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A Good Night's Sleep

Brigitte Amiri,
Deputy Director,
ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project
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January 24, 2008

A couple of years ago I was interviewed by a hostile radio talk show host — a Rush Limbaugh wanna-be — who personally attacked me throughout the interview, and finally asked me in disgust, “how can you sleep at night?” I can’t remember what my exact answer was at the time, but the truth is that I actually don’t sleep many nights. But not for the reason he was suggesting. I’ve lost sleep worried about the teenager whose parents refused to support her decision to have an abortion, and who was desperately trying to navigate her way through the courts, with our assistance, in order to obtain a court order to access abortion care. I’ve stayed up nights concerned that we wouldn’t be able to act quickly enough to get a woman in prison transported for her requested abortion before it became too late in the pregnancy and she would lose her choice altogether. I’ve tossed and turned, troubled that we would lose our challenge to a ban on abortion in my home state of Michigan, and the devastating impact that such a loss would have on our physician clients and their patients.

But despite the occasional sleep deprivation (which I know I share with my amazing colleagues), I feel truly honored and lucky to do the work that I do. I do this work because it is so important, and I feel the issue so viscerally. There is something extremely fundamental about ensuring that we all have the right to make our own personal and intimate health care decisions. And though it may seem cliché to say, women must have control over our reproductive lives if we are to participate in society as equals. So when we are able to help the teen, the woman in prison, and win the court cases, it is so important for our clients and it personally means so much to me. Nevertheless, my goal is to put myself out of business. As much as I love my job, I hope it becomes obsolete. Because if we are successful in our fight — and we will be — everyone will have the information, skills, and access to resources to make our own reproductive health care decisions, and to care for the families we choose to have. And then we can all get a good night’s sleep.

Brigitte Amiri has been a Staff Attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project since April 2005. She led the ACLU’s challenge to a ban on abortions in Michigan, and is litigating a challenge to prohibitions on access to abortions in a county jail in Arizona. She was also part of the Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood legal team in the U.S. Supreme Court and worked on the ACLU’s friend-of-the-court briefs filed in the federal abortion ban cases in the Supreme Court.