Monday, July 30, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here

This is the second piece I wrote about the Law Students for Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute I attended this weekend.  The orginal post can be found at the Repossess Reproductive Justice Blog.

The last session of the weekend, called “Where Do We Go From Here? The Future of Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice,” challenged all of us to think about the history of the reproductive justice community, to analyze our successes and, more importantly, the bad habits we have formed, and to think critically about how to move the conversation forward.

One of the speakers was Ms. Sujatha Jesudason, the Director of CoreAlign Initiative. CoreAlign did a study to analyze what was working and what needed to be improved in the RJ community. They found that the movement was extremely well-funded, but that we lack cohesive messaging, inspiring leaders and goals, and actions that are proactive rather than reactive. Instead of looking at the issues of rights, justice, and health as separate issues to be addressed by different experts, we needed to find ways to make connections, share resources, and to focus on RJ heroes rather than victims.

I thought back to an exercise we did the first day where we were asked to design a program around a reproductive justice topic. Many of us who were well-versed on abortion-bans, defunding of Planned Parenthood, and vaginal ultrasounds struggled with the assignment because we had never thought about some of the other RJ issues out there. Even those who had thought about them, had never before considered out to communicate them to a broader audience and in a way that included the voices of those RJ impacts the most.

I also thought about the session I attended on chapter strategic planning. I attended but was skeptical that a campus club like mine would benefit much from a strategic plan; it seemed too formal for what we were. But after hearing Ms. Jesudason talk about how the RJ movement is doomed to stagnation and repetition of bad habits without close self-examination and a plan for success, I am a convert.

I pledge (and I challenge you to pledge) to examine how my organization is doing RJ work. Do we sacrifice a broader message in the name of an easy event? Could we reach a more diverse group of people by spending more time coalition building on campus and in the community? Can we acknowledge the successes of those who came before us while doing something different, better, more successful?

I am so excited to get back to campus this fall to get started on our strategic plan. I wish you good luck on yours!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Doula-ing the Movement Forward

This is a piece I wrote about the Law Students for Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute I attended this weekend.  The orginal post can be found at the Repossess Reproductive Justice Blog.

During the first day at the Leadership Institute, we discussed how the reproductive justice model differs from other frameworks for reproductive rights or social justice.

It made me think back to when I was working as a labor doula before law school.  A labor doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a woman before, during and just after birth.  A doula learns that she is there to help the woman have a safe and satisfying childbirth as the woman defines it. It is not the role of the doula to discourage the laboring woman from her choices, nor to project their own values and goals onto her.

As a doula, I was required to listen more than I talked.  I learned to encourage women to ask questions and get information rather than doing it for her.  I learned that I couldn’t possibly understand all the circumstance of another woman’s life that drive her to make the decisions she does, but that I should do everything in my power to hear her and help her achieve those choices.  I learned to work behind the scenes, providing valuable skills and resources when needed, but never taking the spotlight away from those who really mattered: the woman, her family, and supporters.  Outside of the birthing room, I advocated for changes in a complex system of institutions, laws, and circumstances that make it difficult for women to have the birth they knew was best for them.

What I heard during the RJ 101 session made me think hard about the role of an RJ lawyer.  In law school we learn how to be the interpreter of the law and the one who gives advice.  We are taught to stand up in front and speak confidently.  We are taught to be, or at least act like, the experts our education prepares us to be.

But the reproductive justice framework asks us to focus on the intersections of race, class, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender expression, immigration status, and ability and how they impact access, agency, and autonomy in shaping one’s reproductive destiny.   It shifts our role from achieving a right or winning a case for someone to one that requires us to listen and to act only once we attempt to understand those we serve.  It asks us to work with communities as allies, strategists, and advisers to overcome the complex systems, laws, and circumstances that make it difficult for people to have the reproductive destiny they know is best for them.

We must be doulas in the reproductive justice movement.

I am incredibly honored to be at the L I with so many soon-to-be lawyers who will continue to doula this movement, and those it affects, forward with compassion, grace, and integrity.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sex Differences Matter

The fight is to see people of all genders and sexes as socially, economically and politically equal.  In the medical arena, however, there are major sex differences in bodily functions, prevalence of diseases and treatment effectiveness that must be recognized and addressed.

Sunday, July 08, 2012


One recurrent theme I heard when I was working as a doula was dismay about the changing body during pregnancy.  Pregnant mommas put cocoa butter on their bellies to prevent stretch marks, discussed the breast-augmenting and weight-reducing properties of breast feeding, and lamented the loss of their girlish figures.  The most astounding moment for me was when a woman, between contractions discussed with her mother the merits of plastic surgery to even out the different sized lips of her vagina, "since she would need a touch up after giving birth anyway."

BirthMarkings, a 20 Minute film by Margaret Lazarus, the maker of Killing Us Softly, discusses the issues around body image after birth.

From the International Museum of Women, Motherhood Around the Globe exhibit:
Margaret Lazarus’ film “BirthMarkings” explores our post birth bodies—and how our self-image—change after giving birth. “BirthMarkings” reframes the concept of beauty and motherhood, raises important questions about body image, and reveals the incongruity of western standards of beauty with the natural process of pregnancy and childbirth.
You can see the film HERE.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Things I'm Reading

Do You Job Better: Coming Out in Class: On coming out transgender in an academic community. 
Responses to Slaughter's Article: So much good discussion around workplace issues now.
Lots of reviews of "50 Shades of Grey":  The chapter-by-chapter, tongue-in-cheek synopsis at is by far the most in-depth, and most hilarious discussion.  I am still trying to find someone who is willing to admit they own the trilogy so I can read them without having to support them with my dollars.

Surveillance, privacy and the ethics of vehicle safety communication technologies:   Yea this one seems strange, but I do work for a transportation organization.  I am writing a paper on the ethical issues concerning vehicle-to-vehicle technologies.

The Affordable Care Act Decision: veeeeery interesting stuff.  And why Ginsberg Should be given more credit than she was by Amy Davidson the New Yorker.