After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in June, white-shoe law firm Hogan Lovells held an all-female online conference call to discuss what employees were feeling in the aftermath. When Robin Keller, a retired equity partner who boasted a 44-year career and was still actively serving clients, failed to express sufficient outrage at the decision and dared to opine that the case was correctly decided, her colleagues were immediately triggered, one of them filed a formal complaint, and just like that–Keller was canceled.
She wrote about her experience in the Wall Street Journal this week:
In her powerful piece, she described the events leading up to her termination:
I was invited to participate in what was billed as a “safe space” for women at the firm to discuss the [Dobbs] decision [overturning Roe v Wade]. It might have been a safe space for some, but it wasn’t safe for me.
Everyone else who spoke on the call was unanimous in her anger and outrage about Dobbs. I spoke up to offer a different view. I noted that many jurists and commentators believed Roe had been wrongly decided.
As we’ve reported before, this is not a particularly controversial opinion. Many legal scholars, including the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, had serious issues with the legalities underpinning Roe, and many predicted its eventual overturn.
I said that the court was right to remand the issue to the states. I added that I thought abortion-rights advocates had brought much of the pushback against Roe on themselves by pushing for extreme policies. I referred to numerous reports of disproportionately high rates of abortion in the black community, which some have called a form of genocide. I said I thought this was tragic.
You said what?! You can’t say those things in today’s America, Robin!
Stating a fact is racist and anti-Black, evidently. Sure enough, Keller was quickly kicked to the curb:
Later that day, Hogan Lovells suspended my contracts, cut off my contact with clients, removed me from email and document systems, and emailed all U.S. personnel saying that a forum participant had made “anti-Black comments” and was suspended pending an investigation.
One colleague called her a racist, while another said she lost “lost their ability to breathe.” (Might want to see a doctor, FYI.) The problem with these charges, however, is that Keller simply spoke the truth: black women have the highest abortion rate in the country at 40 percent, and more than 20 million have chosen to abort their babies since Roe. This is not in dispute, yet the fact that some people don’t like that reality is enough to get you fired.
In her close, Keller notes a phenomenon that so many doctors have experienced during the COVID pandemic: many of their colleagues agree with their conclusions but can’t say anything for fear of retribution.
Several women on the call–as well as male lawyers at the firm–contacted me later to offer private support for my right to express my views. Those former colleagues must now realize that they are in a hostile work environment. If this could happen to me, anyone who expresses a disfavored opinion–even on a matter of law–can expect the same treatment: immediate cancellation without concern for client interests, due process or fairness.
I discussed the issue with Scott Cousins, a bankruptcy lawyer who I interviewed last spring for a (fascinating, if I may say so) story regarding Native American mascots. He’s known Keller since his law school days, and credits her for inspiring his career choice; he also says, “I know the quality of her character and I know that she is not a ‘racist.'”
He also acknowledges the fear out there:
Interestingly enough, I’m getting emails from others (both inside the legal community and outside) from those who are afraid to speak out publicly in support of Robin for fear of being called a “racist” and being “canceled.”
Yes, that’s the world we live in these days, folks.
The reaction of course has been mixed, with those critical of “cancel culture” coming to Keller’s defense and those infuriated that she would dare question that sacred cow of the progressives–abortion–claiming that she’s a whiner. One letter to the editor at the WSJ reads [emphasis mine.]:
Although I sympathize with Ms. Keller, her former firm’s stated goal of creating a “safe space” should have been a flashing red light. “Safe space” means that certain opinions aren’t allowed and that those expressing them would do so at their peril. Ms. Keller may have placed faith that her employer, as a law firm, would support the right of employees to state their own views. Alas, law firms, particularly large ones like Hogan Lovells, are no less susceptible to corporate groupthink than any other employer.
If Ms. Keller wished to retain her position at Hogan, she should have skipped the “safe space” meeting and stayed in her office grinding out billable hours.
An alternative view is expressed at the website Above the Law, where an outraged progressive doesn’t bother to argue the facts about black abortion rates or the legal foundations of Dobbs; she just tears down Keller for daring to mention them:
…Keller would rather gin up the disingenuous rallying cry of twisted First Amendment talking points than take any personal responsibility for what she said…
If anyone came into a big meeting a [sic] spouted harmful rhetoric that academics say is “full of misogynoir” there’d be no argument in defense of what she’d done. But because the Court gave space to half truths and a twisted version of history to undo 50 years of reproductive freedom, it gifted cover to racists and sexists to say the quiet part out loud.
Sorry, Above the Law, you lost me at “misogynoir.” (It refers to the special sexism that gets extra points when directed at a black woman. Or something.) This Twitter user vehemently disagreed with the article:
The author also says Keller does not get to “eschew responsibility for imposing her problematic views on her colleagues.” Missing from her unhinged rant is that Keller wasn’t imposing her views on her colleagues, she was specifically asked for them, and that was the whole purpose of the conference call. The problem for this journalist is that Keller’s views are different from hers–which simply can’t be allowed.
There are many who argue that “cancel culture” is a right-wing myth, and that it doesn’t exist. Add this story to the many, many examples proving that it’s alive and well in America. Good for Keller for refusing to stay silent. In a sign of the madness that defines modern progressives, this Harvard-educated female former partner’s LinkedIn profile now says #OpenToWork at an age when she could be mentoring young lawyers on the importance of our adversarial system–which requires all sides be heard.
Robin Keller’s LinkedIn profile picture. (Credit: Robin Keller/LinkedIn)
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