Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) was founded in January 2003 by Cari Sietstra, a 2002 graduate of Stanford Law School. The organization’s mission is to “trai[n] and mobiliz[e] law students and new lawyers across the country to foster legal expertise and support for the realization of reproductive justice.”
LSRJ defines reproductive justice as the empowerment of those who historically have been “most affected by reproductive restrictions and oppressions,” to “exercise the rights and access the resources they need to thrive and to decide whether, when, and how to have and parent children with dignity, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.”
The organization believes that both private and publicly-funded healthcare insurers should pay for all services related to contraception, abortion, sterilization, and gender-identity surgery—so as to enable women to fully control their own “reproductive destiny.” Failure to provide such comprehensive coverage, says LSRJ, reflects America’s inherent prejudices based on factors like “race, class, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender expression, immigration status, and ability.”
According to LSRJ, African Americans have been particularly visible victims of “reproductive oppression … for centuries, from forced procreation during the 19th century to forced sterilization and deceptive medical experimentation during the 20th century.” The legacy of that oppression, says LSRJ, is now manifest in the fact that “69% of black women’s pregnancies are unintended, compared to 40% for … white women”; “maternal mortality rates are at least 3 times higher among black women”; and “a black woman is 15 times more likely to contract HIV [than] a white woman.”
LSRJ further laments that immigrants in the U.S. are often plagued by “inadequate health services”; that “Latinas/os” are not only uninsured more commonly than the members of any other ethnic group, but also have “higher STI, HIV, and teen pregnancy rates than Caucasian people”; that Native Americans are an “underserved population” that has “endured forced and coercive sterilizations as well as substandard reproductive health care, including the denial of funding for abortion care”; that many prisoners suffer from “inadequate” healthcare services and “may have to pay for” their own abortions; and that low-income people are victimized by “welfare family caps,” “welfare-to-work mandates that do not provide child care,” a “lack of access” to affordable health care, “coercive use” of long-acting reversible contraception, and “a longstanding ban on federal funding for abortion care.”
Yet another “vulnerable, under-served, and marginalized” community, adds LSRJ, consists of “people who identify [themselves as] lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or questioning.” According to LSRJ, they “face a variety of [reproductive justice] challenges, from discrimination by healthcare providers who refuse to serve them on the basis of their ‘religious or moral views,’ to the prohibitive costs of assisted reproductive technologies and hormone therapies, to hetero-normative abstinence-only education that denies or condemns LGBTQ sexuality.”
LSRJ concentrates its efforts in four action areas:
- Curriculum Enrichment: “We strive to integrate reproductive rights law and justice curricula into legal education to ensure that interested law students … become informed resources and effective advocates.”
- Professional Training: “Legal internships and fellowships build professional expertise, add capacity to advocacy groups, and connect students to future mentors.”
- Community Building: “LSRJ hosts annual regional conferences and biannual national events where LSRJ members and movement leaders come together to learn, network, and inspire one another.” The organization also focuses on “building virtual community” through its Facebook page, blog, and listservs.
- Campus Organizing: “The LSRJ National Office supports law students in their valiant efforts to gain contraceptive coverage in student health insurance; transform local policies to advance reproductive justice for marginalized populations in their communities; increase access to emergency contraception; write amici curiae briefs in domestic and international court cases; raise money for abortion funds and post-natal maternal healthcare; and recruit volunteers for clinic defense work.”
As of March 2012, LSRJ had chapters on 78 college and university campuses nationwide. By that time, the organization had guided 23 successful campaigns for new reproductive-rights law courses, clinics, and reading groups; distributed more than 35,000 electronic and print publications; supported over 1,500 activist and educational events on law school campuses; and presented 8 national events, 23 regional conferences, and 19 law and policy trainings.
LSRJ’s advisory board includes such notables as Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center, Nancy Keenan of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Vicki Saporta of theNational Abortion Federation, and Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
LSRJ identifies a number of activist groups as effective “Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice Organizations.” These include the ACLU, Catholics for Choice, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Choice USA, the Feminist Majority Foundation, the National Abortion Federation, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Organization for Women, the National Partnership for Women and Families, the National Women’s Health Network, the National Women’s Law Center, and Planned Parenthood.
In February 2011, former LSRJ president Sandra Fluke made national headlines when she spoke out in favor of a mandate requiring all health insurers to fully cover the costs associated with contraception and abortifacients.