Center for Reproductive Rights Launches U.S. Law School Initiative and Selects First Fellow

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NEW YORK -- The Center for Reproductive Rights today announced a joint fellowship program with Columbia Law School for outstanding law school graduates pursuing legal academic careers in reproductive health and human rights. This program is the first in the Center's newly launched initiative to promote legal scholarship and teaching on reproductive rights as human rights in the U.S.

"We have set an ambitious long-term goal -- to shape the next generation of legal thinking about reproductive health and human rights," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Around the world, key regional human rights courts and United Nations bodies are increasingly recognizing reproductive autonomy and access to reproductive health care as basic human rights. The Law School Initiative is a forward-thinking strategy that seeks to establish the study of reproductive health and human rights as an academic field in the U.S."

Khiara M. Bridges was selected as the first recipient of the two-year Center for Reproductive Rights-Columbia Law School Fellowship. Ms. Bridges is a top graduate of Columbia Law School, where she was a Kent Scholar and a Developing Editor of the Columbia Law Review. Ms. Bridges has focused her academic work on how reproductive rights law and biomedical ethics intersect to reinforce racial inequalities in the U.S. and has done extensive field research in obstetrics at a leading public hospital in New York City. She will soon receive her Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University. Ms. Bridges earned her BA at Spelman College, where she was valedictorian of her class.

As a Center for Reproductive Rights-Columbia Fellow, Ms. Bridges will pursue independent research and writing in preparation for entering the legal academic job market. She will be in residence both at the Center for Reproductive Rights and Columbia Law School. She will have a Columbia Law School mentor and participate in faculty events, including workshops, conferences, and other exchanges.

The Center is the first and only global reproductive rights organization dedicated to advancing women's reproductive rights, it has pioneered groundbreaking cases both in the U.S. and around the world. Two years in the making, the Law School Initiative will encourage dialogue on constitutional protections for reproductive rights and health, and emphasize the use of a human rights frameworkÑ the powerful moral proposition that people's rights derive from their inherent dignity, which is reflected in international human rights treaties and lawÑto broaden and deepen those protections. It will promote greater engagement on reproductive rights issues within the legal academy by supporting teaching and scholarship on reproductive health and human rights.

In addition to the fellowship program, the initiative will include other programs, such as a Visiting Scholars Program to support scholarship that develops the theoretical bases and empirical analyses for reproductive rights advocacy, litigation, and policy. Established scholars in law and other disciplines will be invited to the Center's New York offices for a semester or full year to conduct independent research on reproductive rights. The initiative will also examine how and where reproductive rights are taught throughout law schools, and will convene roundtables and conferences bringing together leading scholars from across the country.

"Today's law students are tomorrow's judges, litigators, scholars, and policymakers," said Jill E. Adams, executive director of Law Students for Reproductive Justice. "To ensure the future of reproductive justice, it is imperative that they be given the opportunity to study reproductive rights in-depth while in law school."

The Center for Reproductive Rights-Columbia Fellowship is a two-year program. It is open to top law graduates from around the country and is not limited to Columbia alumni.