If/When/How is delighted to announce our fifteenth Reproductive Justice Fellowship Program (RJFP) cohort. We’re welcoming eight recent law school graduates to a community of 109 lawyers who have launched their careers with our one-of-a-kind legal fellowship. 

During this year-long fellowship, If/When/How Fellows will hone their skills and do crucial work at the local, state, and national level in support of reproductive justice. We are especially excited this year to share that we are launching our first-ever Family Defense placements focused on the intersection of criminalization and the family regulation system at Brooklyn Defender Services and Neighborhood Defender Service in NY. Also, we look forward to partnering with Jane’s Due Process in Texas to host their first RJ Fellow this fall, as well as working with our fantastic returning partner organizations to host fellows for another year.

Making way for future lawyers to gain direct experience to deepen and use their training within organizations advancing our movements is vital. This moment demands it. The Supreme Court will rule in two abortion cases this year. Some states repeal harmful laws but face the overwhelm of abortion seekers traveling to access care. Others keep pushing more harsh bans that intend to isolate and attack abortion support. And laws continue to pass that target trans people’s care and participation in sports, go after bail funds, criminalize unhoused people or protests. Every day we witness how policing, militarization, and state violence here and throughout the world destroy futures and rip apart communities.

Knowing that reality, the RJ Fellowship program aims to change the status quo which created this. Those most impacted by these compounding systems of reproductive oppression must be leading the movement to lawyer for reproductive justice. By design, the legal field often excludes and marginalizes the people and communities most harmed by our current systems. Among U.S. law students admitted in 2020, nearly 60 percent were white. Women make up a little over half of that class. However, gender parity disappears and racial disparities increase when we look at who’s actually practicing law: 62 percent of lawyers are men, and 85 percent are white. According to NALP’s reports published in 2017, just 7.5 percent of lawyers employed by firms in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers are women of color, and 2.64 percent are openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender folks.

In contrast: About 64 percent of If/When/How’s fifteen Fellow cohorts identify as people of color, and 42 percent identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer folks. The RJFP values and prioritizes the experiences of candidates who belong to the places and communities facing the brunt of injustice.

RJ Fellows make an impact. From drafting and preparing doctors to testify in FDA advisory committee hearings, which led to getting the first over-the-counter birth control pill approved, to planning and running events for Atlanta’s Trans Day of Liberation, to organizing and registering voters in Georgia, to supporting youth activists pass a bill to provide medication abortion access on university campuses in NY state. Our Fellows have done incredible work helping build a world in which everyone has what they need and are able to live and thrive without fear, stigma, coercion, or violence.

Please join us in congratulating these eight new RJ Fellows and the placement organizations selected to participate in the 2024-25 cohort.

  • Maya Arigala (she/her), George Washington University Law School 2023 – Second Year RJ-HIV Fellow at Positive Women’s Network-USA
  • Kearney Coghlan (she/her), Harvard Law School 2022 – RJ Family Defense Fellow at Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem
  • Kira Eidson (she/her), Georgetown University Law Center 2024, RJ State Fellow at Illinois Contraceptive Access Now (ICAN!) 
  • Tamara Matheson (she/her), New York University School of Law 2024 – RJ State Fellow at Elephant Circle 
  • Alexia McDermott (she/her), University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law 2024 – RJ State Fellow at SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW!, 
  • Natasha Rappazzo (she/they), Penn State Dickinson School of Law 2024, RJ Federal Fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health
  • Maude Shepherd (she/her), Georgetown University Law Center 2024 – RJ State Fellow at Jane’s Due Process
  • Hannah Warntjes (she/her), New York University School of Law 2023 – RJ Family Defense Fellow at Brooklyn Defender Services 

If you want to fuel the future of lawyering for reproductive justice, make a donation and tell your friends to support training, mentoring, and resourcing the next generation of legal advocates.

We could not do this work without the generous funding from our foundation partners, the continued collaboration with the Women and the Law Program at American University Washington College of Law, the unflagging support from our allies and community, and the energy and enthusiasm from our student and legal professional members. Thank you!