Of Counsel, Summer 2008
Message from our President Nancy Northup
Several years ago, I received a call from Ellen Chapnick, dean for social justice initiatives at Columbia Law School. She had a group of students in her office asking for a course on reproductive rights. Would I teach it? I didn’t hesitate to accept the offer—it was an opportunity to influence how the next generation understands reproductive health in the context of exciting new cases in international human rights law, many of which were pioneered by the Center. But this offer also highlighted the lack of attention given to these new developments in today’s law schools. That is just one of the reasons the Center has embarked on a forward-looking new initiative to promote legal scholarship and teaching on reproductive health and human rights: the Law School Initiative. We have spent the past two years immersed in a strategic planning process, asking ourselves what we need to do to secure a world where every woman is able to enjoy reproductive freedom. The Law School Initiative is a critical part of the answer. As regional and United Nations human rights bodies have recognized in recent years, a woman’s rights to reproductive autonomy and health care are inherent human rights. The ambitious goal of the Law School Initiative is to cultivate lawyers, judges, and scholars who will use that human rights framework to broaden protections for reproductive rights. A joint academic fellowship with Columbia Law School for outstanding recent law school graduates nationwide will help launch the next generation of legal scholars. A Visiting Scholars Program for established legal scholars will stimulate cutting-edge legal theories. The Center will also convene roundtables, symposia, and conferences to further encourage writing and scholarship. As the only reproductive rights organization with extensive experience in both constitutional law and international human rights, the Center is ideally positioned to lead the Law School Initiative. We have secured a three-year, $3 million grant from an anonymous foundation to support the Center’s strategic plan, including the Law School Initiative. We are also fortunate to have Professor Martha Davis, a well-known women’s rights attorney and legal scholar at Northeastern University School of Law, serving as a consultant. This fall, I will once again teach a seminar on reproductive health and human rights at Columbia Law School. I invite you to sit in on a class and see for yourself the vital discussions taking place today among tomorrow’s leaders. With your support, we will nurture their ideas and passion to make our movement even stronger.