Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) recently finished their multi-year study to determine the availability of classes offered in national law schools that specifically focus on reproductive rights and justice. They found that out of 177 law schools who participated in the survey (out of 197 J.D. granting law schools accredited by the American Bar Association) that only 32 offer reproductive rights courses. Though the classes are available in 17 states and the District of Columbia, it boils down to the fact that 82% of law schools in the U.S. do not yet have a reproductive rights law & justice course in their course catalog.
It’s a mixed bag of results. On one hand, the good news is that from 2003 to 2010 (the length of the study) that the reproductive rights course offerings are slowly but steadily increasing. Three-quarters of the courses were introduced since 2008. Perhaps there is growing interest in this discipline? On the other hand, many of these courses have only been offered once which suggests a possible lack of interest as measured via registration. According to Catalyst.org, 44% of the 2008-09 class were women. Not that being a woman makes you automatically committed to reproductive rights but it could increase the potential for increased interest.
The study excludes courses that cover reproductive health issues under a broader context, for example if the class only covers these issues in one or two sessions, and eliminates those that deal with bioethics or assisted reproductive technologies (ART) since those classes tend to be taught from a biological and philosophical perspective rather than focusing on constitutional law, human rights or critical theory.
While the stats may seem disappointing, we cannot discount the important efforts of LSRJ since more than one-third of known classes have resulted from advocacy by LSRJ chapters. With this as a starting point, the community can figure out how to maintain momentum in the schools where these classes already exist, and how to create opportunities in schools with no reproductive justice curriculum. Also, how do we cultivate enough interest in reproductive rights that these classes would be well-received? How can we ensure this is seen as a viable career choice? It seems like within the movement there is an increasing need for lawyers to work specifically in support of the reproductive justice movement as we see more battles over “personhood,” inflammatory rhetoric (see anti-choice billboards in Atlanta), and vicious attacks against providers.