President's Message -January 2023

Janet Hong Reflects on 2022

Janet Hong 

WLALA President 2022-2023

Greetings all and Happy New Year! I hope everyone was able to connect with their loved ones over the holidays. There was no shortage of good eats and naps on my end. I travelled to the Bay area for Christmas . . .on Southwest Airlines. After two cancelled flights and a seven- hour wait, I caught a flight back to LAX on standby. I met a woman whose flights were cancelled four times over 24 hours gate-hopping for any flight to anywhere in SoCal. We both made it.   

Luckily, I didn’t encounter similar problems when I travelled to Washington D.C. on December 16, 2022, for the National Summit on the Criminalization of Reproductive Healthcare: Developing Defenses After Dobbs, held at George Washington Law School. 

There were phenomenal and inspiring speakers including attorneys and physicians who’ve been fighting for reproductive rights for years. They noted the atrophy of abortion rights that began long before Dobbs, and highlighted some significant facts:

  • Seventy-five percent of those who need abortions live at or below the poverty line, are predominately women of color, and disproportionately prosecuted for accessing services.
  • That although some employers have been working on “reimbursement” for travel costs this does not help people with limited means.
  • Half of medical students are in “ban states” and are not offered full training in women’s health.
  • Texas bounty hunter statutes provide incentives for a neighbor to report those suspected of seeking abortion access.
  • The chilling effect on the practice of medicine since physicians do not know what they can or cannot do. One OBGYN stated, “the second you write a law on medicine, it’s outdated.” This same OBGYN has bail money saved up and a plan for her family in case of arrest.

One particularly chilling point addressed disenfranchisement. One in four women have an abortion. If a state makes abortion a felony and convicted felons cannot vote, then one in four women would lose their right to vote.

I have the utmost respect for those on the frontlines in the fight to protect women’s reproductive healthcare. As lawyers, we have the power and privilege to protect women’s rights, and all human rights. This year, I’ve asked myself and would challenge you to identify a specific action you can take to leverage your power and knowledge to push for freedom to access reproductive services in the face of immense restrictions. We are in this fight together for the long haul. 

Janet Hong
President, Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles