The most powerful experiences I had today involved discussing the role of law and lawyers in the reproductive justice movement. I came to law school to fight for justice. When I told 2Ls, 3Ls and seasoned lawyers this, many replied that I’d soon lose my idealism. Now a year into my legal education, I see why.
Legal rights can exist in name only. Governments sometimes do a poor job of implementing a law or fail to implement a law altogether. People can lack meaningful access to a right, depending on intersections of race, class, gender, sexual identity and orientation, and ability. Additionally the make up of a law school’s student body is usually not reflective of the people the reproductive justice movement prioritizes. This means that engaging in the movement in a respectful way requires care. It’s easy to feel discouraged after encountering example after example of these obstacles in law school.
During a session today, we were told that getting or keeping a law on the books is not justice but just the beginning. Establishing a legal right to something will never be adequate to realize reproductive justice. However, the law is a required tool. We also saw examples of how lawyers, particularly those with multiple privileged identities, can engage in the movement and remain true to its focus on amplifying marginalized voices.
Addressing reproductive issues from within a system that often perpetuates reproductive oppression can be disheartening. That is why conversations the Leadership Institute fosters are crucial to encouraging idealism among law students.