Wednesday, August 10, 2016

          2L Molly Nevius: Working for the Future of Reproductive Rights

          "I really believe that law students in particular have a unique responsibility to address the harm that institutional powers have created, and I hope to be a part of that."
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          "My work was centered around reproductive justice, which is a movement created by women of color to ensure that all people can access reproductive healthcare—and framed through a lens of racial and economic justice." - Molly Nevius

          2L Molly Nevius spent her summer interning at the UC Berkeley Center for Reproductive Rights and Justice (CRRJ). A recipient of a Public Interest Grant, Molly had the opportunity to contribute to research culminating in a new wing of the CRRJ Reproductive Justice Virtual Library.

          Molly is also a charter participant in the UC Hastings-UC Santa Cruz “3+3 BA/JD Program,” an accelerated program in which she will complete her B.A. and J.D. degrees in six years rather than the typical seven. Her bachelor’s degree is in Feminist Studies, with a concentration in Law, Politics, and Social Change.

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          Please tell us about your experience with the 3+3 program.

          The 3+3 program was a great opportunity for me to eliminate a year of undergraduate coursework that I couldn't afford while also expediting the next step of my transition into graduate school. Professor Kelly Weisberg, who created the program, has been an advocate in my corner throughout my first year at UC Hastings, which has been greatly appreciated. It's exciting to be a part of a new program that allows students to pursue their goals on an alternative timeline.

          What was the nature of your work at CRRJ this summer?

          My work was centered around reproductive justice, which is a movement created by women of color to ensure that all people can access reproductive healthcare—and framed through a lens of racial and economic justice.

          My work was research- and writing-based. The majority of the time I worked remotely, with weekly—sometimes multiple times a week—meetings or phone conferences with my fellow interns and bosses.

          What kind of research did you engage in?

          Some of my research this summer focused on efforts to repeal the Hyde Amendment, a law that prohibits the use of federal Medicaid funds for abortions.

          This is an issue for a multitude of reasons: many of the people who utilize Medicaid are already surviving on poverty-level incomes, so forcing them to pay for health services out of pocket can be devastating, particularly for abortion services, which are extremely expensive and become more expensive as months go by.

          Second, the Hyde Amendment was passed with discriminatory animus, and the consequences of the funding restriction have a disproportionate impact on communities of color.

          Lastly, a cornerstone of the reproductive justice movement is that all people should be able to make decisions about their bodies, families, and well-being in a safe, affordable, and supportive environment free from coercion. The Hyde Amendment is a huge barrier to that.

          How did you find this position?

          I learned about CRRJ when I began researching different employers for the Public Interest/Public Service job fair in January of 2016 at UC Hastings. All the employers I met with were gracious and informative—but CRRJ was so much more than that. Jill and Melissa, who I interviewed with and who would later be my supervising attorneys, were incredibly smart but also eager to listen to me. I had a great interview with them, and it made my choice easy.

          What does your Public Interest Grant represent to you?

          It represents to me an opportunity to work and learn in a field that has been historically, and disappointingly, underfunded. The goal of the Grant is to support students who are working at non-profits, and that has certainly been the case for me.

          UC Hastings positions itself as a school dedicated to lawyering that is impactful for communities who most need advocates and co-conspirators—and these grants are meant to fulfill some of that promise. I would argue there is much more that UC Hastings could do, and more that we as UC Hastings students could do, because of the unique position of power and influence that we occupy. UC Hastings, and law schools more generally, provide a great opportunity to harness huge privilege into impactful work.

          That said, law school is exorbitantly expensive and inaccessible to many of the communities who most need their peers to be the ones who are writing and changing the laws, as opposed to someone outside of the community who can afford law school or access specific scholarships. The Grant gives grateful students an opportunity, but I wish there was more to give.

          How do you think this job will impact your future as an attorney?

          A job like this was crucial to my long term development because it is hugely important to me that I am continually challenged to be an effective ally/advocate for communities that most need representation—which, to be frank, isn't always central in the law school experience.

          Moving forward, I will continue to work towards undoing much of the damage that a society ruled by white supremacist institutional powers has created. That may sound overwrought or hyperbolic, but I really believe that law students in particular have a unique responsibility to address the harm that institutional powers have created, and I hope to be a part of that.

          *****

          In a joint statement, Molly’s supervising attorneys Jill E. Adams and Melissa Mikesell had this to say about Molly and her time at CRRJ:

          “This summer Molly helped us to sift through a maze of complex laws that regulate access to, and funding for, reproductive healthcare. Molly brought an amazing work ethic and an ethos that made her invaluable. The legal profession needs more people like Molly who can use the law as a tool for positive change and can show the utmost respect for poor and low-income people, who often lack meaningful access to care. Regardless of how and where they end up practicing law, we want our internship alums to wield their power and influence to advance the cause, and we have no doubt that Molly will do just that!”

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