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Attorney Who Signed Amicus Brief Urging SCOTUS To Strike Down HB 2 Provisions Shares Abortion Story

January 25, 2016 — In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Janice Mac Avoy, one of 113 attorneys who submitted an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down contested provisions in Texas' omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), writes about how her decision to have an abortion at age 18 allowed her to achieve "personal and professional success."

Mac Avoy explains that she learned she was pregnant 35 years ago, when she was 18 and "about to become the first person in [her] family to graduate from high school." Mac Avoy had secured a college scholarship and had plans to attend law school. "I was determined to break a cycle of poverty and teenage pregnancy that had shaped the lives of the previous three generations of women in my family -- all mothers by age 18," she writes.

Mac Avoy writes that she obtained an abortion with the help of a friend who drove her to Planned Parenthood. "This was a deeply personal and private choice that I have never regretted," she continues, noting, "I also never felt compelled to talk about it publicly until now, as I witness the erosion of the very freedoms on which I built my life."

According to Mac Avoy, "Across the country, abortion is becoming a right in theory but not in fact, particularly for young, poor women -- like I was at 18." She adds that abortion stigma has "creat[ed] a culture of shame that silences women who have exercised their constitutional rights" and created a "vacuum [that] has been filled with misperception and misinformation -- including from the Supreme Court." She writes, "We are told that abortion is harmful to women and that those who choose to have one come to regret it." Such claims are "backward ... paternalistic," and "wrong," Mac Avoy writes, noting that "95 percent of women who have had an abortion say that it was the right decision for them, and even among those who expressed some regret, 89 percent state that having the abortion was still the right decision."

She continues, "Nearly 1 in 3 women in this country will have an abortion," which "means that while no one talks about it, pretty much everyone, including the Supreme Court justices, whether they are aware of it, knows someone, works with someone and respects and cares about someone who has had an abortion -- and doesn't regret it." According to Mac Avoy," "It is critical that the court hear the voices of women like me whose access to safe and legal abortion allowed us to take control of our destinies and decide for ourselves when or if we would start our families. It is critical that we share with the court what abortion means to us: the ability to break the cycle of poverty and teenage motherhood, to escape abusive relationships, to achieve higher education and to preserve our health."

Noting that she would have been unable to access abortion care if the challenged provisions in HB 2 were in effect at the time, Mac Avoy writes, "If I had been forced to raise a child 35 years ago, I could not have put myself through college and Columbia Law School," obtained a job at a "prestigious law firm and risen through the ranks to become a partner," or "met my husband and given birth to two amazing children in my late 30s when I was financially and emotionally ready to raise them."

She writes that while every woman's story in the amicus brief is different, every signatory is "successful because we exercised our constitutionally protected right to have an abortion without interference." She concludes, "The Supreme Court must once again reaffirm this freedom so that my daughter does not grow up in a country where her reproductive choices are as limited as her grandmother's were" (Mac Avoy,Washington Post, 1/22).