August 17, 2023
By Hirsha Venkataraman
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.
Prior to law school, Hirsha Venkataraman (CUNY School of Law ’23) spent almost a decade working in sales and account management within the financial sector, helping small business owners nationwide reach their goals when large banks refused.
Upon realizing that he wanted to use his relationship-building and advocacy skills in an arena that would create more substantial change, he decided to attend CUNY School of Law, where he could learn how best to harness his strengths to practice law in the public interest. Hirsha is fiercely dedicated to making sure that reproductive rights are preserved, and that parents are protected both during and after their pregnancies. His goal is to ensure that everyone can make their own decisions related to pregnancy, have access to healthcare, and be economically secure.
Hirsha’s motivation stems from the stillbirth of his daughter, Thalia. Upon experiencing this tragedy, and seeing the numerous, unnecessary struggles his wife went through following their loss, Hirsha decided to dedicate his life to ensuring that other parents did not have to suffer the same experiences with stillbirth and paid leave. As part of the Health Justice Clinic at CUNY Law, Hirsha interned with A Better Balance, where he joined the fight for equal rights for pregnant and parenting workers. He helped in the mission to improve policies related to paid sick and family leave, reasonable accommodations, and pregnancy discrimination. Additionally, Hirsha volunteers with SHINE for Stillbirth and PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy to advocate for federal and state legislation providing paid leave following stillbirth, and for continued research into reducing preventable stillbirths.
At CUNY Law, Hirsha was on the E-Board for Moot Court, where he competed in multiple external competitions and coordinated CUNY Law’s Annual Summer Competition. He was also a staff editor of the CUNY Law Review and member of the Public Interest Law Students Association (PILA), Formerly Incarcerated Law Students Association (FILSAA), Men of Color Collective (MOCC), and Phi Alpha Delta (PAD).
Hirsha graduated from Rutgers University – New Brunswick with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. He is a proud son of Indian immigrants from the South Indian state of Karnataka. In his free time, he enjoys running, singing, and spending time with his newborn son, Raja, who is always looked after by his big sister.
We asked Hirsha to tell us a little about himself as he prepares to begin his Reproductive Justice Fellowship year at If/When/How in the fall.
If/When/How: Who are you and where are you from?
Hirsha Ventakataraman: My name is Hirsha Venkataraman (he/him/his), and I am from Old Bridge, NJ. I’ve been living in New York City for over 10 years, repping Queens for about 6 of them, so I think it’s safe to say I’m a New Yorker now. However, I’ll always be a proud New Jerseyan at heart. Oh, by the way, Central Jersey definitely exists, and I make sure people know!
If/When/How: Where are you going?
HV: I’m headed to the stratosphere and way beyond as each day goes by, because I can’t believe that I’m going to be a lawyer advocating for reproductive justice. Every day I am so thankful to be in such a privileged position, and even if new experiences make me feel like I’m in another world, I love to learn and explore, and I can’t wait to keep going. But if we’re talking about where I’m going literally, there’s a good chance I’m headed to the changing table with my infant son for his 20th diaper of the day.
If/When/How: What makes you powerful?
HV: I have two main sources of power. First, I draw my power from fear of failure, inadequacy, and weakness. Every day, I remind myself of what a short life I have, and that the only way to make it count is by doing my absolute best to succeed at what I set out to do. That fortunes can change so quickly is what makes pushing for greatness so worth it. Second, and more importantly, I am made powerful by the positivity in my life. I am always encouraged and supported by my family and friends, and am so incredibly fortunate to have them in my life. It is their belief in me that makes me truly powerful beyond measure.
If/When/How: What do you want to change (or what are you changing) about what it means to be a lawyer?
HV: I want to change the de facto boundaries that exist within the legal profession. In particular, as I find myself being one of the very few cisgender heterosexual males having been awarded this fellowship since its inception, I hope to make it clear that neither your gender nor sexual orientation should stop you from joining the fight for reproductive justice. We are all affected in some way when reproductive rights are stripped. Therefore, we all owe it to ourselves to take the opportunity to learn about the hardships faced by those directly impacted by harmful legislation. This fight is for everyone.