ST. LOUIS — Unsurprisingly, the Hawley name is on one of the most controversial cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, a Mississippi effort that could curtail abortion rights and overturn Roe v. Wade.
But it’s not the Hawley punching in front of the United States Capitol. Not the one attacking Democrats in Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Rather, it was Erin Morrow Hawley, the wife of U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who was a key partner in his rise to power.
As lead counsel on the appeals team for Alliance Defending Freedom, or ADF, a Christian legal defense group, she coordinated Supreme Court cases that helped bolster Mississippi’s efforts to limit the most abortions at 15 weeks gestation and, more broadly, potentially leaving reproductive rights up to state legislatures across the country.
“Last year I was blessed to have a front row seat on this case,” Erin Hawley said in a February keynote at a Lincoln Days dinner in St. Charles. “As a conservative mother, I can tell you this has been the project of a lifetime.”
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After Josh introduced her as the lawyer working in the family, she told the Republican rally that she took the youngest of their three children, who was under 6 months old at the time, on planes to Mississippi and other states to support the legal effort to restrict abortions. She said that included attending meetings “with some of the best lawyers in the country.”
“It hasn’t always been easy, but for me it has reminded me every day why this case is important,” she said of traveling with a baby. “There was something so powerful, so tangible, so real about helping this case, a case that can change the culture of abortion in this country and save countless unborn lives.”
According to public records, ADF brings in more than $75 million a year in contributions and grants per year. It exists to “facilitate an alliance of like-minded influencers from all spheres of the public square affecting law and culture, and to mobilize this alliance to protect the core values of religious liberty, the sanctity of life human rights, freedom of expression and marriage”. and the family.”
ADF is perhaps best known in recent years for defending, for free, the Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake celebrating a gay marriage.
Erin told the St. Charles group that Mississippi lawmakers were right to restrict most abortions beyond 15 weeks because the baby can then open and close their fingers, hearing their mother’s heartbeat. She said contraception has become universal for nearly 50 years since Roe v. Wade. Erin said abortion was not mentioned in the Constitution, yet for her the Bible is clear in Psalm 139:
For you have created my intimate being; you welded me together in my mother’s womb.
“Now is the time,” she said, drawing applause. “This is the year Roe has to go.”
From Washington to Missouri — and back
The draft ruling on the Mississippi case, an exclusive story reported Monday by Politico, signaled that the Supreme Court was indeed poised to overturn Roe. While Josh called the information breach a “blow” for the esteemed institution, the conclusion – overthrowing Roe – is in line with what he and Erin have long advocated. In Missouri, one of 13 states that passed so-called “trigger” laws tied to Roe’s end, most abortions would become illegal.
Conservative Christian values bind Josh and Erin together, according to an Apple podcast the couple recently participated in titled “It’s Living With Josh and Erin Hawley.” The podcast describes them as laid-back, ordinary parents in their early 40s trying to manage as best they can as a traditional family.
In one segment, Josh encouraged men to vent their frustrations to the Lord, not their wives. Erin encouraged wives and mothers to “make sure your focus is on your husband.”
Erin grew up in New Mexico. She studied animal science at Texas A&M University. Josh, raised in Lexington, Missouri, attended an all-boys Jesuit high school in Kansas City. He studied history at Stanford. They overlapped at Yale Law School, but it was as legal advisers to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in 2007 — the same chief justice who reviews Roe today. today – that they got to know each other.
“We literally shared an office, which meant Erin, you know, couldn’t escape,” Josh said in the podcast. “I have to talk to him all day.”
As their relationship blossomed in the high court, they tried to keep it a secret until the end of clerkship. Both became appellate attorneys in Washington. Josh eventually proposed to Erin in full view of the US Capitol.
After that, they moved to Missouri, started a family. Both taught at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. And Josh launched his political career.
Religious freedom laws and reproductive rights were the main themes. The fact that Josh was part of the legal team that won the Hobby Lobby case in 2014 resonated with Conservative voters. The landmark decision exempted private, for-profit companies from having to provide health care benefits to their employees who provide birth control. Although Josh did not take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, Peter Dobelbower, general counsel for Hobby Lobby, said he “provided unique insight into the arguments that made our case so successful.” .
In 2016 Josh was elected Attorney General of Missouri. Just two years later, he won the U.S. Senate seat, and the Hawleys returned to Washington.
“Very, very bright and ambitious”
Along the way, Josh and Erin had a law firm, Hawley and Hawley. After Josh founded the Missouri Liberty Project in 2014, Erin filed a case in the United States Supreme Court for the now-defunct organization. Technically called amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” filings are submitted by outside parties who seek to influence the court by offering a relevant perspective.
It was in this area that Erin had the “front row seat” in the Mississippi case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Erin recently said in a prepared statement to the Post-Dispatch that the ADF “is proud to have worked closely with Mississippi officials” on the case, including coordinating amicus support for the United States Supreme Court. United.
“The United States is an extreme exception in abortion law and policy, allowing late-term abortions and failing to protect the life and health of unborn children and their mothers,” she said. . “Because life is a human right, the Court should uphold Mississippi’s law protecting women and children and overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.”
Michelle Williams, chief of staff for Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, said by email that the ADF was a “great partner to this office.”
“Erin Hawley is a qualified and experienced lawyer and we are honored that she has provided a strong sounding board to our team and a strong voice for women’s empowerment and the promotion of life over the past year” , Williams said.
There are dozens of amicus briefs attached to the Mississippi case, many of which have differing interpretations of what women’s empowerment means. One, written for Olympic gold medalists and other top female athletes, claims that “forced pregnancy and childbirth would compromise” the ability to “realize their full human potential”. A lawyer representing a slew of health care organizations argues that current abortion rights allow women to live longer, healthier lives. Another argues that state powers are already being used to violate women’s constitutional rights, and that the further consequences of an overturning of Roe “would be far-reaching and disastrous for all pregnant women.”
The ADF wouldn’t say what amicus briefs Erin helped coordinate for the Mississippi case. The company would also not disclose his salary. Erin is also a lawyer at the Independent Women’s Forum, which paid her – the Hawley law firm – $185,000 in 2020, according to public records.
She has written several articles about why she thinks Roe should be canceled. She also weighed in on the selection of Supreme Court justices. Writing for Real Clear Policy in 2018, she said, “The Democrats are right. Justice Brett Kavanaugh has a stunning record with women – but it’s one that should lead to support for women.
Jean Evans, former Missouri GOP chairman, said many people are unaware of Erin’s work.
“She has three children,” Evans said. “I must say that they have three children. I consider them a power couple. They are both very, very bright and ambitious. They work well together and support each other well. They seem to have a pretty solid partnership.
While Josh spoke at the Lincoln Days event in February about the Democrats’ fight for the “soul” of America, Erin touched on a similar theme regarding “the most important case of our lifetimes.”
“It’s not just a court case to be won, but the heart of a nation to be lived in,” she said.