It all Matters: Roe v. Wade Rage and Moving Forward from Here
It has been almost a week since the Supreme Court of the United States rendered its decision in Dobbs, overturning Roe v. Wade. For the past week, I, like many others who identify as women as well as many male allies, have been trying to process the impact of the decision and the feelings of rage, frustration, and fear that have been generated by it.
Unfortunately, none of these feelings are new. Women have been fighting for change for decades – changes in attitudes that have kept women from achieving career success at the same levels as men; changes in perception about what women are capable of doing; changes in policies to recognize the vital and multiple roles that women have, as mothers, daughters, and workers; changes in compensation so that all women – whether working as a grocery store cashier or as a lawyer in a law firm – are recognized, validated and paid as much as men. Changes for reproductive rights and access. Changes to protect women who are abused or at risk.
These feelings – anger at existing and prevailing inequities, frustration at the slowness of change, and fear that women, globally, will always be treated as “lesser” – have existed for as long as I can remember. But at least before I also felt that, even the smallest incremental change, was usually a change for the better. Then comes Dobbs with a regressive change; a change that takes us back so far that a new fear is generated – a fear that anything that has been gained (for women, for the 2SLGBTQ+ community, for racialized and other equity-seeing groups) is now under threat. And with that fear, exhaustion. The mere thought that women have to start again, that so much incremental positive change has been swept aside, is exhausting.
As a lawyer, it is also profoundly disappointing. Despite being 22 years in practice, I still have some of the bright-eyed idealism that many attribute to new calls. I believe in the rule of law and that, while courts do not always get it right, they always strive to adhere to fundamental principles in our democracy. When what is understood to be a long-standing precedent becomes seemingly vulnerable to political whim, those core values are undermined. And while I recognize that it is a U.S. decision delivered in a particular U.S. political climate and that a review of the decisions of Canadian courts does not raise any cause for alarm, we cannot dismiss its relevance. We are a global community of women, and protecting our collective rights advances us all.
Which is what we now, more than ever, must do. Listen to each other’s experiences. Offer support and guidance when we can. Look for opportunities for leadership. And refuse to take any step that is not a step forward. Fortunately, we have a lot of experience doing just that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cynthia Kuehl is a senior Partner with Lerners LLP. A seasoned litigator with a skill set honed from years of actual on-her-feet experience and a common sense approach to problem-solving, Cynthia practices in a wide range of areas, including commercial litigation and arbitration, appellate advocacy, public and administrative law, professional regulation and health law. She has appeared as lead counsel at trials, applications, arbitrations and on appeals, and has litigated before every level of court including the Supreme Court of Canada. In addition to her leadership roles at the firm, she has been and continues to be an active leader in the legal and larger community.