BY ANDREW KALLOCH
The Harvard Law Students for Reproductive Justice (HLSRJ) and the Society for Law, Life, and Religion (SLLR) frequently find themselves on the opposite sides of many issues. However, as they have in the past, the groups found common ground this week, launching the HLS Parenting Initiative.
When asked about the impetus to the Initiative, Laura Openshaw ’10, the President of SLLR and the co-facilitator of the Initiative along with HLSRJ President Ashley Gorski ’10, stated in an email to the Record, “HLS is not serving its parenting students very well. I’ve heard complaints about a number of things: inconvenient class schedules, difficulty obtaining part-time student status, scarcity of affordable childcare and de-leaded housing, classrooms where a pregnant student can’t physically sit at the desks.”
Openshaw further explained that while some of these grievances are directly under HLS’ control, others are in areas where HLS could be helping and is not. “We’d like to make the school a friendlier place for pregnant and parenting students because we believe that if someone wants to have children, he or she should be able to,” Openshaw stated, “We also believe that students who do choose to parent should be able to continue and complete their education and should have an equal opportunity to be involved in student life.”
The Initiative will act as a sounding board and lobbying group for interested students. Students who have experiences with pregnancy and parenting will be given the opportunity to communicate their concerns directly to the Initiative. In turn, the Initiative will prioritize problems and take those priorities (and possible solutions) to the administration.
The Initiative is designed to meet the unique goals of both organizations and the broader law school community. Gorksi stated that the partnership with SLLR will serve HLSRJ’s goals by “ensuring that all people and communities have access to the information, resources, and support they need to attain sexual and reproductive self-determination,” of which birthing and parenting are central parts. Gorski added, “Our idea of Reproductive Justice is contextualized and community-oriented. To that end, it makes sense to bring together as many invested HLS community members as possible.”
For her part, Openshaw hopes that the Initiative will “promote respect for the family” and that by making it easier to raise children while at HLS, the law school community will “start thinking more highly of the family as an institution-and one that isn’t incompatible with academics or a career.”
While HLSRJ and SLLR share many goals for the program, some motivations are distinct to their independent organizational missions. Openshaw stated that one of SLLR’s hopes is that by improving resources for students who are expecting or raising children, those students “might encourage students who find themselves pregnant to consider parenting as a viable option if they might not otherwise.”
This is not the first time SLLR and HLSRJ have worked together. In 2007, the organizations co-sponsored an debate on the controversial issue of pharmacists who refuse to dispense contraception. That panel discussion included a testy back and forth between invited guests of the two groups. Unlike their combative debate two years ago, the Initiative has enabled the groups to have a more collaborative approach. The fact that anything relating to abortion is not part of the Initiative has helped defuse potentially problematic conflicts between the organizations. As Openshaw stated, “We share the goal of helping people who have chosen parenting, which doesn’t directly implicate the issues that separate us.”
In addition to discussing the Initiative within their own memberships, the groups have reached out to student groups that are defined by their family/parenting status. Students who are interested in learning more about the Initiative or want to have their input heard should contact Laura Openshaw (email@example.com) and Ashley Gorski (agorski@jd10. law.harvard.edu).