Five years ago, Pennsylvania was on the brink of closing down almost all of its freestanding abortion providers. An extraordinarily generous response to an emergency fundraising appeal allowed the Women’s Law Project to hire an experienced attorney to help research and draft the mountains of legal filings and regulatory paperwork we would need to submit to keep the independent providers’ doors open. That is how Tara Pfeifer came to work as a staff attorney at the Women’s Law Project’s western Pennsylvania office in Pittsburgh.
Tara is a former college rugby player who, when confronted with injustice, would often remark cheerfully, “I feel like tackling someone.” Among the many clients Tara represented during her tenure at the Law Project were a woman who gave birth while shackled in a prison van; a woman who discovered she was being paid a fraction of what her male coworker was earning; a new mother harassed for pumping at work; a young survivor of high school sexual assault; a lesbian couple seeking the first-ever same-sex adoption in a rural Pennsylvania county; a woman who was kicked out of her social club for complaining about rampant sexual harassment; and an LGBT student group fighting for better treatment of transgender students. Tara testified in support of Pittsburgh’s paid sick leave and at public hearings in the Pennsylvania legislature for statewide employment protection for workers with family responsibilities. She crunched the raw data on reams of excel spreadsheets that revealed thousands of missing athletic opportunities for female high school students in Pennsylvania. She represented the Law Project on the board of the Girls’ Coalition. She coauthored a U.S. Supreme Court brief in the most important abortion rights case in almost a quarter century.
We took more road trips to Harrisburg than I can count. It became something of a joke that you couldn’t go anywhere with Tara without some old friend or colleague or law school buddy of hers rushing up to hug her and demand to see a family photo. Tara seemed to know everyone in Pittsburgh, most people in Harrisburg, and a fair sampling of people in Philadelphia.
Tara is leaving the Law Project for a litigation position at Duquesne Light. She is leaving behind a record of successful litigation and advocacy that strengthened women’s legal status and alleviated a lot of suffering. I will take a lesson from her—she never complained—ever—no matter if she had just come off a series of sleepless nights and was facing unreasonable deadlines and an unreasonable workload and unreasonable odds of success—and I won’t complain either. I’ll just say how grateful I am to have had the gift of five years of working with one of the finest lawyers and finest people I’ve ever known.
-Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at the Women’s Law Project