Speaking of Women's Rights: That Was Us! Access to Abortion Clinics with Jill Bowman

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

That Was Us!
Access to Abortion Clinics with Jill Bowman

By Jill Bowman

This year marks Legal Voice's 35th anniversary year. The
That Was Us! series celebrates where we've been and what we've accomplished by creating a patchwork of voices from the people who helped us along the way.

More than 20 years ago, just before Thanksgiving, Lisa Stone talked me into “helping out” on a pro bono matter for the organization then known as the Northwest Women’s Law Center. Back then, Lisa was an associate at my law firm, Stoel Rives LLP, and I was a junior partner. Today, Lisa serves as the Executive Director of Legal Voice.

Anyway, back to the story. The Law Center had learned that protesters calling themselves “Operation Rescue” were planning to block access to abortion clinics in King County. The Center wanted to do what it could to prevent that interference. So, on behalf of a coalition of health care providers, organizations, and individuals who wanted to protect the right of women to obtain legal abortions, we brought suit and obtained a temporary restraining order from the King County Superior Court.

That was just the beginning—little did I know that this matter would end up absorbing much of my time over the next few years, as I assisted Lisa in her supervision and coordination of a statewide effort to protect health care providers and their patients. The case had a number of twists and turns—we were removed to federal court, we pursued civil contempt sanctions, we defended the sanctions before the Ninth Circuit of Appeals (Aradia Women’s Health Center v. Operation Rescue), and we negotiated settlements. Throughout the process, we were assisted by lawyers at other firms in Seattle and all around the state. It was an amazing collaborative effort and, in the end, we did manage to stop the protesters from blocking access to clinics (through the legal process and, eventually, through state legislation). When I look back, I am proud of what we were able to accomplish.
Jill Bowman is a partner of the law firm Soel Rives LLP, where she handles federal and state court cases and appeals involving a broad range of corporate and commercial matters, including state unfair practice laws, business torts, and labor and employment issues. Jill was a joint recipient of the Northwest Women's Law Center Founder's Award in 1990 for her work in Aradia Women's Health Center v. Operation Rescue.