Alex Moody: 'I Sincerely Hope I’m on My Way to Give the U.S. Legal System Many Years of Hell.'

If/When/How’s Quick Question series highlights the work of our Reproductive Justice Fellows, introducing our network to the incredible advocates who are dedicating their lives to the movement to lawyer for reproductive justice. We’re so proud of the work they’re doing at placement organizations across the country to ensure that everyone has the ability to safely decide if, when, and how to create and sustain their families, and to actualize sexual and reproductive wellbeing on their own terms. But we can’t support them without you: Please donate $10 to help us give aspiring and new lawyers the resources they need to thrive. And if you can’t give — share!

Alex Moody

Alex Moody (University of Michigan Law School ‘20) interned at the National LGBTQ Taskforce in 2018 and the National Center for Lesbian Rights in 2019, working on reproductive justice issues that significantly affect LGBTQ people and their families. They received the Outlaws Public Service Fellowship and the Gleason Kettel Summer Fellowship to support their work at these organizations. Alex served as the President and Development Chair of the LGBTQ student organization, an Associate Editor on the Michigan Journal of Gender & Law, and a faculty research assistant. They were a student attorney in the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic, providing legal services to survivors of both labor and sex trafficking. Alex also does research, case tracking, and creates litigation summaries for the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse. 

Alex attended Tulane University as an undergraduate, majoring in English with minors in Gender and Sexuality Studies and Political Science. They became involved in state reproductive justice policy through their work as an abortion clinic escort and on the intake hotline at the New Orleans Abortion Fund. After undergrad, Alex worked as an intern investigator at Orleans Public Defenders.

We asked Alex to tell us a little about themself as they prepare to begin their Reproductive Justice Fellowship year at SPARK Reproductive Justice Now! in Atlanta, Georgia this fall.

If/When/How: Who are you, and where are you from? 

Alex Moody: My name is Alex Moody (they/them/theirs). I grew up in Wellesley, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. I moved to New Orleans to study at Tulane University, and I stayed in the city during the time between undergrad and law school. I consider both places home, but New Orleans will always have a special, swampy place in my heart. In September, I will start at SPARK Reproductive Justice Now! in Atlanta as an If/When/How State Policy Fellow. 

If/When/How: Where are you going? (You can treat this question literally or metaphorically.)

AM: I sincerely hope I’m on my way to give the U.S. legal system many years of hell. More concretely, I would ideally like to have a long career that spans several issue areas under the RJ umbrella, such as criminal justice reform, housing, education, or labor (to name a few). At the moment, I am most interested in advocating on behalf of trans youth, but given the widespread nature of systemic oppression and the interaction between issues, there are many, many areas I would be excited to spend part of my career working on.

If/When/How: What drew you to reproductive justice work? 

AM: I became interested in RJ work in college, first through campus organizing and later through volunteering with the New Orleans Abortion Fund. Hearing from clients on the NOAF hotline firsthand about the wide variety of barriers to access they faced helped me understand that a reductive pro-choice v. pro-life framing of reproductive issues didn’t even scratch the surface of what we were up against. 

If/When/How: What does reproductive justice mean to you? 

AM: The RJ framework has impacted my worldview at pretty much every level. Most of what I studied as an undergraduate at Tulane across disciplines took a critical feminist approach, and the RJ framework showed me how to shift my focus from academic study to praxis. Rather than seeing social justice issues as distinct, it has helped me be thoughtful about their interplay. Coming from abortion policy work in Louisiana, I had fully separated my political work in reproductive health care access from my own sexual orientation and detachment from binary femininity. To do that work, I felt I had to check my identity at the door. The RJ framework allowed me to conceptualize more inclusive and cohesive advocacy. During law school, I had the opportunity to work at the National LGBTQ Task Force and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, where I was exposed to queer and trans mentors and role models who unapologetically do RJ work relevant to their identities. I feel emboldened and humbled by the progress ushered in by RJ, and I hope to honor the central tenets throughout my career as an advocate. 

If/When/How: What do you want to change about what it means to be a lawyer? 

AM: Honestly, I think a more appropriate question would be what I wouldn’t want to change about lawyering and the legal system in this country. Racism, sexism, classism, and compulsory heterosexuality (among many other things) have consistently been hallmarks of American law at all levels, and addressing the historical and contemporary consequences of this is a massive project. I came into law school, generally knowing that this was the case, but the pervasive reality of systemic inequality, privilege, and oppression in the legal field became vividly apparent throughout my time at Michigan Law. It has been extremely troubling to see the structure and culture of legal institutions continuing to reinforce these hierarchies of inequality.

Legal education itself is a gatekeeping mechanism to keep the legal field inaccessible to the vast majority of people. Although institutions have made strides to increase diversity, law schools remain overwhelmingly white, wealthy, and conservative. By making knowledge of the legal system inaccessible without significant means, the U.S. legal system by nature keeps power concentrated at the top. 

In my experience, the normative culture in law schools and among lawyers is willfully ignorant of the individual’s role in perpetuating inequality. Success is often measured by salary, equating successful lawyering with working for a large law firm and shielding wealthy corporate clients from consequences. Borrowing rhetoric from public defense work, the mantra that everyone deserves a good representation gets extended to corporations, so individuals can feel that exacerbating the staggering income inequality in the U.S. is a noble cause. Similarly, while corporate pro bono work can be extremely impactful, I often see it used as a shield for the reality of what private-sector lawyers do with the majority of their careers. 

Having had the immense privilege necessary to gain access to a legal education, I want to do everything I can to disrupt the hierarchies of oppression both in the legal field and the broader political landscape. While I have had meaningful and surprising conversations about lawyering with my peers, I am so excited to work full time on the issues I care most about and surround myself with other like-minded lawyers and activists. I see a J.D. as an incredibly useful tool for social justice work, and I hope I can effectively use it to destabilize the legitimacy of current power structures and introduce the voices of those who have historically been shut out. 

If/When/How: What are you most excited about going into the RJFP? 

AM: I’m excited to live and work in Georgia on issues that matter most to the people there. Living in the South was extremely formative for me, and its culture, community, and political landscape helped shape who I am as a person and what issues I am most passionate about working on. Conservative state legislatures can do a lot of damage to marginalized people and communities, so I’m looking forward to being able to wake up each morning and spend my day trying to combat those oppressive power dynamics. I’m also extremely stoked to have health care.

If you’re as excited as we are to see Alex succeed, donate $10 to help If/When/How support new lawyers like them.