Lawyer volunteers line up as N.Y. abortion providers seek out advice

Abortion rights protesters hold a youth rally in Washington Square Park in anticipation of Supreme Court overturning the Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision in New York City, U.S., June 3, 2022. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

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  • About 50 New York law firms have expressed an interest in staffing a new hotline
  • The initiative is being spearheaded by New York Attorney General Leticia James

(Reuters) – A new hotline staffed by volunteer lawyers in New York is fielding a stream of inquiries from reproductive healthcare providers in the state worried about how the end of nationwide abortion rights protections could affect their operations, organizers said this week.

“Unfortunately, what we have received is what we expected,” said Claudia Hammerman, a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, which is coordinating law firm participation in the effort.

The New York hotline is the centerpiece of a month-old abortion rights initiative spearheaded by state Attorney General Letitia James in conjunction with law firms and reproductive rights organizations responding to the U.S. Supreme court last month overturning the constitutional right to abortion.

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After two weeks, the hotline has not received many calls from individuals seeking advice on obtaining an abortion in the state, said First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy during a Thursday discussion convened by the New York State Bar Association.

But abortion providers and groups that fund abortions in New York—where the procedure remains legal—have had many questions about the changing laws and their potential legal exposure, Paul Weiss’ Hammerman said.

For example, a provider in New York who performs an abortion on a woman from Texas might call the hotline to find out if they could face repercussions should they travel to Texas to attend a relative’s college graduation, Hammerman said.

The Supreme Court’s decision last month restored the ability of states to ban abortion, which about a dozen Republican-led states have moved to do. Some state lawmakers have introduced bills that would allow civil lawsuits against anyone who aids a woman in seeking an out-of-state abortion.

The Attorney General’s Pro Bono Task Force for Reproductive Rights formally launched last month with the participation of 24 law firms and eight nonprofit groups. Since then, a total of about 50 law firms and several more nonprofit groups have expressed an interest in getting involved, Levy said.

Similar efforts are underway elsewhere. San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu and the Bar Association of San Francisco in June announced a new Legal Alliance for Reproductive Rights with pro bono help from law firms. U.S. President Joe Biden on July 8 said the U.S. Attorney General and the White House will convene private pro bono attorneys and bar groups to provide legal assistance to patients and healthcare providers.

“We’re at the beginning of realizing our potential for collaboration between the blue states to form a kind of defensive wall,” Levy said.

Read more:

New York law firms, state attorney general gird for abortion fights

Texas lawmakers target law firms for aiding abortion access

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Karen Sloan

Thomson Reuters

Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at [email protected]

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