By Jaspreet Chowdhary, J.D., M.P.H., Ballot Integrity Program Manager at Ballot Initiative Strategy Center and ‘10-11 If/When/How Reproductive Justice Fellow at NAPAWF
This week, If/When/How is formally relaunching the Reproductive Justice Lawyers Network. I am excited to be part of this effort in an especially urgent and volatile moment when so much is on the line, and when lawyers and legal professionals have a unique opportunity to leverage our skills and privilege. Whether we work at an organization with a reproductive health, rights, and justice focus, want to plug in as pro bono volunteers for repro organizations and efforts, or are looking to bring RJ values to other spaces and workplaces, the Reproductive Justice Lawyers Network has exciting possibilities!
I am particularly excited to help support lawyers in non-reproductive justice organizations advocate for and operationalize organizational shifts in their workplaces that reflect RJ values, and also personally think more deeply about how RJ values are showing up in my daily life, outside of work.
Before going to law school, I worked in public health research, because I was passionate about making sure all communities were represented in studies. I grew up in a Sikh American community where there was some uncertainty about navigating health care systems; we were concerned about getting good medical treatment while also making sure that the process was not harder because of language or cultural barriers. I was lucky because my parents are health care providers, and I witnessed how they would help folks navigate complicated systems.
After doing research for a few years, it became clear that large-scale systematic change was needed. I decided to go to law school to try to transform the legal system to make it more inclusive and equitable. Before I had the language for it, I needed a reproductive justice framework — a way to think about how different parts of my identity intersected to shape the way I show up and the type of attorney I would become.
I was fortunate to be part of the inaugural cohort of If/When/How’s Reproductive Justice Fellowship Program and was placed at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. During that Fellowship year, a few important things happened to change the course of my life. First, I internalized NAPAWF’s mission of increasing the voice and visibility of API women and girls. Second, I found a community of like-minded advocates who were working both externally to create a world where reproductive justice is a reality, and internally to have those values show up in our daily lives. Third, I became pregnant with my first child, who was born about a month after my Fellowship finished.
My career path has led me to organizations that are not explicitly reproductive justice identified, however, at my core, I am constantly striving to center and live RJ values. My voice and visibility increases each time I speak out and work to create organizational culture shifts. I seek out and build community with others who are working to make sure all aspects of our lives reflect our values. Finally, as I have become a parent, I look for ways organizations and society can better support caregivers.
The RJ Lawyers Network offers an opportunity to work on all three of these things with an organization that has become my professional touchstone. It is also a way to continue to cultivate a passion I found in law school into my post-Fellowship career — through training, mentorship opportunities, and simply being in community (even online!) with other lawyers who care deeply about reproductive justice. The variety of ways to be involved in RJ Lawyers Network also reflect the different ways that reproductive justice can show up in our work. I am especially excited for skill development and the chance to think through resources to support lawyers working at non-RJ organizations.
If the RJ Lawyers Network sounds like the right place for you, I encourage you to read over this quick FAQ and find out more about what it means to lawyer for reproductive justice, the myriad opportunities the RJ Lawyers Network provides for lawyers to grow their skills, and how to sign up. I’ll see you there!
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