly personal and consequential family choices free from government interference.  We share and mourn the loss of autonomy and personal freedom felt by millions of people as a result of the Dobbs decision. We are re-committing ourselves to advocating on behalf of our clients and modeling for our daughters their inherent right to pursue whatever path they chose and shine in their successes.

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