UCLA Law launches new legal hotline in Southern California to defend reproductive freedoms

May 2, 2023
Photo credit: Sabrina Chang
Photo credit: Sabrina Chang

On May 2, one year after the leak of a draft Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, UCLA Law’s Center on Reproductive Health, Law, and Policy (CRHLP) hosted a press conference to announce a new legal hotline created by the Southern California Legal Alliance for Reproductive Justice (SoCal LARJ). Lara Stemple, faculty affiliate of CRHLP and director of SoCal LARJ; California Attorney General Rob Bonta; Los Angeles City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto; Sylvia Castillo, director of government and community affairs for Essential Access Health; and Gabrielle Brown, program coordinator for Black Women for Wellness, voiced their support for SoCal LARJ and its vital work in the wake of Dobbs.

SoCal LARJ is a partnership of government agencies, advocates, service providers, and law firms in Southern California that provide pro bono representation to those in need of legal help related to abortion and other reproductive rights and justice issues.

“The magnitude of the fallout from Dobbs is becoming disturbingly clearer by the day, but this powerful legal community is standing together,” said Lara Stemple, faculty affiliate of CRHLP and director of SoCal LARJ. “Unforgiving abortion bans and the devastating health consequences that follow are galvanizing advocates, providers, and law firms. Some firms have been involved in these issues for years, but many others are new to the fight.”

SoCal LARJ will work to ensure California remains a safe haven for anyone seeking an abortion — a key priority for Attorney General Bonta in his continuing fight to defend reproductive freedoms.

“Today marks a dark anniversary for all of us. One year ago, we first learned that a radical Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was looming – a decision that would come to undermine the rights and endanger the health of millions of people,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “In the wake of this decision, as reproductive freedoms have faced unprecedented attacks nationwide, California has remained a beacon of hope and safety. We have fought back through our legislature, through the courts, and through information, partnership, and advocacy. This initiative is another important resource that brings together legal, advocacy, and government partners united in the fight for reproductive justice. To those in need of abortion-related legal help: you are not alone. California’s legal community is here to support you.”

“As reproductive rights are rolled back in more than a dozen states, SoCal LARJ is dedicated to ensuring that California remains a safe haven for bodily autonomy and choice,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto. “As the first woman in my role, I am committed to and focused on this cause. The new legal hotline launching today could very well be a lifeline.”

“As the administrator of the Los Angeles County Abortion Safe Haven Pilot Program, Essential Access is proud to partner with SoCal LARJ to support access to what is an essential health service,” said Sylvia Castillo, director of government and community affairs for Essential Access Health, a reproductive and sexual health advocacy organization and funder of SoCal LARJ. “The overturning of Roe v. Wade has had devastating impacts, putting the health and wellness of millions at risk, in particular people with low incomes, people of color and youth. Together, we are working to ensure that anyone seeking abortion care in LA county can get the services they want and need with dignity and respect.”

“Wow, it’s been one year since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Although we continue our fight for reproductive justice, California’s abortion access is stronger and has given many of us hope,” said Gabrielle Brown, program coordinator for Black Women for Wellness. “Access to the full spectrum of reproductive and sexual health care, including abortion is critical to our community as Black birthing people. Not only should we be able to decide whether or not to continue a pregnancy, but we should also have access to the care and resources that support us in doing so. SoCal LARJ's legal hotline will be a crucial resource for Black women in Southern California, providing help and making connections for anyone with legal questions related to reproductive health care.”

"One year after the leak of the Dobbs v. Jackson SCOTUS decision, abortion access is stronger in California as we have continued the important work to be an access state for those seeking abortion care," said Jessica Pinckney Gil, executive director of ACCESS REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE, California's only independent, statewide abortion fund, via a written statement submitted in advance of the conference. "Barriers to accessing abortion care in California and beyond still exist, but with the support of coalitions like SoCal LARJ, we take important steps towards getting all individuals, providers, and advocates working to increase access to abortion the tools they need to whittle away at those very barriers and make Reproductive Justice a reality for all."

Since Dobbs, many states have passed laws that criminalize abortion and threaten the safety and freedom of those seeking or providing reproductive care. SoCal LARJ was created to fight the climate of fear and uncertainty brought about by such laws by making legal help and guidance related to abortions and reproductive care available for all those who need it.

More than 45 law firms in Southern California have joined SoCal LARJ to provide a wide range of legal services at a time when the resources of reproductive care providers and advocates are being stretched as never before. Advocacy and grassroots organizations, including California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, the National Women’s Law Center, Black Women for Wellness, and various Planned Parenthood affiliates serve on the coalition’s advisory council, together with the California Department of Justice. UCLA’s CRHLP, the Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles form the steering committee.

The coalition will provide a wide range of legal services to support reproductive care providers and advocates, including:

  • Compliance advice concerning shifting abortion restrictions, including the treatment of pregnancy-related conditions.
  • Support for amicus briefs to advance reproductive rights and justice.
  • Representation for anyone facing civil or criminal penalties for seeking, providing, or assisting in reproductive care.
  • Advice on protecting sensitive health-related data.
  • Referrals to local and national law firms, several of whom have licensed attorneys in a range of states.
  • Legal support for corporate, tax, employment, or other matters so providers and advocates can focus on their mission.

The new SoCal LARJ hotline number, 310-206-4466, will be monitored daily and is staffed by lawyers ready to assist. Visit the SoCal LARJ website for more information about the coalition.

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