For immediate release

Thompson will start in January and currently serves as a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of New Jersey

NEW YORK — Today, Pregnancy Justice announced that Karen Thompson will join the organization as legal director to expand capacity and meet the demands of the moment in the face of a post-Roe world that increasingly threatens the rights and dignity of anyone with the capacity for pregnancy.

Karen Thompson
(Photo: ACLU-NJ/Erica Moffitt)

Thompson brings more than 20 years of legal experience to the role, most recently as senior staff attorney at the ACLU of New Jersey, where her impact litigation work focuses on criminal justice reform, police misconduct and accountability, and racial inequity. Before joining the ACLU-NJ, she served as a senior staff attorney for almost seven years at the Innocence Project, where she attained exonerations for wrongfully convicted people in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia; litigated a diverse docket of more than 25 post-conviction DNA testing cases nationwide; and argued for and won the release of clients using innovative constitutional rights theories.

“I am thrilled to join Pregnancy Justice in the deep work of defending the civil and human rights of women and all people who can become pregnant, particularly those most targeted by the criminal legal system,” said Thompson. “As Audre Lorde said, ‘There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we don’t lead single-issue lives.’ Pregnancy Justice’s work intentionally sits at the center of the fight for economic, racial, and gender justice, and I look forward to bringing all of my professional experience to bear in this work.”

Thompson has also partnered with Pregnancy Justice on two recent cases: one opposing an order to show cause that would have allowed an ex-husband to limit a pregnant woman’s fundamental right to travel and to privacy and an amicus brief filed before the New Jersey Supreme Court.

“Knowing Karen’s track record and commitment to our mission, I’m thrilled to have her step into this role at such an important time,” said Pregnancy Justice President Lourdes A. Rivera. “Together, with Deputy Executive Director Dana Sussman, I look forward to crafting a robust and creative legal strategy that helps us fight for the rights, dignity, and full personhood of all pregnant people because pregnancy status should not justify intrusive state involvement or make one more vulnerable to criminalization. We know that punitive approaches in the name of ‘fetal personhood’ work only to degrade a pregnant person’s fundamental rights and make health outcomes worse for all.”

Thompson, who will join Pregnancy Justice in January, will continue to grow the legal team with attorneys and staff whose experience spans reproductive rights and justice and civil or criminal defense work, as well as provide strategic legal leadership to the organization.

“I’ve had the great privilege of working with Karen across multiple organizations and have witnessed her intellect, care, and empathy in action,” said Amol Sinha, executive director of the ACLU-NJ. “She is a brilliant lawyer who weaves compassion and humanity into her work to pursue justice. Karen will continue to have a tremendous impact on the people she works with and on behalf of, and I look forward to seeing her achievements at Pregnancy Justice. She is the right leader at the right time to meet this critical moment.”

“Karen is a tireless advocate for justice whose impact extends beyond her work to change the system, empowering each of us to do the same,” said Tricia Rojo Bushnell, executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project. “She is the rare combination – a creative litigator, brilliant policy advocate, and fierce champion with the ability to genuinely and fully see the people behind the pleadings and the legislation she develops.”

“It is impossible to imagine a better choice to lead Pregnancy Justice’s legal team than Karen Thompson,” said Alexis Karteron, an New York University professor of clinical law who directs the Civil Rights in the Criminal Legal System Clinic. “In her distinguished career, Karen has done incredible work in a range of areas. Importantly, she approaches her work with deep empathy for her clients, recognizing their intersectional identities and seeking legal redress that meets their needs.”

She started her career as an associate at the firms of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP and Morrison & Foerster LLP and, among other experiences, held a director role at the Legal Defense Fund.

Thompson holds a J.D. from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, Master of Arts from the New York University Department of Performance Studies, and Bachelor of Arts in English and African American Studies from Carleton College.

Pregnancy Justice works to ensure that no one loses their rights because of their capacity for pregnancy or pregnancy outcome, focusing on people who are most at risk of state control and criminalization: those who are low-income, of color, or use drugs.