Document Type


Publication Date



During the twelve years after Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court considered a number of abortion issues, but Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists was the first case to raise a direct call for Roe’s demise. The issues galvanized interests on all sides. Among the welter of amicus briefs was a remarkable brief destined to create a new, controversial, and potentially powerful form of appellate advocacy. Primarily authored by Lynn M. Paltrow, the brief was submitted on behalf of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). Like a Brandeis Brief, the NARAL brief relies on sources outside the trial court record. Unlike a Brandeis Brief, however, the NARAL brief does not treat women as the objects of social science research. It does not treat women as “other”—that is, using the distancing third-person pronoun “they.” Instead, living, breathing women, speaking with the first-person pronoun “I,” tell their own abortion stories. Never before had non-parties been able to speak directly to the Court in a proceeding that would profoundly affect their own lives and those of others like them. This is the story of that first “voices” brief, its young author, and its amazing civil rights legacy.

Publication Citation

2015 Mich. St. L. Rev. 1327.