Four and a half years ago, if you had asked me whether I was ever going to write a book, I'd have laughed. I was comfortable in the world of law review publishing, had found two different niches writing about gender construction and masculinity as well as Supreme Court voting paradoxes, and hadn't really thought much beyond continuing with that trajectory. Plus, writing a book sounded really hard!
Here I am now though, just having published the book that I introduced yesterday about how abortion providers are personally targeted by anti-abortion extremists. How it came about, given that I wasn't looking to write a book and wasn't writing in the area of abortion, is a perfect storm of service, teaching, and scholarship.
Before I started teaching, I was a staff attorney at the Women's Law Project in Philadelphia. One of the many reproductive rights cases I worked on was representing an abortion clinic in Allentown, Pennsylvania that was having issues with protesters. I enjoyed having that clinic and their executive director as a client, so when they were directly sued by protesters after I joined the Drexel faculty, I offered to work on the case pro bono with my former colleagues.
The case was also a great opportunity to engage students in constitutional litigation raising issues that I taught in class and to show students how the material we cover in my courses is relevant to real law (something, despite much trying on my part, some of them refuse to believe). The crux of this new case was the issue of state action - could a private abortion clinic and its executive director violate anti-abortion protesters' First Amendment rights? The theory of the case from the protesters' view was that the clinic had conspired with the police to limit the protesters' access to the patients. This is one of the exceptions to the state action doctrine, an important issue in my constitutional law courses, and it was the central issue in this case.
I had originally thought the case would quickly be dismissed because there was no proof of a conspiracy. But, unfortunately for my client, it took over 3 years for the federal judge to agree, which he ultimately did on our motion for summary judgment. (And then the case was mooted on appeal after the clinic moved locations.)
This extended period of time was fortunate for my students though, and ultimately very fortunate for me and my co-author. It was fortunate for my students because I was able to have several of them work on the case through its various pre-trial stages. Not all of the work they did was about constitutional law, but it was all directly relevant to a constitutional case, which was interesting for them to work on in law school.
The last student I asked to work on the case was my co-author, Krysten Connon, who was a 2L at the time she started on the case. After researching various aspects of pre-trial procedure, Krysten had the opportunity to meet our client, the director of the clinic. The clinic director told Krysten how she not only deals with protesters at the clinic but also has to deal with protesters targeting her individually. The protesters picketed the clinic director at home on a regular basis, sent hate mail to her parents, and posted about her on an internet site devoted to anti-abortion violence. This last form of targeting, along with the past murders of abortion providers, spurred the clinic director to purchase a bullet proof vest and wear it to work on a regular basis.
It was this last piece of information, about the bulletproof vest, that stunned Krysten. Unfortunately, I had known about this but had been desensitized to the issue. For Krysten, who was hearing it for the first time, it was shocking . . . as it should be: a person running a perfectly lawful medical health clinic feared for her life because of her profession so much that she wore a bullet proof vest to work.
A day after hearing this, Krysten wrote me an email saying that it would be interesting to research how abortion providers are targeted, not at work as part of clinic-based protest, but as individuals wherever they may be found. Four and a half years after that email, we published this book.
When I think about the origin of the book, I think of it as the perfect (and lucky!) combination of service, teaching, and scholarship, the three things professors are responsible for. The case work I was doing was part of the service I perform for the community; I involved students in the case because it was a way to supplement the teaching I did around constitutional law issues; and from that a new area of scholarship arose for me and my co-author, an area that I hope to continue beyond this book.
These three parts of our job certainly do not always coincide and can often all be separate from one another. But, when they do overlap, it can be a very productive thing.