According a recently released survey by Law Students for Reproductive Justice, only 18 percent of U.S. law schools have offered reproductive rights law courses over the last seven years. More specifically: there have been 37 separate courses and instructor-led reading groups taught at least once, offered at 32 schools located in 17 different states.
Is that good? As future legislators, jurors, advocates or defenders of reproductive rights, do you think you need formal training in the subject? Or is study of the overarching foundations of our legal system sufficient to allow you to take the next Planned Parenthood case that comes into town — or at least talk intelligently about it at parties?
Over at LSRJ’s blog Liz Kukura argues:
Having dedicated reproductive rights law courses in the course catalog is critical—not only as important training for those law students who will pursue careers in reproductive justice and social justice work, but also as an opportunity for all future lawyers to be exposed to the many complex and compelling reproductive justice topics that raise issues of criminal law, constitutional law, property law, contract law, health law, family law, bioethics, and more. We miss entirely too much when discussion of reproductive rights is limited to a day’s worth of Griswold and Roe in con law class.
The question of exposure becomes even more pertinent, especially given that almost half of those 37 courses have only been offered once.
Kukura adds on the RH Reality Check blog:
While it is true that some law students are able to acquire relevant training for careers in reproductive rights and justice through advanced constitutional law courses, clinical opportunities, and electives on law & sexuality or assisted reproductive technology & bioethics, the complete dearth of reproductive rights law courses at over 80 percent of law schools leaves a significant gap in training for future legal advocates. The message is clear—most law schools still do not see reproductive rights as a legitimate subject worthy of the stand-alone classes that are taught regularly for other legal specialties.
But given that most lawyers take constitutional law (to say nothing of the interested parties who take family law, health law, and whatever the hell else 3Ls take in order to maintain an unblemished GPA), is a specific course in reproductive rights even necessary? Academic classes rarely give one a true representation of how the concepts we study play out in real life (think back to your middle school sex-ed class for a minute). That is usually learned on the job. You are trained to ask the right questions and argue your point effectively — a rounded understanding of law, then, should prepare you to take on a reproductive case, regardless.
Should we interpret the dearth of repro-rights courses as representative of gender-imbalance at schools and within the profession at large? Again, I don’t think so. It’s not about man v. woman or even life v. abortion. It’s about rights. And as a trained lawyer, you are taught about those rights. Reproductive rights aren’t special rights, are they?
But am I missing something entirely?
What do you think? Take our poll, and tell us if you need an issue spotter exclusively devoted to storks.
Do lawyers need a reproductive rights class in law school?
- Yes. (60%, 689 Votes)
- No. (40%, 457 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,146
Reproductive Rights Within Legal Education [Law Students for Reproductive Justice]