How a Hollywood Power Lawyer Used Her Abortion Story to "Pay It Forward"

Pro-choice activists supporting legal access to abortion protest during a demonstration outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, March 4, 2020- Getty - H 2020
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Talent attorney Jodi Peikoff talks about her own experience, the stakes of protecting Roe v. Wade and how Hollywood can help.

When Jodi Peikoff joined hundreds of other women working in law who shared their abortion stories with the U.S. Supreme Court in December, it wasn’t the first time she fought for the cause. But the amicus brief she signed, which argues against the constitutionality of Louisiana’s 2014 Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, was far more vast in scope than when she challenged a similarly restrictive Texas law in 2016. Coordinated by the firm Paul Weiss, the brief signed by 368 female legal professionals excerpts (and anonymizes) stories from women who wouldn’t have been able to realize their goals were it not for their “ability to control their reproductive lives.”

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Peikoff, a New York-based talent lawyer who represents Cynthia Erivo, Felicity Jones, Lili Reinhart, Carrie Coon, Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller and America Ferrera, among others, went further, sharing her own story without the cloak of anonymity. Says Peikoff, "It’s really important to speak openly about these issues because it destigmatizes the decision that so many women have to make."

Why did you add your name?

I had the opportunity to control my reproductive destiny, and without it, I wouldn’t be the owner of a law firm. So I felt I had to pay forward my privilege to make sure the next generation has the same right that I had.

Hollywood is a pretty liberal industry, but did you pause before publicly sharing your beliefs?

I didn’t give it a second thought. As soon as it was published, I got a call from a number of women lawyers in the industry. One called to thank me: Her father had been a gynecologist who performed abortions and her family had been terrorized by the anti-abortion right, and she was so happy that Paul Weiss and the amicus brief people had spoken up, and that she knew someone who had. So, no. And the response — to my face, anyway — was uniformly good.

Have you talked to your clients about signing the briefs?

I have mentioned it to a handful of clients, in the context of saying that we all have a platform. My platform isn’t as big as those of my clients, but I support them, speaking passionately about the things they care about. I wanted to tell them that I’m modeling that behavior, too, or following their lead for those who are out in the world having conversations that are sometimes challenging to have.

Would you feel comfortable sharing your own abortion story with THR?

I was 17 and living in Japan. I had left college and was seeing the world, and I became pregnant. I went back to the U.S. to have an abortion because in Japan a woman could only have an abortion through a lot of special waivers. It was not a hard decision, because it would have completely derailed all my professional aspirations and I would have been an unwed teenage mother without a college degree. I would have had a very difficult path to the life that I have now, and [so] it was not even a question. My family was supportive.

In your legal view, how realistic is it that Roe v. Wade would be overturned?

It already feels like [abortion access] has been changed for women who have even the obstacle of waiting a day; for someone who has a job where they can’t take off a day’s work or lose a day’s wages; for women who have to travel hours and hours, when many don’t have cars. Access for all women, regardless of income, regardless of location, to have safe abortions is already dramatically diminished and it’s horrible. It’s infuriating, and it makes me more passionate to assist in doing that work.

What can the entertainment industry do to protect abortion rights?

The more the stories that are told on TV and film destigmatize this choice and show a wider variety of responses in storylines when women have pregnancies they don’t want to carry to term, the more comfortable people will be in having these conversations and understanding why women have to have control over the choices around their reproduction.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

This story first appeared in the March 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.