Shandanette Molnar, George Washington University Law School
Before considering law school, I contemplated becoming a traditional midwife. After learning of the legal challenges that families and midwives face when attempting a more empowered birth experience, I decided that there was important legal work to be done and part of that work was my responsibility. In the meantime, I resolved to become a birth & postpartum doula and lactation educator and counselor so as to maintain my sense of self during law school.
As a maternal care, birth, and breastfeeding advocate, there are certainly times when I feel a disconnect between law school and the birth and reproductive justice movements. This is where LSRJ comes into the picture and precisely why campus-based reproductive justice work is so important. LSRJ bridges the gap between my outside and law school lives and repairs that schism I feel. With an LSRJ framework, I oftentimes engage with fellow classmates and raise awareness of reproductive justice issues. Through these conversations, our chapter highlights that reproductive justice is about much more than abortion. It is about the shackling of incarcerated pregnant women, mandatory Cesarean births, bans on vaginal births after Cesareans (VBACs), domestic violence, and access to information and quality healthcare across the full spectrum of a person’s reproductive life. When possible, I highlight the metarights because they are just so powerful – the right to have children, the right not to have children, and the right to parent the children we have with dignity.
Next week, our chapter will be co-hosting a feminist networking event for students. In an effort to give back to the law school community, I am hoping that I will be able to connect with a new chapter member or schoolmate – perhaps a 1L – and assure them that if they are interested in the work, reproductive justice and LSRJ provide many intersections to pursue meaningful work, both on and off campus.
Though I have often doubted my decision to attend law school, I feel confident in the decision I made now that I have 1L year behind me. Additionally, I think it will be easier to be a lawyer in midwifery school than it would have been to be a midwife in law school. Sure, I still desire to become midwife, but that’s how I’ll spend my fifties+ life. In the meantime, I am going to dedicate myself to combining my legal advocacy skills with a commitment to better birth, breastfeeding, and maternal care practices, as well as birth and reproductive justice. I hope a few of my amazingly talented law school comrades will join me as well.