Kiki Council grew up hearing the stories of her paternal grandfather who was a paralegal with the Air Force JAG. He told her about going to court and being confused for “counsel” because his name was “Council.” Kiki was also an argumentative and talkative child, and as time went on, she landed on becoming an attorney. Along the way, Kiki’s upbringing had a tremendous influence on her journey to becoming a reproductive rights lawyer.
Kiki is Black on her father’s side and Greek on her mother’s side. Both sides of her family emphasized education, especially because neither side had the same opportunities. Kiki’s maternal grandparents grew up in WWII Greece, and her grandfather used to say that they can take everything from you, but they can’t take your education. As a result of the family’s dedication to education, almost all of Kiki’s siblings and cousins have graduated from college, the first generation on both sides to do so.
In addition to education, another value instilled in Kiki was being able to make your own choices and bodily autonomy. Because of this, reproductive justice work has always been a passion for her. In college at the University of Chicago, she volunteered at abortion clinics as an escort for women entering the clinics to receive services, helping the women through anti-abortion protestors. When Kiki became a licensed attorney, she started doing judicial bypass cases, assisting minors who would need their parents’ permission to obtain an abortion to bypass this requirement with a judge’s approval. Early this year, a friend from college reached out to Kiki to let her know that The Forefront Project was looking for a staff attorney. The Forefront Project (www.forefrontproject.org) launched in June 2020 and focuses primarily on providing pro bono legal services to nonprofit organizations engaged in advocacy for reproductive rights. They are 100 percent remote, with their executive director in the Bay Area and clients all over the country.
Many do not realize that nonprofits can lobby within certain limits, and The Forefront Project assists their clients with federal and state law compliance, organizing campaigns, and messaging. They are currently anticipating the need to oppose copycat bills from Texas Senate Bill 8. They also focus on proactive bills and ballot initiatives. The Forefront Project also offers trainings for their clients, such as a recent one on coalition building between 501(c)(3)s and 501(c)(4)s. They also help with corporate matters such as filings with the secretary of state.
A typical workday for Kiki involves responding to a variety of emails from clients. Her position also involves administrative work due to the volume of new clients The Forefront Project is onboarding now that their capacity has doubled. Kiki describes it as “choose your own adventure.” She says one of the perks is not having to bill. “It’s really fun never sending a client a bill.” However, the work can be emotional and frustrating given the subject matter and current political climate surrounding reproductive rights, health, and justice.
What Kiki finds most fulfilling about her work is knowing that she is using her law degree to further what she considers to be basic human rights. She enjoys the relief that small nonprofits feel when they are able to get the legal assistance they need. For Kiki, it’s upsetting to know that these organizations — which are largely led and organized by women of color — have to pay thousands of dollars to get advice from outside counsel. She feels she is helping people who need it the most. “The Right is so good at organizing, and we want to get to a place where pro choice is doing this as well without breaking bank.”
On the flip side, Kiki finds the tax code to be the most challenging aspect of her work. There are layers of law, with federal tax and election laws and state and local election and lobbying laws. Helping clients when they have a national reach can be difficult. Wading through the numerous state laws is challenging, as is making it accessible to non lawyers.
Kiki draws inspiration from the minor judicial bypass clients she continues to serve on a pro bono basis. She describes them as extremely strong and courageous young people making important decisions. “They are strong and resilient and courageous to know what is right for them.” This gives her hope for the future and is what keeps her going. She looks forward to helping them and knowing that this can impact their future trajectory.
For Kiki, reproductive justice is racial justice. “I love a protest. I love direct action.” Last year, Kiki won the Attorney of the Year award from the Colorado LGBT Bar Association for her work for Black Lives Matter. Kiki notes that historically, protests have been important and great strides have come from protests. “We live in a democracy — the point is to complain about the government, so we should do it. They can’t silence us in the ultimate way like they can in so many other countries.” During the summer of 2020, Kiki spent hours protesting, advocating for the police bill (SB 20-217), and getting the Attorney General to investigate Aurora, where she was born and raised. She devoted herself to speaking at protests and testifying at the Colorado General Assembly on behalf of the Sam Cary Bar Association.
Kiki invites new attorneys who are interested in advocating for reproductive rights to reach out to her. “There is a fantastic network of attorneys. It’s a matter of knowing people.” Kiki notes that if COVID-19 hadn’t happened, her remote job wouldn’t have been possible, so don’t convince yourself you’ll have to move. Cobalt, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), Elephant Circle, Colorado Doula Project, and others are organizations that need donations, volunteers, and lawyers on their boards.
Kiki, who identifies as queer, first became involved with the CWBA through the Colorado LGBT Bar Association, where she has been on the board since 2018. She and Ann Stanton, the current president, agreed that there was not a lot of diversity in their bar, and they wanted to get more involvement from women and people of color. Kiki is the Colorado LGBT Bar Association diversity chair, so when the CWBA had an open liaison position for the Colorado LGBT Bar Association, it was a perfect fit.
Kiki was instrumental in drafting the CWBA’s statement Regarding the Protection of Reproductive Rights and Texas Senate Bill 8. The CWBA established a subcommittee to be active in issuing policy statements and has issued statements about various social issues, such as the outcome of the Chauvin trial and the shooting of Asian women in Atlanta. Reproductive rights was selected for a CWBA policy statement because the decision whether to have a child is one of the most pivotal decisions a woman attorney can make during the course of her legal career. When asked to lead the effort on the latest statement, Kiki was “happy to do it.” As soon as the bill was introduced in March, and signed into law in July, she “panicked on multiple levels.” Senate Bill 8 went into effect on September 1, but the United States Supreme Court failed to enjoin the law. State law actions have more successfully enjoined the bill, but this was difficult because of the private right of action — the injunctions only protect the specific organizations that have sought protection.
Kiki notes that the law will have a huge impact on Colorado because we are a safe-haven state. Because Colorado doesn’t have a gestational age limit for abortions, people already travel here for abortion care. As a result of Senate Bill 8, reproductive justice organizations have reported that people have already begun traveling from Texas to Colorado to seek abortions. While reproductive rights are not currently in serious jeopardy in Colorado (“previous ballot measures have gone down in spectacular fashion”), abortion bans still affect Coloradans because people start to flood into the state seeking abortion care, which takes resources away from Coloradans. Kiki is extremely concerned about Roe v. Wade being overturned. “If so, what does this look like in Colorado?” Of particular concern for Kiki is that Colorado law currently does not state the affirmative right to abortion or reproductive health care like other states, such as California, do.
It has not always been easy for Kiki navigating her work on such a controversial issue. She was harassed while being an abortion clinic escort and notes that the other side uses “wild intimidation tactics,”such as taking photos of clinic escorts and posting them online in order to harass, intimate, and discourage volunteers. She always wants to be aware of what the other side is doing. “It informs what you do because it shows what they’re doing. Know their argument so you can flip it and have calm and intelligent conversations.”While she is a self-described “radical” in her view and doesn’t think there should be any restrictions on reproductive rights, she recognizes that it is a very personal issue and sees the need to give and take. Kiki also knows not to take the opposition personally. People who are anti-choice don’t hate her, but what she is advocating. They have a passion similar to hers.
Kiki recently joined the board of Cobalt (not to be confused with the leadership training program, COBALT), an organization that advocates for reproductive rights. She introduced CWBA public policy cochairs Alison Connaughty and Laura Wolf to Dani Newsom of Cobalt, and they have been coordinating ways they can protect, advocate for, and educate attorneys about reproductive rights. “Stay tuned. There will be a lot to do when session opens!” A number of anti-choice bills, such as heartbeat or gestational age restrictions, are likely to be introduced. The CWBA will need members to argue against those bills and participate in proactive efforts. They have also been discussing having a CLE on reproductive rights.
Outside the law, Kiki is a “huge, huge reality T.V. buff.” She is obsessed with the Real Housewives series. She and her husband are also movie buffs (especially horror) and have an Alamo Drafthouse movie pass. Kiki’s husband is a musician on the side, and they love going to see live music and traveling to music festivals. They were finally able to attend their first festival since the pandemic in September. She also enjoys making playlists and riding her Peloton.
Kate Noble is a CWBA Publications Committee member and a legal editor with Colorado Bar Association CLE, the nonprofit educational arm of the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations.