Mallory Carlberg, University of Oklahoma Law School
Anyone who follows reproductive justice news knows that Oklahoma is often the testing ground for new anti-abortion legislation. State legislators pass bills through the House and Senate with ease. Even when a Governor vetoes a bill, both bodies often have the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto. Since the 2010 midterm election, the situation has only worsened. Our new Governor will not veto any anti-abortion measures, and our new Attorney General endorses redefining “persons” under the Fourteenth Amendment to include fetuses. Oklahoma politicians also routinely undermine other reproductive justice concerns, such as access to comprehensive sex education, family planning services, and social programs assisting struggling families.
The University of Oklahoma (OU) law school produces an excellent class of lawyers every year, most of whom will work in Oklahoma and Texas. A sizable amount will be the next generation of legislatures and judges. In classes, constitutionally protected rights are often discussed in a vacuum as if race, class, gender, sexuality and ability do not affect a person’s experience of their rights. One major goal in starting OU Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) is to engage future Oklahoma lawmakers with reproductive rights in a deeper way. The RJ movement’s refusal to be a single-issue movement makes it ideal for building coalitions in a red state. Even if a student’s personal views are against abortion, we can often find common ground on other RJ issues like domestic violence, maternal health, and sex education.
At meetings we want to educate law students on issues they may not have considered and re-complicate the already complicated issue of abortion. This process will start with our upcoming event RJ 101. OU LSRJ members are also helping with “Take Root: Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice.” OU, RJ non-profits and RJ community groups have come together to bring a conference to OU next semester, which will focus on red-state specific issues. The conference will showcase national and local leaders and provide young, RJ activists with a space to meet and exchange ideas.
Though our state may have further to go than others to achieve RJ for all, the willingness of OU law students to discuss these issues and the support OU LSRJ has received from faculty inspires me. There is a small, but growing group of Oklahomans who are dedicated to bringing these issues to light. I am excited for OU LSRJ members to bring that conversation to the law school.