The National Women’s Law Center: Fighting on the Legal Frontlines for Gender Equity and American Democracy

By Giving List Women   |   May 20, 2024
Rally for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Washington, D.C. (photo by Shannon Finney)

Are you furious that the extremist Supreme Court is rolling back the rights of women and girls, pregnant people, and the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as democracy itself? The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) has a plan. “We’re an organization that is multi-strategy and multi-issue across the lives of women and girls,” says Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the NWLC. The organization’s approach to gender justice is inextricable from the fight for racial, economic, and disability justice, and it is based on a commitment to ensuring that all people, no matter their background, are equal under the law.

This includes both culture change work as well as traditional legal work like representing clients in court, writing amicus briefs, and running legal networks. It also includes housing and operating the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, which connects survivors of workplace harassment with legal and public relations assistance, as well as running the Abortion Access Legal Defense Fund, which helps people pay for certain legal expenses they may face as an abortion patient or supporter in a post-Dobbs landscape.

NWLC also advocates for legislation, rules, and policies on the federal and state levels, but they don’t stop there. Recognizing that laws and policies are only as good as they are culturally understood, the organization also creates campaigns to ensure the public understands what they’re fighting for – and where they, too, have the power to effect change.

Leading the Way on Policy Changes

It’s especially important to celebrate wins. In January, the Biden administration repealed the Trump-era “Refusal of Care” rule, which gave individuals and institutions the right to refuse care to patients based on their personal beliefs. Until recently, an operator answering the phone at a health clinic could legally deny a patient care based on the operator’s personal beliefs. To undo this, NWLC sued the Trump administration, ran a public education campaign, and participated in the rulemaking process.

In the coming year, they’re seeking to ensure that as many people have access to abortion care as possible, and that our care economy improves. Responding to the systemic strain of the pandemic, NWLC has focused on improving access to childcare and paid leave. They’re also seizing on what could be the Biden administration’s final year to push for rules on pay transparency, Title IX, and contraception.

It’s Time To Be Bold and Innovative in Fighting for Women’s Rights

Since its founding in 1972, NWLC has been intimately involved in the fight to protect, defend, and enshrine our freedoms in the U.S. As Goss Graves says, the early ’70s was a time when NWLC founder and co-president emerita Marcia Greenberger, legal icon Pauli Murray, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg “had to imagine not only a world that looked really different from the one they were inhabiting but the tools needed to get them there.” The challenges of our current era are extensions of that same fight, and considering the current backlash, it’s more essential than ever to be bold and creative in how we fight for the rights of women and girls. We are grappling with, as Goss Graves says, whether we are a country that is moving towards a narrow, overpoliced definition of gender roles, or one that embraces a more expansive vision of gender equality and thus ensures the future of our democracy.


National Women’s Law Center

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Vice President for Development: Andrea Pagano-Reyes


The National Women’s Law Center uses all of the tools at our disposal to push gender justice forward. Our efforts span from fighting in the halls of Congress and state governments, to working in the margins of legislation drafts and legal briefs, to telling the stories of those we serve through compelling data analysis and research, as well as nationwide culture campaigns

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