Reproductive Justice Lawyering Webinar #1

Our fifth annual Reproductive Justice Lawyering Webinar Series in collaboration with If/When/How kicked off last Wednesday with a discussion on “Punitive Policies: How New Public Charge and Medicaid Work Requirements Undermine Reproductive Justice.” Sawyeh Esmaili, Reproductive Justice Fellow at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, offered insights into the expected impact that the Trump administration’s proposed Public Charge Rule would likely have on immigrants and their families. Sawyeh started by describing which individuals have been deemed to be a ‘public charge,’ explaining that the determination is used for “immigrants likely to become primarily dependent on the government for financial and material support.” The Trump administration’s proposed Public Charge Rule would broaden the scope of who is deemed a ‘public charge,’ thus spreading the detrimental effects the status carries with it. These effects on immigrants include hindering reunification with family members and limiting access to health care services, food and housing.  As Sawyeh mentioned, an estimated eight million citizen children with immigrant parents could be affected by the proposed rule, with certain consequences being felt already as immigrants have begun disenrolling from programs such as Head Start, SNAP and CHIP before the rule has even been publicly proposed or enacted. Sawyeh discussed a few options for those who want to become involved, including plugging into the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign and commenting on the proposed Public Charge Rule if and when it is posted to the Federal Register.

Kelsey Grimes, Reproductive Justice Fellow at Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity discussed another key area of recent policy debate affecting reproductive justice. Kelsey explained that Medicaid work requirements influence an individual’s access to reproductive healthcare because Medicaid is a large provider of reproductive healthcare. Kelsey mentioned that Medicaid is used in about half of all births in the U.S. She further explained that the framework of Medicaid work requirements not only limit individuals’ access to reproductive healthcare but also have a disproportionate effect on healthcare access for low-wage workers, young people, black people living primarily in urban areas and, most of all, low-income women of color. It is notable that a recent study by CFBP showed that, in addition to the many consequences of Medicaid work requirements, they have not actually succeed in increasing employment. Kelsey suggested, especially for law students, getting involved by tracking Medicaid work requirements here and writing comments when the rule drops to both voice your opinion and help build cases for legislation.

Thank you to our amazing speakers for discussing these incredibly important and pressing issues!

We hope you will all join us this week for a discussion entitled “Centering Sex Worker’s Rights in Reproductive Justice Work.” Registration is free but required here. 1 CLE credit will be applied for as requested ($55). For CLE credit, email: Office of Special Events & Continuing Legal Education at secle@wcl.american.edu.

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Reproductive Justice Lawyering Webinar Series Kickoff

Our annual webinar series in collaboration with If/When/How is kicking off with two webinars on June 13th and June 20th. The first webinar will feature speakers Sawyeh Esmaili from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and Kelsey Grimes from Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity. On the agenda will be a discussion of Trump’s proposed Public Charge Rule; a draft proposal which would put many immigrants at risk of being deemed a “public charge” if they receive a broad range of federal benefits. This proposed rule would not only lead to immigrants who lawfully receive these benefits being barred from becoming permanent residents but would also likely cause large numbers of immigrants and their children to forgo benefits or tax credits for which they are eligible to receive. This likely decline in enrolment, in programs such as Medicaid and SNAP, will have profound effects on pregnant women and children who deserve equal and easy access to the health care and nutritional benefits provided by these programs.

Our webinar on June 20th will include a presentation by Rebecca Wang of the Positive Women’s Network and Fajer Saeed Ebrahim from Legal Voice and SURGE Reproductive Justice. This webinar will explore the question: How can sex workers attain reproductive and sexual rights, safety, dignity, and economic security in the age of #metoo, the Women’s March, and anti-sex trafficking crackdowns? The two presenters will also explore how sex workers’ voices are all too often excluded from women’s movements and how a more inclusive approach could lead to more autonomy and safety for all women.

Registration is free but required here and here. 1 CLE credit will be applied for as requested ($55). For CLE credit or to request a fee waiver, email: Office of Special Events & Continuing Legal Education at secle@wcl.american.edu.

Stay Tuned for Our Upcoming Reproductive Justice Lawyering Webinar Series!

The Women and the Law Program is excited to announce that we will be continuing our Reproductive Justice Lawyering Webinar Series this summer. This series is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Women and the Law Program and If-When-How with the aim of engaging practicing attorneys with new concepts and developments in reproductive justice advocacy. The series will begin again in June; in the meantime, please keep an eye out for a schedule of specific webinar dates which will be posted shortly.

Skadden Women of Washington

This past Thursday, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, a law firm specializing in a range of corporate law matters, hosted a panel discussion with female attorneys on how they got to where they are today. Panelists Alexandra Arango, a 2015 WCL alumni, Jenna Godfrey, a 2011 WCL alumni, and 2014 Georgetown Law alumni Jennifer Gindin, discussed different employment opportunities that were crucial in assisting them in their journey to big law. To this point, Panelist Jenna Godfrey emphasized the importance of taking every opportunity you are presented with and seeing each as a learning experience. In addition, the attorneys advocated for striking a healthy work-life balance by prioritizing the activities that are most important to you, finding and utilizing mentor relationships and ensuring any prospective place of employment provides a culture and atmosphere that fits your personality.

Thank you to our panelists for this insightful conversation!

Sustainability in the Legal Profession

According to Sweeney in “The Female Lawyer in Exodus,” despite earning about half of the legal degrees in this country, women lawyers continue to leave the profession in droves later on in life. Women in the legal profession are likely to earn less than their male peers, be given less visible and less challenging case assignments, and to experience sexual harassment at work. Research conducted by the ABA and others indicates a number of factors the hinder opportunities for sustainability in the legal profession for women, including “unconscious stereotypes, inadequate access to support networks, inflexible workplace structures, sexual harassment, and bias in the justice system.”

Today, speakers Becca O’Connor, Vice President of Public Policy at RAINN, and Manar Morales, President & CEO of the Diversity and Flexibility Alliance, joined us to discuss effective strategies to promote self-care and avoid burnout in the commonly high-stress careers that follow law school. Panelists spoke to the helpfulness of finding and cultivating a mentor relationship, learning how to navigate hostile workplace environments and how best to angle for the assignments you want and that will strengthen you in your position. Specifically, panelists suggested getting a feel for the work environment at any potential organization or firm before accepting a position with them. In addition, they stressed the importance of speaking up for yourself, both in situations where you want to ensure you are getting more, and more meaningful, assignments and in situations where you need support or need to adjust your schedule. The panelists also emphasized the significance of the impact within the legal community of the #metoo movement. They reassured the audience that while sexual harassment remains rampant in the legal profession, we are not alone and we can speak out and get help. O’Connor and Morales both emphasized using connections, conversations, and time effectively and strategically to ensure long-term professional success no matter what area of law you pursue.

Thank you to our incredible panelists for this pertinent discussion!

Legal Responses to Lethal Violence Against Women: Preventing Honor Killing and Femicide

Last Tuesday, SJD candidates Ghufran Alqahtani and Lucas Martinez-Villalba presented their ongoing research on preventing violence against women. Interestingly, the panelists take opposite approaches to exploring legal responses to lethal violence against women. Alqahtani is in her 3rd year in the SJD program and has been researching potential legal responses to the tragic phenomena of honor killing in Jordan.  Her research supports criminalizing honor killing in order to curb the number of honor related deaths in the country. Alqahtani emphasized the importance of a legal solution to begin a lengthier social shift against violence against women in all contexts.

Martinez-Villalba, who is in his 1st year of the SJD program, takes a different approach to legal responses to femicide in Latin America, believing that creating a legal category for femicide as separate from homicide or other charges infers inferiority of the woman. Martinez-Villalba recognizes that this approach is one that remains divisive within the Latinx feminist communities, and is hotly debated as scores of women continue to be murdered on a daily basis in the region.

Both presenters offered great insight into the contexts of their research and responded to probing questions from the audience members made up of students, staff members, and faculty. Many thanks to WCL’s SJD Program for co-sponsoring the event and to our presenters, Lucas and Ghufran!

Reproductive Injustice in DC

On Monday, Courtney Arnold, a 3L JD/Masters of Public Policy student, guided a discussion with panelists Claudia Booker, Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), and Nnennaya Amuchie, social and reproductive justice attorney, about the devastatingly high rates of maternal mortality that plague D.C.’s most vulnerable communities, and the nation as a whole. Ms. Arnold inquired about the causes of high maternal mortality rates in the area and the disparate impact on communities of color. Ms. Amuchie remarked that hospitals and health care systems do not operate outside the institutional racism that plagues their society. Ms. Booker stated the main obstacle to ensuring low-income, and predominately minority, communities have access to prenatal health services is that “we do not invest money in those who do not have a voice.” Both speakers discussed the recent closure of two maternity wards in D.C., leaving many expecting mothers with limited access to prenatal care. Lack of prenatal care is a dire issue, but the speakers emphasized that the real consequences often come from the stress put on expecting mothers who are left to worry about how they will get to the hospital, who their doctor may be when they go into labor, and whether they can afford proper care, with or without insurance. This stress has disastrous effects on expecting mothers and contributes significantly to maternal mortality rates in the area. When asked what would need to be done to improve the circumstances for all expecting mothers in the D.C. Metro Area, the speakers stressed the need for investments in housing, transportation and neighborhood clinics, which would require “putting pressure on those who have the power to make change.”