Whew. School has officially started, and I mean started. There’s no time to get acclimated to the crazy pace again as a 2L…one day you’re on vacation, and the next you have 40 pages of reading due yesterday. And it’s hard, after a summer spent digging deep into substantive law on the issues that interest you, to go back to the casebooks and professors who get their kicks by hiding the ball from bored law students. I want to be doing the real work already/again. Fortunately, as a student leader, the work is there to be done!
Before I go any further, I’d like to share some news: I, Erin Simonitch, will be your new resident student blogger. Yes, summer’s over and I’m still around–there’s no getting rid of me! Actually, the fabulous Julie is off to save the world and has graciously passed the Repo Repro torch to me. I am honored and thrilled to contribute to the web presence of an organization to which I’m so strongly committed and I hope I can live up to Julie’s legacy of smart, timely commentary on reproductive justice issues.
On to the really exciting stuff, right? Prior to school hitting me with the force of a speeding steam roller, I was fortunate enough to attend the LSRJ Leadership Institute in Atlanta. What an inspiration it was to spend time with my fellow LSRJ leaders from law schools across the country! If anything gives me hope for the future, for a progressive nation in which people’s reproductive health, lives, and choices are valued, raised up, and tirelessly defended, it is the positive energy for the movement and sense of shared community I felt among these dynamic women and men. A heady brew, and I drank of it deeply.
I talked to quite a few folks at the Institute who were starting up chapters from scratch, many of them in staunchly conservative areas. Their determination and boldness impressed me–I’ve got it easy in a social justice-focused, ultra-progressive law school. They are heroic. But the beauty of LSRJ is that it is a truly non-partisan organization that has the capacity to reach past the false political boundaries of the “pro-life v. pro-choice” debate.
In fact, one of the things that struck me in my conversations throughout the weekend of the Leadership Institute was that while we all shared a mission, our perspectives, our backgrounds, and our personal entry points into the work varied widely. Although the workshops and presenters were all fascinating and extremely useful to a baby organizer like myself, my favorite episode of the weekend occurred after hours in the hotel bar. While many Institute attendees were drifting off to bed, a few of us remained awake, absorbed in an intense and passionate discussion of parental rights, education, and home birthing.
The viewpoints expressed varied as we debated whether science education should be mandatory for all children, and how that might conflict with the right to parent as we choose and with minority groups’ interests in preserving culture against assimilating pressures. This topic dovetailed with that of choosing midwives or home birth over hospital births and the potential liability for mothers making decisions that garner disapproval from a majority in our society. Despite some strong differences of opinion, everyone stayed respectful and listened to one another–and in my case at least, learned a great deal and had my eyes opened further to the issues facing mothers. The parental rights activist among us had actually moved to another state to have her child in the way she chose, without interference from industrialized medicine. It was this freedom that took precedence for her and motivated her commitment to reproductive justice, reminding me once again how important LSRJ’s expansive perspective is in energizing our movement. Lisa is one of the activists starting up a new chapter in the South, and I think that she and her fellow leaders–who represent a range of RJ perspectives–are going to accomplish great things.
Today, facilitating my first general meeting and sharing my understanding of the reproductive justice framework with incoming 1Ls, I remembered that conversation along with many others from the Institute and my summer at the National Office. Once again, I felt the fire of inspiration spark back at me from my peers as we talked about registering voters, volunteering as clinic escorts, protecting access to contraception, and raising money for safe birthing kits to go to refugee women. As the meeting wound down, one of the new members spoke up. “I think everyone at King Hall should be in this room right now,” she said, and (naturally!) I couldn’t agree more. In a community devoted to justice, everyone should be at the RJ table.
Right now, I’m just praying that as a student leader, I can fuel the fire I felt in that room today and pass on the energy, knowledge, and perspective I gained at the Leadership Institute two weeks ago. But I know that I have a fantastic board and some great future leaders in the Class of 2011; I’m not bearing the torch alone. And I think, in fact I’ve got this deep down feeling, that it’s going to be an amazing year for LSRJ–not just within my own chapter, but across the country.
Because I’ve met our movement, and we kick some major booty, y’all.