The Reproductive Justice Clinic at UCI Law

Alison Chabot, Class of 2017
Andrea Diaz, Class of 2016

Hayley Penan, Class of 2016

The Reproductive Justice Clinic at UCI Law provides legal advocacy services for local, national, and international organizations working on behalf of women’s health, equality, and reproductive rights. Reproductive justice differs from reproductive rights in that it includes access to healthcare, adequate living standards, the ability to reproduce, or not reproduce, at one’s own will, the ability to parent one’s own children, economic justice, and judicial justice. We are involved with this clinic because we strongly believe in rectifying these injustices and connecting the varying intersections of identity, socioeconomic status, and politics that women face regarding their reproduction and fertility. As participants in both the clinic and the Vagina Monologues, we hope to shed light on the substantial obstacles that women of color and poor women encounter when making their own reproductive decisions.

As part of our clinic advocacy, we had the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C. with Professor Michele Goodwin and Judge Lynne Riddle to be a part of a congressional briefing session addressing issues facing women in mass incarceration and to meet with a couple of senate staffers working for a Senator from our home state of California. It was an incredible experience. We prepped on the plane by reading all of the materials relevant to the briefing about pregnancy in prison, the criminalization of pregnancy, the impact on families of criminalizing non-violent offenders, and the imprisonment of indigent women for failure to pay tickets or fines from misdemeanor offenses. It was shocking to see how genuinely unaware most people are about the topics that we’re studying, including those working for our legislators. It showed us how being well-versed in these issues allows us to be a voice for those whose poverty and incarceration status make it incredibly hard for them to exercise their voices in a legislative arena. It was inspiring to see the receptiveness of the staffers we encountered to working towards fixing the issues we were discussing. It left us with the understanding that education is a critical part of advocacy, and that our clinic class sessions learning about and discussing fundamental case law and articles addressing pressing issues in the field of reproductive justice is helping us build the foundation we need to become the best possible advocates for our clients. We’re so lucky to have had this experience—to see one of the many ways the research we’re working on for our clients can have an impact on creating a more just and equal society.

This year’s focus and theme for the Vagina Monologues is intersectionality, and we feel the Reproductive Justice Clinic embodies this theme. Learning about the various aspects of reproductive justice has taught us that women at the margins of society really suffer the most when attempts are made to restrict women’s ability to control their own reproductive lives. Poor women and women of color are much more likely to be criminalized by the choices they make, especially if they are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or already parents. This clinic, and the reproductive justice movement as a whole, takes a look at the intersection of different oppressions in women’s lives­—race, socioeconomic status, sex, mental and physical health—and advocates for these affected women. The Reproductive Justice Clinic is proud to be the beneficiary of the proceeds from the Vagina Monologues, and we are incredibly honored to be a part of this new, amazing clinic.