Khiara M. Bridges joined the Center in July as the first Center for Reproductive Rights-Columbia Law School Fellow. She is a top graduate of Columbia Law School and holds a PhD in anthropology from Columbia University. On October 20, she and Center President Nancy Northup will participate in a panel on new scholarship on reproductive rights at Columbia Law School. The event, open to the public, will officially launch the fellowship, which is part of the Center’s groundbreaking Law School Initiative. Q: For your anthropology dissertation, you spent 15 months at an obstetrics clinic in a public New York City hospital. What did you learn from the experience? A: My fieldwork focused on how reproductive rights policies and laws in practice end up reproducing racial inequalities. New York state offers poor women a wealth of prenatal services, but one of the first things I noticed is how unkindly poor women, most of them women of color, were treated at the clinic. Women who depend on state assistance are vilified, and that has an impact on their health. The women are less likely to come to their appointments or to tell doctors if there is a problem. That plays into the racial disparity in maternal mortality. Women who come to the clinic are also strongly encouraged to select a method of contraception that they’ll use after birth. Women walk away from that experience with the understanding that their pregnancy is a bad thing, a negative consequence of ignorance or irresponsibility. If reproductive rights means that women have the ability to make meaningful choices about their bodies, then a state policy that frowns on poor women’s fertility undermines those rights. Many people would say that the clinic is a triumph of the welfare state. If you apply a human rights lens, however, you can more clearly see the clinic’s failure to respect these women’s dignity and autonomy. Q: How can legal scholarship, and this fellowship, promote reproductive justice? A: Scholarship is important for grounding and informing action. My research could help policymakers create better policies that recognize there is an important difference between offering services to women and compelling women to receive them. Clinic administrators could also take lessons away about how they can do a better job of promoting women’s health. This fellowship is the sort of opportunity young scholars like me need—to hear other people’s scholarship, to think in a group setting, to be around people who are actively involved in realizing reproductive justice. The work I produce during the fellowship will reflect the Center’s knowledge and experience, and be more convincing as a result of that.