Lauren North: 'I Want to Organize, Legislate, and, When Necessary, Litigate Us into a World Where Our Identities and Reproductive Capabilities Are Not Liabilities.'

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!

Lauren North

Lauren North (University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law ‘20) joined her law school class as a non-traditional student following a decade-long career in movement-building and national politics. While in law school, Lauren served on the Executive Board of the University of Louisville’s If/When/How chapter, as Vice President of the Labor and Employment Society, and as a representative on the Student Bar Association. She also co-founded a community justice-law school partnership called HEART, the Housing Equality and Resource Taskforce, to help address the eviction crisis in her city. Throughout law school, Lauren sat on the national student advisory committee for It’s On Us (to stop sexual assault), the Louisville Bar Association’s Gender Equity Committee, and the Associate Board of Maryhurst, Inc., a local shelter for abused and neglected children. In the summer of 2018, she designed and implemented a series of criminal record expungement clinics at Kentucky Legal Aid as a member of the Rural Summer LegalCorps. She spent the Summer of 2019 with the ACLU of Montana working on complex litigation related to indigenous justice, LGBTQ+ employment discrimination, reproductive justice, freedom of speech, bail reform, and the unlawful detention of immigrants. In her final year of law school, Lauren utilized her limited license to represent survivors of domestic violence in civil legal proceedings through the Ackerson Law Clinic. 

Prior to law school, Lauren worked as a community organizer and communications specialist for two presidential races, the DCCC, the Giffords Campaign to Stop Gun Violence, the Presidential Inaugural Committee, and the United States Department of Labor. Additionally, Lauren spent two years in the Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) as a community health and gender empowerment volunteer with the United States Peace Corps. Lauren holds a bachelor’s degree in Peace & Global Studies from Earlham College, and a master’s degree in Gender, Development, and Globalization from the London School of Economics & Political Science.

We asked Lauren to tell us a little about herself as she prepares to begin her Reproductive Justice Fellowship year at Women Engaged in Atlanta, Georgia this fall.

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

Lauren North: This is a tricky question! I am a military-brat and that upbringing gave me wings. I currently live in Louisville, KY,  but I have previously lived across the United States, Europe, and Africa.  

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

LN: My great-grandmother died after a desperate, illegal abortion. She left six children behind at the age of 38. The eldest daughters were left to raise the youngest. My other great-grandmother also lost her life at 38 because the doctors could not treat her ovarian cancer. One of the children she left behind, my grandmother, never learned to drive or balance a checkbook. These tasks fell to my own mom at the age of 13, following the sudden death of her father. Later, even though my mom was in the top five percent of her class, her high school counselors dissuaded her from applying to pre-med programs because she was a woman. It is hard not to imagine what the women I described above could have accomplished had they had access to reproductive freedom and what opportunities that would have opened up for the generations that came after, including myself. 

I am drawn to reproductive justice work because bodily autonomy and choice are so clearly fundamental to any meaningful fight for intersectional equity, and we are still so far away from achieving it, particularly for communities that are already vulnerable to inequality and oppression.

If/When/How: What makes you powerful? 

LN: Right now, a very particular blend of anger and hope. Sometimes I oscillate wildly between raw hopelessness and blinding, active rage. As a woman who lives in this world and in the South particularly, these feelings balled up inside me are not novel or unique. I belong to a proud history of angry women wading through a pernicious and patriarchal miasma of white male supremacy. 

But no matter how righteous my indignation at these injustices, I do not simply want to be angry. For one thing, it’s exhausting and often unproductive. Instead, I want to use that anger to change the world we live in, not only for me but for those to come. I want to organize, legislate, and, when necessary, litigate us into a world where our identities and reproductive capabilities are not liabilities. A world where the trespass of our bodies is not seen as an acceptable cost in the rise of powerful men. A world where our talent is not stifled from an early age. A world where our strongest bonds are not forged in the molten-hot trauma foisted on us by a society that does not respect our right to choose our own destinies. It is both this oppression and the tradition of fighting it that has informed almost every choice I have made up until this point. 

On the most fundamental level, the journey that has brought me to this moment, and joining the If/When/How team and Women Engaged, is wholly inextricable from the pain bubbling under our collective surface. But it is also tied to the deep well of hope that comes from standing in the footsteps of giants and knowing I am not alone in wanting a better world. 

If/When/How: When you are not lawyering, what do you get up to? 

LN: I like to spend time with my especially awesome friends, family, and cats. I enjoy picnics in the park, splashing in any body of water, and being places where I don’t get cell phone reception. That being said, I appreciate a rainy day in bed curled up with a good novel, Netflix, or Scrabble board. I am sociable with a soft spot for live music and 80’s dance nights. I enjoy hoppy beer, bubble baths, bourbon, bookstores, and baking cakes. (Also alliteration!)

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