I've never been a member of the Philadelphia Bar Association, even though I was once on the editorial board of its professional journal, the Philadelphia Lawyer Magazine. But I never chose to pay dues and officially align myself with the association because, when I started practicing law in the early 1990s, it was clear there was no place for me at the table, let alone the "bar."
As a conservative woman who believed abortion was both immoral and legally indefensible, it was impossible to feel welcomed or respected in an organization that had become increasingly left-leaning. This did not surprise me. Even my Catholic alma mater, the one with the crucifixes in the classrooms, wasn't outspoken in its advocacy for the unborn. I recall a constitutional law class in which the teacher sped through the landmark Roe v. Wade decision as if he were embarrassed to focus on the ethics of killing what many of us considered babies.
I haven't given thought to the bar association these past few years. They do their thing, I do mine. For example, at 11 a.m. Tuesday, I'll be speaking at a rally in the state Capitol rotunda in Harrisburg in support of pro-life legislation, such as Senate Bill 3, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks (they currently are permitted until 24 weeks) and criminalize dismemberment abortions. The rally also will support the defunding of Planned Parenthood, which is the nation's single most prolific provider of abortions.
That's my thing, which I doubt will interest many of the people who paid $65 a head to attend a reception at the Bellevue on Friday honoring Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women's Law Project. Tracy is this year's recipient of the Sandra Day O'Connor award, which the bar association presents to a female attorney "who has demonstrated superior legal talent, achieved significant legal accomplishments, and has furthered the advancement of women in both the profession and the community."
In an email news release, the association said Tracy was chosen for the award because she has led "major legal victories on the national scale in women's reproductive rights, violence against women, and other areas of women's rights, including serving as co-counsel in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey."
In 1992, Casey essentially upheld the core holding in Roe that a woman had a constitutional right to abortion. It was a huge blow to pro-life activists, who had hoped that the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act would withstand the legal challenge from abortion-rights activists. They didn't like the fact that the commonwealth would even try to regulate abortion and fought tooth and nail against commonsense provisions such as recordkeeping and reporting mandates imposed on facilities that performed abortions.
Of course we all know what happens when those mandates are ignored. It's spelled G-O-S-N-E-L-L — as in Philadelphia's own Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murdering three infants born alive during botched abortions.
But to those who decide who deserves awards dedicated to those who have "furthered the advancement of women," fighting against abortion restrictions is being on the right side of history.
I guess that's fine, if you are NARAL, Emily's List, the National Organization for Women, or any other group dedicated to the promotion of abortion rights. But I thought the bar association was supposed to represent all of its members with legal degrees, not only the ones who think babies are figments of a sexist imagination (until, of course, they're actually born). This year's award suggests otherwise. Consider the the political initiatives the Women's Law Project supports.
Shortly after the election in November, the organization sent out a fundraising letter bemoaning the loss of rights women had suffered — even though it would be months before Donald Trump took office — and they seemed to suggest that any woman who did not vote for Hillary Clinton was involved in stripping her sisters of those ambiguous "rights."
A review of their website also shows how invested they are in promoting abortion as "health care," and advancing a "sky is falling" mentality with Trump's election.
There's also a suggestion that the release of Planned Parenthood undercover videos were responsible for the slaying of several abortion clinic employees, something that has absolutely no factual or legal justification. You would think the bar association would be wary of honoring an organization that engages in such propaganda.
Of course, the association is entitled to honor whomever it wants. But with the choice of Tracy, it is sending a definite message that female attorneys who believe that life begins at the elemental, invisible stage are not welcome.
We will make room for them, and others, in the Capitol rotunda on Tuesday.