Jenn Mahan: Making 'Paternalistic' Lawyering a Thing of the Past

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!

Jenn Mahan

Jenn Mahan (University of Baltimore School of Law ’19) was president of her If/When/How student chapter, editor of the University of Baltimore Law Review, and a Constitutional Law teaching assistant. Jenn participated in her school’s Human Trafficking Prevention Clinic, where she provided legal representation to individuals with criminal records stemming from their involvement in the commercial sex industry. Jenn was also a Health Law Fellow in the office of Maryland State Representative Robbyn Lewis during the 2019 legislative session. She also served as a policy intern at the Center for Reproductive Rights, National Abortion Federation, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, ACLU of Maryland, and the Baltimore City Health Department’s Bureau of Maternal and Child Health.

Jenn received her undergraduate degree from Towson University in Towson, Maryland with a major in political science. After completing her undergraduate degree, she spent two years working as a legal assistant at boutique law firm in Baltimore, and is a Woman’s National Broomball Champion.

We asked Jenn to tell us a little about herself as she prepares to begin her 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?

Jennifer Mahan: Jennifer Mahan — but I prefer Jenn. I use she/her pronouns, and I’m from Baltimore, Maryland.

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

JM: I was drawn to reproductive justice through If/When/How while searching for 1L summer internship opportunities. I discovered there were If/When/How groups at law schools across the country, but no active chapter at the University of Baltimore. Three classmates and I came together to bring the UB chapter back to life during Spring of our 1L year. We felt that If/When/How provided us with tools to advocate for reproductive justice issues that go beyond abortion access (even though abortion access is critical!).

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

JM: Reproductive Justice is a human rights framework that allows for movement-building and organizing around social justice issues that impact bodily autonomy and reproductive oppression.

If/When/How: What do you want to change (or what are you changing) about what it means to be a lawyer?

JM: I am actively working to reject the notion that “JD advantage” or public interest work is somehow inferior to traditional lawyering. Through my work with the University of Baltimore School of Law’s Human Trafficking Prevention Project I worked against the paternalistic role that lawyers often fall into and focused on centering my clients’ needs and objectives.

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

JM: I am most excited about the opportunity to work with a Black-led organization in the South. Maryland, where I’m from, is often viewed as a model for reproductive rights, but has serious work to do regarding access to care. I look forward to being pushed outside of my comfort zone and expanding my commitment to RJ in a new way.

If/When/How: What do you get up to when you’re not lawyering?

JM: When I’m not lawyering, you’ll find me spending time with my partner, Greg and 10-year old miniature pinscher, Harper; riding my bike; drinking natural wines; and supporting Baltimore’s underrated food scene. I recently started playing Dungeons and Dragons with a group of friends — my 13 year old self would be mortified.

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