President and Dean Anthony Niedwiecki emailed this message on Friday, June 24, to the Mitchell Hamline community following the U.S. Supreme Court’s release of its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Below the dean’s message are statements from the Student Bar Association and the Law Review.
Dear students, staff, and faculty:
Regardless of how you feel about abortion, today’s decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was a monumental event in legal history. It removed a constitutional protection Americans have had for 50 years and returned decision-making to state legal and political processes. The decision will likely be divisive. Some will celebrate this change, while others will feel deeply the loss of a fundamental right connected to their ability to control their bodies and to plan their personal lives and careers. The burden of that loss will likely fall most heavily on women of color and others systematically marginalized in our communities. I was personally saddened today and fearful of what this may mean to so many women in our country and to my own life as a gay man. And I understand that others may feel differently. These are the types of court decisions that can divide our country, and there may well be impacts from this ruling that linger for decades. Anyone who has not yet read the opinion is encouraged to do so here.
It is important to note that the ruling changes nothing in Minnesota, at least for now, either for people who live here or those who come here seeking abortions or other health services. Abortion remains legal in Minnesota. But many of our students come from other states, and they will need to navigate a patchwork of various laws and restrictions. It will be up to all students who feel strongly about this issue to use their legal educations to shape the laws in the places where they live. This is not a time for students to give up but to use the legal tools they are developing to make the changes they would like to see.
I encourage you to study the opinion, to talk about it with your colleagues and classmates, and to take action with your legal skills in the ways you feel moved. Seek out organizations where you can make a difference, advocate on behalf of candidates you support, get involved with the groups who are going to be making laws in the places you care about. We equip students here with the skills to make changes in the law. Times like these are when those skills need to be put into practice.
President and Dean
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
We echo Dean Niedwiecki’s statement regarding the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision released yesterday. Although we may all view this decision differently, this is a historic event in our legal history. The primary focus of the decision is that it removed a constitutional protection that Americans, specifically women, have held for 50 years. This constitutional protection guaranteed a fundamental right of body autonomy. The decision places this decision-making authority back to the States and Congress.
As Dean Niedwiecki stated, this decision will likely be divisive. As the SBA Executive Council, we want to respect your opinion regarding the Court’s decision. As a Council, we are saddened for what this decision may mean for women within our communities, school, and across the nation. Further, we want to ensure that you are not alone in how you are currently feeling, whether that be a celebration, grief, or anger. We encourage you to take the time to process this decision, and then take action where you feel is appropriate. As law students, it is our duty to advocate and take the skills we learn and turn them into action.
Additionally, we echo Dean Niedwiecki’s encouragement to read and study the Court’s opinion. As a community, we use this time to lean on our colleagues to learn and grow and to gain a better understanding of the decision. By doing so, we are able to enhance our ability to advocate for ourselves and our clients.
As always, the SBA Executive Council is here for you. If you feel you need to talk to someone, please know that it is okay. Reach out to your classmates, friends, or a counselor. Please see the additional and free resources below.
SBA Executive Council
Counseling Services. Evening and weekend sessions are available (with Abby, Don, or Jon). Schedule an appointment by clicking the make an appointment button on the counseling website. If the counseling times offered are not workable for you, please email email@example.com for possible alternatives. Initial consultations are always free. As a result of the uncertain times associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Mitchell Hamline continues to waive any copay for counseling services until further notice. If you are located outside Minnesota, please inform the counselor.
Other Lawyer Assistance Programs. For students in other locations outside of Minnesota, you are also encouraged to contact your local lawyer assistance program for the same free, confidential services you may receive from Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers in Minnesota. Here is a link to the information in all jurisdictions.
Text help for young people of color. The Steve Fund is an organization that specifically focuses on mental health for young people of color. They have a crisis text line, where students of color can text STEVE to 741741 and receive a live Crisis Counselor response.
24/7/365 help for LGBTQIA+ youth. The Trevor Project focuses on mental health for LGBTQIA+ youth. Call 1-866-488-7386 or Text START to 678678. Chat at: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help-now.
ABA resources. There are additional resources available in this ABA Well Being Toolkit.
Yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning Roe v. Wade, is one that causes grave concern. National access to safe and legal abortions, a protected right for nearly 50 years, is gone. States have the green light to decide whether legal abortions will occur within their jurisdiction. Several states have “trigger laws” in place–laws that outlaw legal abortion access upon Roe’s overturning, and often impose civil or criminal penalties upon anyone attempting to provide these services. Even in states that currently retain legal abortion access, such as here in Minnesota, bills are being introduced to undermine that right. Minnesota has recognized abortion as a fundamental right since the 1995 case, Doe v. Gomez. This opinion certainly strikes a chord in the minds of legal scholars across the political spectrum. What is certain is that this opinion will destabilize the law in ways that are yet to be imagined. Legal issues from Dobbs will take significant time to resolve.
This ruling will undoubtedly have additional implications for people in Black, Brown, Indigenous, Queer, and Disability communities where pregnancy complications occur at higher rates. Low-income people living in states where abortion is now illegal will face additional barriers such as costs of travel and lodging if they need to access this essential care.
In the majority opinion, Justice Alito stated that no other fundamental rights are in question in the Dobbs case. Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion, however, validates additional fears. In it, he states, “[I]n future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.” These cases deal with the right to buy and use contraceptives, sexual privacy, and gay marriage, respectively. Protecting these rights is imperative and will require constant vigilance from the legal community.
The Mitchell Hamline Law Review’s purpose and vision is to advance legal theory and discussion on issues of local, national, and international importance. The right to a safe and legal abortion is deeply important and deeply personal to millions of people around the country and to many the Mitchell Hamline Law Review’s Editorial Board. Several of us are extremely disappointed with yesterday’s holding, but our resolve to nurture and inspire resilient, brave, and outspoken attorneys remains as strong as ever.
Deven Bowdry, Editor-in-Chief, with consideration and input from members of the Mitchell Hamline Law Review Volume 49 Editorial Board