The Pro-Life Attorney: what can you do with your JD?

This is the first of a series of posts profiling pro-life attorneys who use their JDs to promote a culture of life in a variety of different ways.

Amy Pedagno

amy pedagnoAmy is a 26 year old currently living in Virginia. She earned her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Philosophy, English, and International Studies, from St. John’s University. Straight from undergraduate, she received her JD from Ave Maria School of Law. Amy currently works at the Law of Life Project.

Amy’s parents had a strong influence in her pro-life convictions. When she went to St. John’s College, she became very active in the campus Students for Life group. She knew that she was going to be committed to continuing pro-life work after college, but did not always know that she would want to practice pro-life law. During her senior year, she applied to a few law schools, still unsure if law was something that she really wanted to pursue. But she went to Ave Maria Law School and quickly realized that she loved studying law. Originally she planned to practice child advocacy law, working specifically with foster children. However she began to volunteer as a guardian ad litem in Florida, where she was able to advocate on behalf of foster children prior to completing her law degree.

Around this time, Amy was accepted into the Blackstone Fellowship Program with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she was placed for a summer job at Americans United for Life. The next summer, she returned to Americans United for Life as a legal fellow. She realized that it was possible to pursue pro-life work as a career and that she really loved pro-life law.

Amy is currently in her second year of a two year fellowship at the Law of Life Project. She is able is write briefs and edit papers, something that she really enjoys. She is also loves all the people she meets working as a pro-life attorney, other young attorneys who are committed to pro-life work and more experienced attorneys who are responsible for so many of the wonderful pro-life successes we’ve had so far.  One of her favorite parts of her job is being able to actually work for a cause that she believes in, and learning about how important public policy truly is.

Amy’s advice to those in law school hoping to pursue pro-life law is to be sure to spend time praying or reflecting on the commitment. Although she receives much affirmation from her job, there are sacrifices in pursuing pro-life law. Beyond the obvious pay cut compared to working at a big law firm, one always has to be ready to defend his or her pro-life beliefs. When asked “what do you do?” on the airplane, or at a dinner party, the question is a bit more loaded than for those who work in other jobs. One must always be ready to engage in discussion about abortion.

Amy also notes that there are many different ways to be a pro-life lawyer. We need pro-life lawyers in all aspects of law. A pro-life estate lawyer might be the perfect person to deal with end-of-life issues. A pro-life attorney working for a hospital can help to ensure that there is a strong ethics committee in place. A pro-life defense attorney can ensure that a pregnant defendant gets adequate medical care in detention.  Not every attorney is called to practice pro-life constitutional law full-time like Amy does, but that does not preclude living out their values as pro-life attorneys.

About the Author

Erin S-M

Erin Stoyell-Mulholland is a junior at the University of Notre Dame, where she is president of Notre Dame’s Right to Life group. She hopes to pursue a full time career in the pro-life movement. Follow Erin on twitter @erin_sto_mo and read her blog at thenewprolife.blogspot.com

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