The 411: With a presence at more than 100 law schools across the country, Law Students for Reproductive Justice is the only national group committed to mobilizing forward-thinking law students and lawyers on reproductive rights and justice issues.
While abortion may be legal and birth control may be more easily accessible than it was in the ’60s, do we really have the freedom to make the reproductive choices we want?
What about people living in counties without an abortion care provider? What about those who don’t have the best insurance?
There are numerous barriers that block people from making the reproductive decisions they think are best for them, and it’s the goal of Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) to remove those barriers.
By training law students and lawyers to advance reproductive justice through legal support and expertise, LSRJ ultimate goal is to help dismantle oppressive systems and help everyone gain equal access to quality resources.
Executive Director Sabrina Andrus was kind enough to give us insight into LSRJ’s innovative training process, the team’s plans for the future and more.
Leaders Building Leaders
LSRJ offers a variety of impressive resources for law students and lawyers to develop their skills and join in the fight to provide reproductive justice for all, but everything they do is grounded in their core values and goals
The 7 Values:
- Dignity: All people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity for their inherent worth as human beings in matters of sexuality, reproduction, birthing and parenting.
- Empowerment: Those with power and privilege must prioritize the needs, amplify the voices and support the leadership of those from vulnerable, under-served and marginalized communities.
- Diversity: Our movement will be strongest if it includes, reflects and responds to people representing various identities, communities and experiences.
- Intersectionality: Reproductive oppression is experienced at the intersection of identities, conditions, systems, policies and practices. Therefore, strategies for change must reflect this reality.
- Equality: All people are entitled to equal protection of the law, the free exercise of rights and the enjoyment of economic, political and social well being.
- Law: The law is a powerful tool for the promotion of social justice and the realization of civil and human rights.
- Autonomy: All people must have the right and ability to make voluntary, informed decisions about their bodies, sexuality and reproduction.
The 4 Goals
- Advance the understanding of reproductive justice through active communities on law school campuses to foster diverse membership and encourage multi-issue activism.
- Integrate reproductive rights law and justice (RRLJ) into legal education to further scholarly discourse and to increase learning opportunities.
- Enhance law students’ and new lawyers’ roles in the reproductive health, rights and justice (RHRJ) movements through experiences and opportunities that develop their leadership, advocacy and legal skills.
- Build a foundation of lasting support for reproductive justice within the legal community.
Keeping these values and goals in mind, LSRJ has created several successful programs, including the Reproductive Justice Fellowship Program (RJFP) in 2010.
RJFP is the only reproductive justice fellowship in the nation for recent law school graduates. They get to spend one year at a placement organization, including the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health or Advocates for Youth, engaging in federal policy work in Washington, D.C.
In 2014, LSRJ released an HIV component of the RJFP program that places participants at organizations led by women of color, such as Positive Women’s Network and SisterLove in Oakland and Atlanta.
“Our members were thrilled with this program, as they look for ways to make reproductive rights and justice lawyering their careers in a field that does not come with many job openings each year,” Andrus said. “Now the careers of seven to nine lawyers are launched each year thanks to the RJFP.”
Creating a Community of Allies
While reproductive rights might be a polarizing topic from a political and cultural standpoint, that doesn’t stop LSRJ from growing as much as they can, including introducing nearly 40 chapters in the South and red states.
People are looking for a welcoming place where they can discuss the legal system when it comes to issues like abortion and contraceptives, and LSRJ is providing places like that all over the country.
“We also receive wonderful feedback from the allied organizations and individuals that we support through legal research,” Andrus said. “Oftentimes, smaller organizations doing grassroots community organizing don’t have the capacity to take on policy issues or engage in critical legal research, and that’s where we come in. We match their needs with law students and lawyers from around the country who are eager to provide pro bono support.”
Through LSRJ’s groundbreaking work, new generations of lawyers, judges, policymakers and more are fighting for change, helping important resources become more readily available and proving laws can be made (and adjusted) in a way that has a positive impact on everyone.
“If we’re not looking to change systems of oppression (racism, sexism, trans-phobia, anti-immigrant bias), then real change will not be made,” she said. “The legal community is a powerful institution in and of itself, and we want to make sure that it is a force for good, not another way to perpetuate reproductive oppression (by, for example, prosecuting women who suffer from miscarriage for child neglect and feticide, as is the recent case with Ms. Purvi Patel in Indiana).”
With more than 10,000 alumni, LSRJ is an incredible organization taking part in a reproductive justice movement we should all join.
“Our goal over the next couple of years is to become THE organization for those in the legal community — law students, practicing lawyers, scholars — who are committed to a world where all people can access the resources they need to thrive and to decide when, whether and how to have and parent children. That is a powerful force,” Andrus said.
To learn more about Law Students for Reproductive Justice and all the amazing things they are doing, visit lsrj.org.