RJFP at 10: A Decade of Launching Careers for RJ Lawyers

For ten years, If/When/How’s Reproductive Justice Fellowship Program (RJFP) has fueled a growing and powerful group of new legal advocates who are part of a one-of-a-kind legal Fellowship for law school graduates who want to change the face and practice of RJ lawyering. To date, the RJFP has launched the careers of 74 lawyers who have a passion for reproductive rights and justice, placing them at both local and national nonprofits from coast to coast.

That’s why we’re kicking off a year-long celebration of all things Repro Justice Fellowship, punctuating the ’19-20 Fellowship year with opportunities to look both back and forward — we’ll lead a Twitter chat, host professional development panels and webinars, reunite with past Fellows to see how far we’ve all come, and continue making big plans for the RJFP’s next decade.

It’s especially meaningful to us to be celebrating this milestone in a time when reproductive rights, health, and justice are under attack like never before, and when it’s more important than ever to ensure that those most affected by reproductive oppression are leading the movement to lawyer for reproductive justice. In fact, about 65 percent of If/When/How’s ten Fellow cohorts identify as people of color, and 40 percent identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer folks. That’s not an accident. We value lived experiences and actively select for candidates who come from communities disproportionately impacted by reproductive oppression.

We’re also tremendously heartened to see just how many of today’s repro rights, health, and justice movement leaders started out in the RJFP. Over 40 percent of RJFP alumni have kept working in the repro sphere after their Fellowship year, and more than half of If/When/How’s Fellow alums work in public interest law. Fellows have gone on to work at local, national, and grassroots organizations from coast to coast and many places between. Post-Fellowship employers include the Center for Reproductive Rights, a number of state ACLU affiliates, All* Above All, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, as well as Jane’s Due Process, the National Network of Abortion Funds, and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. Other Fellows have gone on to clerkships and government positions, or have built private practices, and a few move in the private sector, at employers such as Google and AirBNB.

“I often think of If/When/How as my professional home. In law school, my If/When/How chapter helped me find community, and as my first professional job after law school, the RJFP helped me see possibilities.” — Jaspreet Chowdhary

And some Fellows even come back to work on staff right here at If/When/How — shout out to Movement Building Director Jeryl D. Hayes (’12-13 RJ Fellow, Black Women’s Health Imperative), Professional Development Coordinator Cammie Dodson (’16-17 RJ-HIV Fellow at Positive Women’s Network – USA), and Helpline Fellow Rebecca Wang, (’17-18 RJ-HIV Fellow, Positive Women’s Network – USA).

Throughout the year, we’ll be talking with RJFP alums about how the Fellowship shaped their careers, what their placement organizations and mentors meant to them, and what reproductive justice means to them today. One thing we he’ve heard again and again is just how deeply Fellows feel that the RJFP gave them a sense of place and purpose, and fellowship within the Fellowship. But don’t take our word for it!

Jaspreet Chowdhary, State Legislative Manager at the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center and ’10-11 RJ Fellow at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, told us, “My life has changed dramatically since my Fellowship year, but I often think of If/When/How as my professional home. In law school, my If/When/How chapter helped me find community, and as my first professional job after law school, the RJFP helped me see possibilities. When my Fellowship ended, I was about a month away from meeting my daughter. The encouragement of the other Fellows, folks at If/When/How, people at my placement organizations, and other people in the movement gave me hope that there was a way to parent and raise kids with reproductive justice values.”

The breadth of what If/When/How Fellows accomplish during and after their Fellowship years is truly impressive; we’re so proud of their dedication to the repro rights, health, and justice movements, to racial justice, and to making change wherever they land.

Click here to meet all our RJFP alums, follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook (and the hashtag #RJFP10) for the latest events, news, and updates about our 10 year celebration — and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter!