House expands ABA support for reproductive, privacy rights

The American Bar Association’s policymaking body, the House of Delegates (HOD), adopted several resolutions during its two-day meeting Aug. 8-9 that seek to expand protections for individuals and entities involved in the discussion and delivery of reproductive rights as well as protect other privacy rights.

The votes, which wrapped up the ABA 2022 Annual Meeting, come in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade on June 24. The new policies generally protect those involved in the abortion process or advocates of reproductive rights from civil and criminal penalties, in addition to provisions to protect the legal right to take contraceptives or to enter into inter-racial or gay marriage. The HOD also effectively affirmed decades-long policy that backed the rights of women to make their own reproductive choices.

The series of resolutions, stemming from the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, received nearly unanimous support in voice votes by the 583-member HOD, which meets twice annually. The measures were among about 40 acted upon in the first in-person only HOD session since 2019.

The HOD also approved a resolution that urges the repeal and opposition to so-called “vigilante” statutes, such as a Texas abortion law that seeks to evade court constitutional review by delegating enforcement to private citizens, as well as statutes that grant monetary bounties to those who seek to enforce these laws.

In the area of lawyer ethics, the delegates averted a contentious discussion on a measure over professional regulatory changes nationwide. The HOD reaffirmed the association’s longstanding Model Rule 5.4, which prohibits nonlawyer equity in law firms and fee-splitting with nonlawyers, but also expressed continued support of a 2020 policy endorsing pilot programs in regulatory change whose outcomes could be measured.

The HOD also adopted new criminal justice-related policies that include support for closing a loophole in federal gun regulations that allows for a sale of a firearm to proceed after three days even if a background check is not completed. The House also backed standards for diverting some defendants to alternatives to the criminal justice system and efforts for a “second look” at criminal sentences where individuals have been incarcerated for 10 years.

Only proposals approved by the HOD become ABA policy. The HOD will meet next in New Orleans in February 2023.


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