View LSRJ Chapters -> Harvard Law Students for Reproductive Justice
HLS for Reproductive Justice is the Harvard branch of a nationwide organization, Law Students for Reproductive Justice, that focuses on the promotion of reproductive justice as a central civil and human right.
The mission of HLSRJ is to advocate for the promotion of reproductive rights and to educate Harvard students about reproductive justice issues facing women across different spheres – domestic and international, from different ethnic and cultural communities, and from varying economic backgrounds.
If you have any questions about HSLRJ, feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Again, welcome to Harvard, and we look forward to meeting you!
Kandis Wood, President, HLS for Reproductive Justice
2012-2013 Board Application Instructions:
HLSRJ is now accepting statements of interest for positions on the HLSRJ Executive Board for the 2012-2013 academic year! For more information about the application process, please see this document: File:BoardPositionsApplication201213.pdf. As you will see, you do not have to be a part of the current Board to be a part of next year’s. Please just email your statement of interest to Kandis and Laura by 8pm on Friday, April 13th.
Reflecting on the past year and looking forward —By Joanne Caceres
What a year it’s been. In the fall our LSRJ was thinking about what most campus organizations struggle with: how do we recruit, train and retain students to our cause? Partially inspired by the 1in3 Campaign, we started the year with a Speak Out Week, where we encouraged the men and women of Harvard Law School and the Boston Area to share their reproductive health stories. In addition, we hosted events that focused on a specific community and their stake in the pro-choice movement. One such event was “Bro-Choice,” which was geared towards the men at Harvard.
Bro-Choice was a huge success and affirmed our belief that men can play a role in the reproductive justice movement, and it is something our organization will continue to expand upon in the future.
Equally exciting this year was Obama’s announcement whereby religious exemptions for insurance mandates requiring access to $0 co-pay contraceptives would only apply narrowly. The following conservative backlash brought women’s health to the forefront of the national conversation. LSRJ’s very own Sandra Fluke, from Georgetown, testified to the nation on the importance of contraceptive coverage.
Our annual Sex Week took place shortly after Fluke’s testimony, amid the controversy firestorm (thanks to a radio personality who will not be named). Our events included academic legal topics related to sex, including Affirmative Consent and the Law with Judge Nancy Gertner, and more lighthearted and social events, including our annual Sex Trivia event. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our most controversial event of the week was a sexual pleasure workshop entitled “Sex Positivity and SlutPride: Sex Tips for a Modern World from Good Vibrations”. The event drew the ire of people for many reasons, but most notably for the use of the word “slut.” Although much of the criticism that surfaced was of a “gotcha” variety, arguing that women’s groups can’t have it “both ways” with the use of the word—it was valuable in that it encouraged an open discussion of feminist arguments both for and against reclaiming a word that has historically been used to dehumanize and degrade women (you can see HLSRJ’s formal press release here).
As we prepare for the rest of the year, I wonder what opportunities and challenges lay ahead. How much of this year’s general election will become about women’s health issues? How can we educate more men and women around this issue? We may not have all the answers now, but HLSRJ will be here, keeping the conversation going.
HLSRJ Statement Regarding our Event “Sex Positivity and Slut-Pride:”
March 26, 2012
Harvard Law Students For Reproductive Justice (a/k/a “HLSRJ”)
“A man called me the slut from East Toledo. [and], I thought …
I’m putting it on my tombstone – here lies a slut from East Toledo.
You can take the sting out of the words.” – Gloria Steinem
We are all Sandra Fluke. We are all women who have been called names by people like Rush Limbaugh – names that have been intended to pass judgment on our life choices, sexual decisions, appearance, and reproductive health.
We do not speak for all feminists or women’s rights supporters. However, in our opinion, Sandra Fluke was called a slut because Rush Limbaugh decided that she was having sex. If the definition of the word “slut” is “a woman who has sex,” then a very large percentage of women could be called this word.
Some women feel that the word “slut” should be taken back by females, and not used as an insult, but rather redefined to mean a woman who is in charge of her sexual and reproductive decisions.
Other women believe that even used in a positive light, the word “slut” hurts women and should be erased from our vocabulary.
All of these opinions are valid and appropriate and further the cause of establishing that people like Rush Limbaugh who use the word in a negative light should be held accountable for a judgment that is not theirs to make.
No matter what a person’s belief regarding the term “slut” and how it should be used or not used by women, one issue is certain – as women, we need to combat the ugly stereotypes that women face regarding their sexual and reproductive choices.
Moreover, as an organization focused on reproductive justice, we believe that all women have the right to the best reproductive health option available to them, and every woman should be able to make her own decisions about her sexuality and her reproductive health.
Whether or not a woman chooses to have sex, she should be able to access reproductive health services unconditionally, without her choices being called into question.
Our feeling is, how dare a man like Rush Limbaugh be able to label a contentious, politically-active, modern woman like Sandra Fluke with a term that he believed, based on his extensive surrounding commentary, to be derogatory?
If we can use the word “slut” in a way that, as Gloria Steinem said, “take[s] the sting out,” and creates a space where some women feel more able to make their own choices about sexual and reproductive preferences, then we feel it is an appropriate use of the word, especially in the context of a sex-positive event.
Consensual sex is not something to be ashamed or embarrassed about – I would venture to guess that many people who are commenting on the inappropriateness of this event at a law school have also had sex or sexual experiences. And those who have never had a sexual experience should not be allowed to pass judgment on those who have.
Law school is part of the real world – it is not an insular place where people live in libraries and only talk about the Supreme Court. We are people who are going to take our places in the larger world at the end of our time here, and as such we, just like everyone else, should be constantly furthering our knowledge and understanding of the world we live in.
The word “slut” has been used in the recent news as an insult against a partner of ours, Sandra Fluke, who is also a member of LSRJ, which is the national Law Students’ organization for Reproductive Justice.
Amidst all of the negative attention that Mr. Limbaugh focused on the sexual choices of people other than himself, the word has sparked a national dialogue among American women who feel that they should be allowed to make their own reproductive health choices.
If our decision to represent the term in a positive light for students who would like to discuss the implications of the word in a larger reproductive health context offends some women, we are truly sorry, and we recognize and respect the choice of those women to determine that the word should never be used at all, even in a positive way.
What we do not allow is for people to form a negatively reductionist opinion of our event and our organization based on the word “slut.” Women’s feelings regarding that word cannot be reduced to a sound bite or a bumper sticker. This is a discussion that women from all over the country want to engage in – and we sincerely hope that anyone choosing to cover this event will give it the positive attention that it deserves.
We want reproductive justice for all women – and we believe that this event, like many we hold every year at Harvard Law School, including during our annual Sex Week, furthers that cause.
Monday, March 26, 12-1 pm, West Milstein A:
Sex-Positivity and Slut-Pride: Sex Tips for a Modern World from Good Vibrations: Join HLSRJ and Good Vibrations for a short discussion of sex-positivity, a demo of lube and some popular sex toys, then Q&A;. Free Pizza!
Tuesday, March 27, 6-8 pm, Griswold 110:
Affirmative Consent and the Law: Judge Nancy Gertner will discuss affirmative consent and criminal law in the US – how the concept does or doesn’t fit into the criminal law today, and where we could go from here. Cohosted by the Women’s Law Association and Journal of Law and Gender. Non-pizza dinner provided.
Thursday, March 29, 12-1 pm, Griswold 110:
Professor Diane Rosenfeld will discuss sexual assault and the promise of female solidarity in healing and fighting back. Brown-bag lunch.
Thursday, March 29,8-10 pm, Hong Kong:
Sex Trivia! Join HLSRJ for drinks and sex-themed trivia leading into Bar Review. Fun prizes and drink tickets!
Stop by our table everyday from 12-1 pm to learn more about sexual health, sexual and reproductive justice, HLSRJ, and check out our tumblr at hlssexweek.tumblr.com!
Check out Harvard College’s sex week activities at /hsexweek.org/
Priscilla Smith lunch conversation: Abortion and the Constitution. March 5, 12-1pm. Lewis 302
Priscilla (Cilla) Smith is a Senior Fellow at the Information Society Project at the Yale Law School. Prior to joining the ISP, Smith was an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights for 13 years, serving as the U.S. Legal Program Director from 2003-2007, and litigated cases nationwide, including Gonzales v. Carhart, 127 S. Ct. 1610 (2007), and Ferguson v. City of Charleston, 532 U.S. 67 (2001). She conducts research and writes on privacy, reproductive rights and justice, and the information society. She has written several papers, including Is the Glass Half Full?: Gonzales v. Carhart and the Future of Abortion Jurisprudence, 2 Harv. L. and Pol’y Rev. Online (spring 2008). She will join us for an informal lunch discussion on Abortion Jurisprudence after Gonzalez v. Carhart. Lunch will be provided!
SEX WEEK, March 25-31, 2012
HLSRJ is partnering with Harvard’s Sexual Health Education & Advocacy throughout Harvard College (SHEATH) in organizing Sex Week. Sex Week at Harvard intends to promote a week of programming that is interdisciplinary, thought-provoking, scholastic, innovative, and applicable to student experiences in order to promote a holistic understanding of sex and sexuality. Our goal is to connect diverse individuals and communities both within and beyond Harvard through common human experiences with love, sex, sexuality, and relationships. Sex Week 2012 will be held the last week of March, March 26-31. All of the events will be designed to be welcoming to anyone, regardless of their personal identities, practices, and preferences. More info: http://www.hsexweek.com/
Did you attend Fed Soc’s Embryonic Ethics and the Law event? Featuring Professor Chris Tollefsen from the University of South Carolina and Professor Glenn Cohen from HLS, the event debated the ethics and (de)merits of stem cell research and other uses of embryos for scientific research. Operating under the premise that embryos are persons, the destruction of which is immoral, Professor Tollefsen argued that science can be, and often is, divorced from morality. And that when this happens, it is the state’s responsibility to intervene to stop such scientific research. Professor Cohen pushed back on the notion of embryonic personhood. He argued that our country is built on the notion of maximum possible liberty subject to the “harm principle,” or the notion that a person has the inviolable right not to be harmed without a good justifying reason. But for Cohen, embryos, especially at days 4, 5, and 6 — the time during which stem cell research is performed — are not persons. Scientifically, the cells of the zygote do not function as part of the embryo proper and twinning may still happen until the 14-day mark. The zygote at this stage can become a lot of things, from being absorbed into the placenta to two separate embryos if twinning occurs. Thus, the cells at this stage do not have unique personhood, and so cannot be persons subject to harm.
Bro-Choice, 2.0: Violence Against Women & Reproductive Justice. March 1, 12-1pm, WA 3018
Come join the conversation alongside your fellow HLS bros as we discuss what it means to be a pro-woman man! We’ll be talking about ways in which men can contribute positively to the discourse surrounding gender-motivated violence, reproductive freedom, and sex equality. We will also be eating a non-pizza lunch. Don’t miss your chance to take part in this critical discussion! Sponsored by HLSRJ, Bro.
REPEAL HYDE ART DAY OF ACTION, Feb. 10, 2012
This February, President Barack Obama will submit a proposed budget request to Congress that has historically contained the Hyde Amendment, severely limiting abortion access for low-income people. The Repeal Hyde Art Project Day of Action is a national movement to tell our governing officials that we have had enough. All people deserve autonomy over their reproductive lives and the ability to make decisions concerning their futures with dignity. As the Hyde Amendment turns 35, it is important for our voices to be heard now more than ever. Student groups and community organizations across the country are mobilizing to organize their own Repeal Hyde Art Installations with the goal of spreading a positive, impactful message to their communities that the status quo is unacceptable.
SPEAK OUT ABOUT ABORTION WEEK, Nov. 14th-18th, 2011
Speak Out about Abortion Week will encourage the HLS student body to engage in honest exchanges about reproductive health, will provide a forum through which students can listen to and share personal stories about reproductive choices, and will explore the ways in which access to abortion and other reproductive services intersect with larger social movements. We are particularly interested in hearing from voices that have historically been underrepresented and marginalized in the debate, such as minorities, men, and people with specific religious beliefs.
Featuring:“Bro-Choice”—an informal lunch discussion by and for any men who are interested the pro choice movement. Monday, Nov. 14, 12-1pm, Lewis 102. (Lunch)
Women of Color & the Pro-Choice Movement —a panel discussion with reproductive justice leaders about the role of women of color in the movement. Tuesday, Nov. 15, 6-8pm, Austin North. (Non-pizza dinner).
Sharing Abortion Stories—a lunch discussion with Julia Reticker-Flynn from Advocates for Youth. Wednesday, Nov. 16th, 12-1pm, Pound 202. (Lunch)
Screening of HBO’s documentary 12th & Delaware. Weds, Nov. 16th, 6-8pm, Malkin Penthouse, HKS. (Non-pizza dinner).
Religious & Pro-Choice Panel—a panel discussion with spiritual leaders from diverse religious backgrounds. Thursday, Nov. 17, 12-1pm, Ropes Gray. (Lunch).
All week: HLSRJ members will be tabling in the Hark and posting anonymous reproductive health stories around campus for students to read. Share your own story.
How did the abortion debate become so polarized? What’s the history behind Roe v. Wade? What beliefs motivate different perspectives on abortion?
Come to the Reproductive Justice Reading Group and find out!
Date & time TBD
Articles of Faith: A Frontline History of the Abortion Wars
By Cynthia Gorney
with Faculty Guest Mindy Roseman
(Come if you’ve read it, come if you haven’t!)
Please email email@example.com to RSVP!
Co-sponsored by HLS for Reproductive Justice and WLA
All perspectives, beliefs, and ideologies encouraged to attend!
Reproductive Freedom Under Attack: A Discussion of Recent Abortion Laws with the ACLU’s Brigitte Amiri Tuesday, Oct. 18th, 6-7pm Langdell 225, Non-Pizza dinner!
Come hear the ACLU’s Brigitte Amiri discuss recent state legislative efforts to restrict women’s reproductive freedoms. Her discussion will include the controversial South Dakota abortion bill, and a summary of the ways in which ACLU lawyers are challenging such legislation. Brought to you by the Harvard Law Students for Reproductive Justice and the HLS-ACLU.
Reproductive Justice in the News:
House Passes the “Let Women Die Bill,” by Kate Aizpuru
Today was a sad day for American women. The House of Representatives passed HR 358, the poorly named “Protect Life Act” (more aptly nicknamed the “Let Women Die” bill), by a vote of 251-172. The bill contains a provision that would make it legal for a hospital or health care provider to deny an abortion to a woman with a life-threatening condition.
Under the Act, Federal agencies and programs, and State and local governments, may not “subject” any institutional or individual health care entity that receives federal subsidies to “discrimination” if it refuses to “perform, participate in, provide coverage of, or pay for induced abortions. . . .” The language makes no exceptions for life-threatening situations.
Furthermore, the bill states that no funds authorized under the Act may be used to pay for “any” abortion, or to cover “any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion.” This means that if no federal funds can go toward any health care plan that covers abortion. According to Jezebel’s analysis, this language means that if anyone enrolled in a plan offered on the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges receives federal subsidies, that plan cannot cover abortions. Many people will be receiving federal insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, so private insurance that will be offered on the exchanges would be forbidden from covering abortions for anyone.
Under the “Protect Life Act,” only an elite, wealthy few will be able to afford her right to an abortion. The wives, girlfriends, and daughters of the House Republicans and 11 House Democrats who passed this bill will always be able to afford an abortion. But the anti-choice politicians in Washington want to make abortion so expensive and difficult to obtain that average American women can’t afford it. Even worse, the bill effectively allows health providers to decide that protecting an embryo is more important than protecting the life of a living, breathing woman. Although this bill is almost guaranteed not to pass in the Senate (and even if it were to pass, President Obama would almost certainly veto it), it is a disturbing comment on the status of women in America that this bill not only passed in the House, but did so by such a wide margin.
Need Yet ANOTHER Reason to Hate the LSAT? Read On & Take Action Now!
This past Saturday, one lactating mother took the LSAT without a break to express milk or breastfeed. Despite early and persistent requests from this future law student, MomsRising, the ACLU Womens Rights Project and others, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) refused to allow Ashley an extended break time to pump (express milk) in the middle of the LSAT. The test has only one 15 minute break during the test, not nearly long enough to set up a breast pump in a private space, express milk, clean up, and store the milk (not to mention maybe, oh, use the restroom or have a quick snack).
Mothers should not have to choose between breastfeeding and going to law school – the choice the LSAC is effectively leaving Ashley with by hampering her ability to take the LSAT. The LSAC’s refusal to accommodate Ashley harkens back to the Bradwell era, where the Supreme Court denied Myra Bradwell the right to apply for the Illinois bar. Bradwell v. Illinois, 83 U.S. 130 (1873). Ashley’s access to the legal profession, like Myra Bradwell’s, is effectively denied (or at the very least curtailed) if the LSAC leaves her unable to pump during the break this Saturday.
You can read the ACLU Women’s Rights Project blog post about this issue and Ashley’s predicament here.
Please join me in supporting Ashley!
- Kristi Jobson, WLA HLS Moms Network Chair
What you can do:
1. Join the ACLU’s petition in support of Ashley.
2. Send an email to the LSAC Director of Communications, Wendy Margolis and LSAC’s General Counsel, Joan Van Tol and let them know that this is unacceptable and express your support for Ashley and other lactating mothers. A sample email is below, as well as the text of my email to them.
3. Comment publicly on the LSAC facebook page.
Sample Email Template:
Dear Ms. Margolis and Ms. Van Tol:
I am a current Harvard Law School student. I am very upset that LSAC will not accommodate a nursing mother. The policy is wrong because it 1) discourages new mothers from taking the LSAT, a necessary step to attending Law School and 2) only impacts women (the group of people who could possibly be nursing) and thus is a form of gender discrimination.
I urge you to immediately change your policy to accommodate nursing mothers taking the LSAT. The legal profession was long hostile to women, but the hard work of advocates has made progress to turn the profession and legal education around to welcome women. LSAC needs to be part of the effort, not take us backwards.
Thank you and I look forward to receiving a response.
Thanks to 2010-2011 WLA President Cari Simon for her help drafting this template!
Harvard’s Speak Out Week is Here!
Things are busy as ever as the members of HLSRJ finally dive into our long planned Speak Out Week, which aims to engage the HLS student body in honest exchanges about reproductive health, listen to and share personal stories about reproductive choices, and explore the ways in which access to abortion and other reproductive services intersect with larger social movements. Kicking off our week, our first event was “Bro-Choice,” an event geared towards men and their role in the movement. I am happy to report that we had exceptional attendance and that several men signed up for our weekly email list. We are excited for further exploration into engaging men on campus!
Other events this week include two intersectional panels, one featuring women of color and the pro-choice movement, with Gretchen Sisson, Reverend Penny Willis, Jasmine Burnett and Kaitlyn Soligan; and one featuring different religious perspectives on reproductive justice, with Reverend Marvin Ellison, Rabbi Peter Stein, Reverend Matthew Westfox, and Prof. Daniel Dombrowski. As with all of our events, cross promotion and co-sponsorships greatly contribute to our success. Thanks to our partnership with students from the Harvard Kennedy School, we will be screening of 12th and Delaware followed by a conversation with NARAL Pro-Choice MA.
We are also speaking out using Facebook, our LSRJ website, posters, and word of mouth. We have asked HLS and other greater Boston students share their own reproductive health stories, in the hope that doing so will open up a more honest and nuanced conversation regarding the choices women make throughout their lives. To contextualize these stories more effectively, Julia Reticker-Flynn from Advocates for Youth will join us for a strategy discussion regarding how and why to share abortion stories. We encourage all students reading this to also contribute to our survey or tell us what pro-choice means to them in our new tumblr! We hope our events will inspire other groups on other campuses to Speak Out as well!
Sept. 21, 2011: “Hitting the Ground Running “
Amidst the utter chaos that is the first week back at Harvard Law School, I feel a certain calm returning to the classroom where HLSRJ has taken to holding its board meetings. By calm, I partially mean the happiness of seeing familiar faces, but it goes beyond that. It’s the feeling I get being in a room of capable, passionate, and brilliant women and men who are committed to engaging in the same issues as I am. It is moments like these that I reflect on my personal mantra: dripping water carves a stone.
High on our list this year is increasing our visibility on campus in order to create a campus wide conversation on Reproductive Justice. Our first focus is recruiting new 1Ls and building relationships with other progressive campus groups. We are hitting it off next week with the ever-important Reproductive Justice 101 event. I fondly remember the first time I learned about Mrs. T, a case study that illustrated the intersectional nature of reproductive justice. It was during that presentation that I knew that RJ would become a major part of my law school career. If we are lucky, we will meet some of our new rising stars at this year’s event!
As we seek to build our core, however, we also are considering opportunities for engaging the entire campus. Through our relationships with other organization leaders, we became aware of a point/counterpoint event that will be looking at the recent anti-abortion bills that have been spreading out throughout many state legislatures, including South Dakota. Many of these bills are slated as being pro-women, because they require providing women with “more information” and more time to make a decision through mandatory wait periods. In reality, these laws are little more than attempts to further limit and prevent abortions, often making what is already a difficult process more difficult. Although we are not officially involved as an organization at this event, our members will be attending and we hope to use this as an opportunity to bring people together to reflect on the conversation. We want to do more this year than talk at people, we want to engage people and allow people to process what is an all too often not openly and intellectually discussed on our law school campus. And hopefully, if we can’t change some minds, at least have our views listened to and understood. It’s shaping up to be quite an active year, drip drip drip.
An Open & Thoughtful Conversation about Abortion Laws
Tuesday, September 27, 6pm – 7pm, Pound 202. Non-pizza dinner!
Earlier this month, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a South Dakota law requiring that a pregnant woman be told she has an “existing relationship” with her fetus before going through with an abortion. The law also requires doctors to tell a woman seeking an abortion that by having the procedure, “her existing relationship and her existing constitutional rights with regards to that relationship will be terminated.” However, the court struck down a part of the law that required doctors to tell patients the procedure increases the likelihood of suicide. The South Dakota statute has been imitated in part by several other states, including North Dakota, Kansas, and Missouri. Join HLSRJ on Tuesday night to participate in an open—and diverse—discussion of the implications of these laws. All perspectives, beliefs, and political philosophies are encouraged to attend!
Reproductive Justice 101 Monday, September 26, 12 pm-1pm, Pound 202
HLSRJ Board, 2011-‘12:
President: Kandis Wood — firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice President: Laura Carwile
President Emeritus: Evelyn Atkinson
Campus Outreach Chair: Joanne Caceres
Treasurer: Liz Hague
Secretary: Tehi Billon-Lanfrey
2L Reps: Stephanie Davidson, Jasmine Fannell, Anna Lvovsky
3L Reps: Poppy Alexander, Ryan Blodgett, HilaryD’Angelo, Kristi Jobson, Matt Spurlock