Being surrounded by a group of smart, driven, and passionate law students brought together by their common desire to advance the values of reproductive justice is like waking up on a winter morning wrapped in your down comforter—you never want to leave. This is how I felt Saturday when I joined more than 80 law students from 50 law schools around the country to kick off the second annual Law Students for Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute. Our day was filled with activities and learning opportunities that ranged from brainstorming strategies for building sustainable campus chapters to learning the basics of a successful amicus brief to strengthening our abilities to identify strategic partnerships and work in coalition. These sessions and activities were led by new and seasoned reproductive justice activists including Tina Sinha, an intern at the LSRJ national office and rising 2L at UC Berkley School of Law, Jill Morrison, Senior Counsel at the National Women’s
I felt a buoyant giddiness as I caucused with my peers about the challenges and success stories of new campus chapters—finally a group of people who understand me, who share my values and who want to support my efforts to advance reproductive justice on my campus and in my community. But as much as I would like to stay enveloped in this moment of warmth and comfort, I can’t ignore the fact that reproductive justice is anything but comfortable.
Being imprisoned and shackled during labor is not comfortable; finding a sanitary place to express breast milk between your Property and Torts classes is not comfortable; and viewing the fetus you’re about to abort on an ultrasound machine is anything but comfortable. But these are the realities we must confront, engage, and challenge as law students—and soon to be lawyers—committed to ensuring that all people and communities have access to the information, resources, and support they need to exercise their sexual and reproductive choices and rights.
More than once I felt tears welling in my eyes as speakers relayed the intersecting oppressions that prevent women and their families from making meaningful choices about whether and when to have a child and from achieving happy and healthy birth outcomes. But the tears were tempered by the knowledge that I was in a room full of people dedicated to eradicating barriers to reproductive justice. And despite the discomforts that we may encounter on our respective campuses discussing sex, sexuality, reproduction, and their attendant taboos, a successful reproductive justice movement demands that we leave the warmth and comfort of the Leadership Institute—energized and renewed from the infusion of support we have received—and return to our campuses determined to forge unlikely, and even uncomfortable, partnerships that will enable us to reach more people , engage in more effective activism, and foster stronger legal scholarship and leadership around reproductive justice.
- Lauren R.S. Mendonsa