Without a course on reproductive justice, there’s no choice at Harvard Law

BY BOARD JUSTICE

John McCain had his hands tied. He wanted to pick Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge as his running mate, but the Base would not let him. No, it was not that these men were inexperienced, for surely they are not. It was not that they could not appeal to working class voters-they build their careers doing just that. No, Tom Ridge and Joe Lieberman were disqualified because of their views on the issue of abortion. There would be no pro-choice candidate in the Republican party. Instead, Senator McCain selected Sarah Palin, who is pro-life even in the cases of rape and incest.

Barack Obama ’91 was similarly confounded by the abortion question. At the Saddleback forum, presided over by Reverend Rick Warren, Senator Obama skirted the question of when embryos gain human rights, claiming that such a question was, “above his pay grade.” Needless to say, abortion and the politics of reproductive justice are some of the most controversial and relevant issues in the country today and the debates they inspire are full of the passion that only a vibrant and informed polity in a democracy can inspire.

Apparently, Harvard Law School is uninterested in such robust debate. Or perhaps Senator Obama’s alma mater also believes that the law and policy of reproductive rights is above its pay grade. Or maybe the reason there is no course on reproductive rights-a course with bipartisan appeal that would educate students who will be the architects of future policy in all 50 states-is that HLS simply does not care enough about an issue that is of particular importance to women, minorities, and people of faith throughout this nation.

A course on reproductive justice constitutes far more than abortion. Indeed, a course on reproductive justice, the new moniker of the group formerly known as Students for Choice, would offer students the opportunity to learn about a wide spectrum of topics, including public funding for reproductive health services; access to contraception; minors’ and prisoners’ rights; religious restrictions and refusals; and potential implications of new assisted reproductive technologies. Such classes provide an opportunity to highlight dynamic topics in social justice, human rights, and civil liberties as they intersect with reproductive justice, such as racial and environmental justice; LGBTQ liberation; freedoms of speech, religion, and association; rights to privacy, bodily autonomy, and equality; and birthing, parenting, and family formation rights.

There are many students at HLS at all points on the political spectrum that are deeply interested in reproductive justice. The success of a series of lunches on abortion in comparative perspectives and the standing-room only crowd that listened to Priscilla Smith’s discussion of the Supreme Court’s momentous decision in Carhart are indicative of this interest. Moreover, the interest is not confined to students who self-identify as pro-choice. Just last year, Students for Choice and the Society for Law, Life, and Religion, co-sponsored a panel about the difficult issue of contraception distribution at pharmacies. While the panelists disagreed on many issues, the opportunity to discuss perspectives together led the panel to identify solutions that may not have otherwise appeared viable or desirable.

While it is undeniable that Dean Kagan has taken significant steps to make HLS more public interest-friendly, offering courses that specifically address public service sectors, such as reproductive rights, are another critical part of that project.

Harvard Law School exists to serve the best interests of the nation. It is difficult to imagine how HLS can prepare Supreme Court Justices, Presidents, statesmen, and servants, without a more substantive course in one of the most complicated and controversial areas of law.

Disclosure:?Andrew L Kalloch is on the Board of HLSRJ

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