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Americans United for Life Legal Defense Foundation (AULLDF)

published July 08, 2015

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Americans United for Life Legal Defense Foundation (AULLDF)
655 15th St NW, Suite 410
Washington, DC 20005

Phone: 202-289-1478

Americans United for Life Legal Defense Foundation (AULLDF)


Americans United for Life (AUL) was one of several organizations founded in the early 1970s to lobby against liberalized abortion codes being considered by state legislatures across the United States. More specifically, "political and intellectual leaders" founded AUL in Washington, D.C., "to provide a non- sectarian national, educational organization to combat legalized abortion and euthanasia." Shortly after its formation in 1971, the AUL moved to Chicago, where it could be closer to its supporters.

Like most pro-life groups prior to 1973, the AUL emphasized education rather than litigation. After the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade (1973), the AUL recognized the need to focus on legal activities to combat the pro-choice movement on its own "turf" and formed a legal defense fund in 1976. Currently the eight AULLDF staffers note two goals: " 1) the restoration of legal protection for unborn children through [the] reversal of Roe v. Wade and the enactment of effective anti-abortion legislation [and] 2) [to] prevent legalization of euthanasia/ suicide for elderly, terminally ill, disabled." Close ties to the anti-euthanasia movement are readily apparent. Thomas J. Marzen, former AULLDF attorney, for example, now litigates on behalf of the National Legal Center for the Medically Dependent and Disabled, Inc.,* a legal services support center.

To achieve these objectives, the AULLDF pursues four kinds of litigation. First, it sponsors cases, which come to its attention from "sympathetic attorneys and legislators." The AULLDF, in fact, prides itself on maintaining a communications network between pro-life attorneys and other national organizations, including the National Right to Life Committee. The former editor of Human Life Review, Judge John T. Noonan, Jr., for example, served on the Board of Directors of both groups. From this pool, it selects cases that "have potential for impact on public law issues in relation to abortion, infanticide, euthanasia." Moreover, like many other litigating organizations, AULLDF prefers to enter such cases at the trial court level to influence the record.

Although the AULLDF prefers to sponsor litigation, state or federal attorneys are often already defending the pro-life position, forcing the AULLDF to play two other kinds of roles in the legal process. First, the AULLDF files amicus curiae briefs to enhance legal arguments of government lawyers. It has done so in at least 15 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. In H.L. v. Matheson (1981), for example, AULLDF's brief reinforced Utah's argument that its law, "requiring a doctor to notify, if possible" a minor's parents prior to the performance of an abortion, differed substantially from those the Court had previously rejected. More recently, in Hartigan v. Zbaraz (1988), the AULLDF again filed an amicus brief on the side of the government-in this instance Illinois-arguing in favor of the state's 24-hour waiting period for an abortion for minors.

Intervention is another way in which the AULLDF enters litigation when a "government" is already sponsoring the case. The group often opts for this strategy when it believes that the government is not adequately representing the pro-life position. A classic example of this occurred in the case of Harris v. McRae (1980). In Harris the U.S. Supreme Court was asked to consider the constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment, which generally prohibited federal funding of abortions. Because the Carter administration (through the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare) had lobbied against the amendment, its sponsor, Henry Hyde of Illinois, asked the AULLDF to "become intervenors to preserve the 'adversary process.'"

A final activity in which the AULLDF engages is assisting pro-life attorneys. As the current executive director stated, "Much of our work is 'unseen'- litigation support for private or, more often, government attorneys who lack time/expertise to handle cases without our assistance." In Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health (1983), in which the U.S. Supreme Court was considering the constitutionality of several local ordinances restricting abortion rights, the AULLDF "invested much time and money to assist attorneys" representing the city (Epstein, 1985, pp. 103-104). Because the AULLDF "is the only organization of [its] kind in the country, 501(c)(3) legal defense fund, pro-life non-sectarian," honoring such requests for its assistance is not only a major organizational program but occupies a great deal of its time.

In summary the AULLDF is the pro-life movement's litigating arm. To function as such, it has a $400,000 operating budget, derived almost exclusively (95 percent) from private individual contributions. Moreover, it employs six staffers, two attorneys, and three to four student interns a year. Like other similarly structured groups, it uses volunteer attorneys when necessary and available.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

Burleigh, N. (1988). "Anti-Abortion Attorney Committed to 'Protecting Innocent Lives,' " Chicago Daily Law Bulletin 134:1, January 29.

Epstein, L. (1985). Conservatives in Court (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press).

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