Introducing the Abortion Defense Network
When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, it didn’t just annihilate our constitutional right to abortion. It opened the door to legal chaos. Anti-abortion politicians have been emboldened to pursue a mind-boggling range of laws and policies putting at legal risk people who provide, support, or seek abortion. And extremists are pursuing politically-motivated lawsuits to end abortion access—like the case purposefully brought before an openly anti-abortion judge which any day now could impose a nationwide ban on abortion medication, even in states where abortion is protected.
In addition to creating chaos for patients, this post-Roe changing legal landscape has created quicksand for those who provide or support abortion. People who could get caught up in laws targeting abortion include:
- The social worker who talks to you about abortion as an option.
- The abortion fund that helps you pay for the abortion.
- The friend who drives you to the clinic.
- The doctor who performs the abortion once you’ve gotten there—or the receptionist who greets you at the door.
Abortion providers and supporters like these are increasingly being threatened with civil lawsuits, criminal prosecution, and other legal action because of their proximity to abortion.
The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) has come together with five other reproductive rights organizations* to provide people with the legal resources they need to navigate the post–Roe landscape. In February 2023, we launched the Abortion Defense Network (ADN).
The goal of this network is simple: Defend abortion providers and supporters caught up in the legal system.
Anyone in the U.S. working to provide or support abortion care can seek legal assistance from the Abortion Defense Network. After filling out an intake form, individuals or organizations will hear back from an attorney within 24 hours. People will then be matched with values-aligned attorneys who may be able to provide legal advice or represent them if they’re being criminally prosecuted or facing civil action. And while ADN focuses on providers and supporters, patients aren’t forgotten—they will continue to be served by the Repro Legal Helpline.
We also know that our legal system is incredibly expensive. And everyone deserves legal representation, regardless of their ability to pay. Our goal is to expand the resources available for this purpose.
That is why, as part of the ADN, NWLC will be launching the Abortion Access Legal Defense Fund (AALDF). The AALDF will be available for people who need help paying expenses related to legal consequences they are facing following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs. It may be able to help pay for attorneys’ fees and other legal expenses when patients who needed abortions, or individuals and organizations who supported those patients, are targeted by others. This fund will exist alongside two other funds, to broaden our collective reach.
You can help support individuals and organizations who get caught up in a complex legal quagmire by being an early donor to the AALDF, to help provide resources to meet the legal needs of people who need or support abortion.
At the National Women’s Law Center, we have always known that abortion is an act of love; an act of care; an act of compassion. Abortion is community personified.
If you get an abortion, your community will support you—and the Abortion Defense Network and AALDF will join together to support them.
*The Abortion Defense Network is an effort of the Lawyering Project, the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), and Resources for Abortion Delivery (RAD).