LSFC National Conference Notes

This is a very long post -- all my notes from the conference last weekend.

Fun Stuff

  • The wine tour was amazing, and hopefully I’ll update this with some wine tasting notes, when and if I find them. Or I’ll make new ones based on the 3 lovely bottles I bought.
  • Although I didn’t buy an olive tree (others did!) I did buy some olives that were gorgeous.
  • Marie Kobler and I did a booty-rocking ice breaker. And kudos to everyone for joining in.
  • I managed to meet some fantastic people – smart, fun, interesting, engaged, and engaging. It’s easy to get bogged down in the daily grinds of life and law school, but it’s heartening to know that no matter the level of engagement (whether I make a career in reproductive rights, do it pro-bono, or volunteer when I can) I’m part of a movement and love the people who are taking it forward.

Saturday, 10 March: Keynote by Anat Shenker-Osorlo (Real-Reason)

  • I missed too much of this because of setup and workshop duties, but I liked what I caught
  • She spoke a lot about framing and mental models
    • Think of the difference between speaking of ‘from shore to shore’ and ‘from coast to coast’. They can be the same, but the shore has images of the ocean, and perhaps even a transoceanic voyage. The coast has images of land, and perhaps a transcontinental voyage. Not all the time and not to everyone, but these images will be strongly resonant with particular populations.
    • Another example is with education. We used to speak of education in terms of nature and gardens: cultivating understanding, nurturing children, planting the seeds of future development, etc. Now we speak in terms of business and the factory: aligning inputs to produce outputs necessary for success, testing results to ensure common quality standards
    • This language shift has an impact: in education, it’s make it more difficult for advocates of music and arts education to convey the significance of their programs in the new frame
    • Also, when we speak in terms of nature, we’re comfortable with processes that are organic and procedures
  • In a massive survey that was undertaken, it turns out that there aren’t the traditional 4 groups vis a vis abortion (strongly opposed, against, in favor, strongly in favor) but there are closer to 8 groupings (what are they?)
  • Many groups, particularly those of color and those that are male, respond to the complexity of the issue and react positively when the discussion is framed in terms of ‘letting people decide’ and ‘personal decisions about a public right’. Those are my words – the words that the survey collected are actually long, complex, paragraphs and sentences… the subject does not lend itself to pithy slogans if you want to capture the complexity.
  • Again, we shouldn’t do a search and replace on ‘choice’ – that’s how we’ve defined ourselves and how others see us. But we can expand beyond it.
  • Some see the question as being not about choice but about power – who has it and who can exercise it
  • We can frame this, again, in terms of decision making – it’s about the process of deciding.
    • Having enough information
    • Having support for the decision you make
    • Have others, and the government, respect your decision
  • Mutual empathy is key here – if we want those who disagree with us to empathize with us, we need to empathize with their disagreement. Understand that it’s real, that it’s understandable and not wrong that they don’t believe in absolutes – respect complexity.

Saturday, 10 March: New Human Genetic Technologies: Considerations, Concerns, and Consequences for Reproductive Justice. Emily Galpern and Osagie Obasogie (Center for Genetics and Society)

  • I sent an email to the NYU group about doing programming with them
  • They often run a half day or even 2-day course on this, so the hour+ was quite condensed
  • In light of the opening keynote, it was interesting that they used ‘choice’ a lot in the slides they tailored for us. But it was also interesting that their main argument could be reframed in terms of decision making. They seem to be against the popularization or commercialization of a number of new technologies, but largely because they think they’re untested and the ramifications of how these technologies are being deployed have not been thought through. Basically, my takeaway is that they don’t think the average person is yet able to make an informed decision. Perhaps once more studies have been done and the implications of various procedures are better understood, they’ll advocate for informed decision making (choice, if you will)
  • They have case studies they’ll make available for groups to use
    • A billboard in harlem soliciting egg donations for various experiments (but not IVF)
    • Insurance companies treating genetic propensities as pre-existing conditions
    • A maid hired to be a surrogate mother
      • This relates to a question I asked about the intersection of race and class and genetic technology – NYC is already rife with ‘nannies of color’ pushing around strollers full of white babies. Why not have them bear the kids as well?
    • Ads offering $80,000 for Ivy-Leage eggs for IVF.

Saturday, 10 March: The Doctors, The Lawyers, and the Supremes. Dr. Eleanor Drey (Women’s Options Center, SF General Hospital), Priscilla Smith (of CRR, great friend of LSFC), Professor Pam Karlan (Stanford Law School), Louise Melling (ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project)

  • this panel had great energy. The comraderie among the panelists was astounding. I realized that I was starting to have that with fellow LSFCers, and loved the realization.
  • My notes aren’t too great, as there was some proctoring work.
  • They spoke largely about the federal abortion ban cases, the arguments that worked in the lower courts, how they tried to tailor arguments for Kennedy, and what it was like, for Priscilla, to go in front of the court.
    • Apparently there was a heckler in the court that day!
      • Roberts gave her an extra ’30 seconds’ and they’re not sure she got it all… but it was a lengthy disturbance
    • The main argument was that it banned too many abortions, even in 2nd semester. And even if not, it didn’t have health exception for 3rd trimester.
    • Kennedy strategy: more medical evidence. Allow him to cast earlier decision (he had made vehement dissent in state abortion ban case) as reasonable but to change his mind based on extra evidence. And to show that not changing his mind wouldn’t be reasonable.
  • Karlan: Law usually doesn’t trap you. In the trial, doctors were used to show that the abortion ban meant that a doctor could begin to perform an abortion, with no intent of violating the federal law, but midway through the procedure be compelled by medical ethics to use a procedure that violated the law. That points to the vagueness of the law and intrusion into doctor-patient relationship. Think Legal Services Corp v. Valasquez – which tried to tell lawyers they couldn’t raise constitutional claims when pressing welfare claims with federal money. Court said you couldn’t undermine lawyers who might not know the best way to argue a case until they were into it. Kennedy wrote that opinion!
    • The analogy is clear – and the law is vague in how it conflicts with medical ethics.
    • For example, she pointed out that you don’t realize half way through an armed robbery that you’ve committed a crime, you know from the outset. But with abortions, you might have to switch procedures and suddenly find yourself on the wrong side of the law.
  • Doctors also used to provide cover for Kennedy – to medicalize the discussion.
  • Also had to deal with congressional findings and tradition of deference. Litigation is to remind the court that they have often struck down laws based on findings that are idiotic.
    • What about the deference? Previous congressional action was generally limited to DC (1970’s) and spending clause. Spending clause needs pretty much no fact finding. But this in Congress using its commerce clause powers. It’s not 14th Am going after the life of a fetus b/c that is facial challenge to Roe. So it’s commerce clause. But congress has no expertise in this realm. Heart of Atlanta can be about accommodation and economy. Or even VAWA: about effects of fear on economy. But congress has _no_ findings on the relevance to the economy.
    • But congress explicitly said jury will make case by case determination of interstate commerce. Congress didn’t find that the law generally relates to interstate commerce.
  • Dr. Drey: these ‘women’ are her patients – not a percentage. Would doctors be forced to ‘consent’ a woman to the dijoxyn(?) feticidal agent in order to protect the _doctors_ from lawsuit.
    • BK: Is it like SCOTUS talking about psych and soc. research?
  • Different scenarios were discussed
    • 4-4-1 split, with kennedy coming down one way or the other
    • Slam dunks either way
    • If the decision is that it’s not for the feds to say, but that a state can do it with proper exemptions, would that lead to an expensive state strategy?
    • Court could read in intent about the exact medical procedure that Congress ‘must’ have meant. This would cover Intact D&E. And it would have to have a carve-out for a health exception.
  • Question from the audience, Reva Siegel, about creating wedge issues from a progressive perspective
    • Under which circumstances and whose decisions – rape victim’s bill of rights might out people who are against it as wanting to punish women.
    • Guaranteed EC, for example, might allow anti-choicers to see who’s hardcore/intolerant/women-pay-for-their-behavior and who believes in some exceptions and is looking out for people’s health.
    • Think of the innocence movement in capital punishment and how it actually broadened the anti-death penalty movement and didn’t weaken it.
  • If women are only to have the abortions they need – who decides what they need?
  • Could the feds enact a Solomon like amendment and deny funding to institutions that teach abortions. The panel didn’t want to nightmare about that. But any abortion ban bill clearly has implications for teaching hospitals and medical schools, which are generally risk averse. Such laws might serve to eliminate trained providers in a generation.

Saturday, 10 March: Prisoners’ Priorities for Reproductive Justice. Brigitte Amiri (ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project) and Robin Levi (Justice Now)

· BA: many cases about prison’s impeding access to abortions. They fight that instance, and the underlying policy

o Arizona case as exemplar

§ Sherriff claimed to be ‘toughest in america

§ Took 7 weeks from when P notified prison authorities until when she wanted it

· Procedure is now a 2 day, riskier process

· She’s devastated, showing harms from stress, etc

§ ACLU got it from regional affiliate

· Got TRO

· Then got her the abortion

· Got the underlying policy changed

· Arizona appellate court affirmed

· Sherriff and county seeking review by state supreme court

· Could also appeal to SCOTUS, b/c case was won on federal grounds

o Missouri case

§ Applied to entire state prison system

§ Got class certification, which avoided it becoming moot

· (Arizona has no mootness requirement)

o Public education – not every case goes to trial

§ Women don’t give up reproductive rights when they go to prison

o 8th Amendment and 14th are generally there claims

§ Johnson v. CA (2006?) is a reasonable review style for policies that are consistent with incarceration. Less deference for policies not related to incarceration (this was the case about segregation in temporary housing) (Originally articulated in Turner)

§ Basic argument is that reproductive rights are not like rights of association and travel – rep. rights is like medical treatment and is not incompatible with incarceration.

§ Prisons also often compare incarcerated adult women to free teens and say that if judicial bypass can be required for teens, why not for inmates? Response is basically that there is a clear judicial distinction

§ 8th amendment claim:

· Serious medical needs.

· Standard is deliberate indifference

· They argue that 1 of 3 things will happen

o Miscarry

o Carry to term

o Self-induced

Either way, you need medical treatment and thus you’re require d

· 3rd Circuit: Monmouth Co. (NJ) v. Lanzaro 834 F.2d 326 – 1987. 3rd Cir.

o Great language!

o Says prison must fund, transport, etc

o Pre-Casey (1992)

o 14th and 8th

· Victoria W. v. Larfander? (5th 369 F.3d 475) 2004.

o Bad case L

o This distinguished between court ordered release and absolute bans

§ Aclu contends they’re the same, b/c of course prison has to obey a court order

o No other case has adopted this reasoning

· Robin Levi

o Robin didn’t speak much about this, but in addition to the woman from SisterSong at the closing keynote, she was the other ‘radical’ I heard speak. She believes in the complete abolition of prison as we know it.

o ‘people’ in women’s prisons

§ Not all identify as women

o 60-70% there for non violent crimes, largely drugs and check fraud(!)

o many women of color – latina rate is twice that of whites, black is 6 times

o pregnant women get no prenatal care, essentially: maybe some extra milk or fruit. But, for example, no pre-natal vitamins, and they often have to pay for them.

o Long and heinous discussion of destruction of reproductive capacities

§ poor / damaging pre, post, and birthing care

§ imprisonment through reproductive years

§ involuntary / unnecessary hysterectomies and ovarectomies, ‘consensual sterilization’ (while under sedation, with financial inducement, all(!?) of women of color)

§ just like California’s historical eugenics in the 1970’s of Latinas, Mexicans in LA, Indians

§ utterly contrary to ACOG guidelines (American Committee of Gynecologists?)

§ utterly contrary to MediCal and Federal guidelines

§ utterly contrary to Article 16 of CEDAW.

o Action requests from RL

§ oppose more prison building

· redirect that funding to communities

· in response to questions: individual client always comes ahead of the movement, and you take a client victory by any means you can.

· statistics v. anecdotes

o are there statistics about women in prison? RL and JusticeNow are doing their own surveys, and they’re happy to have help or to offer help to groups that want to do the same in their own local prisons.

o need both à but do really need statistics

§ but with limited access to prison system, even the 60(!) survey answers that Robin Levi has gotten is huge!

§ Requested remedy is often statistics.

§ Holy grail in parenthood cases is number of children in foster care because parents are in prison

· Center for Young Women’s Development – deals with juvenile justice – and seeing the same issues, if not worse.

· Abortions much more likely when guards are involved

· She has models of prison surveys

Sunday, 11 March: On the Books but Out of Reach, The Reality of Abortion Access. Jenny Blasdell (National Abortion Federation), Destiny Lopez (ACCESS), Tim Stanley (Planned Parenthood MN/ND/SD), Melanie Zurek (Abortion Access Project)


· some states restrict private insurance coverage of abortion

· TRAP laws – singling out abortion providers with special physical plant requirements or forcing them to have admitting privileges at hospitals (targeted regulation of abortion providers)

· FACE: freedom of access to clinic entrances

o Also Bubble buffers

Destiny Lopez: ACCESS/Women’s Health Rights Coalition – Oakland/California based

· 26%, 236,000, of CA women who became pregnant in 2000 had abortion

· CA abortion rate declined by 5% since 1996

· Costs range from 350-1000, just for medical procedure (not hotel and transport, etc)

o 2,360,000 in CA alone. Could do a hell of a lot for 2.5 million a year.

· Deficit Reduction Act of 2005: hits any state with medicare funding. People asking for coverage need to provide proof of citizenship.

Tim Stanley: PP of Minnesota, N. Dakota, and S. Dakota

· Wedge issues in the Dakotas: guaranteed EC/BC for all people – to reduce the number of abortions. Or a rape victim’s bill of rights. Something about

· Spoke about the vast distances that need to be covered

Melanie Zurek: Abortion Access Project in Cambridge Mass

· Spoke about getting Advanced Practice Clinicians (APC’s) lined up as abortion providers

· This has _greatly_ increased access in some areas

· Ask not if APC’s can legally provide abortions in your state. Ask if there is anything in the state statutes or practice acts that prohibit an APC from providing an abortion. Prevention First Act…

· AAP partners with attorney – it doesn’t have any

A question was about lobbying w/out party support, this is true in the PP states that Tim covers – the democratic party does not address abortion. He said you still have to make it worth the while of politicians and show them they’ll win votes.

What we can do?

· visit NNAF.org: national network of abortion funds (project Haven)

· As lawyers and law students: boards / volunteers for clinics and family planning centers. Serve as guardians ad litem. Forge alliances. Escort.

Sunday, 11 March: LSFC National Meeting

· call for a 3rd, broad, wave of schools to have reproductive rights courses

o LSFC has a model curriculum – it’s on the website, quite cool

§ BK has a printed copy

o May be working on a casebook

o ‘beta’ tested it at a few schools

o Did a broader launch

o Now ready to work with anyone who’s interested in bringing it to their campus

o May be a multi-year effort at any given campus

o Can also work with students interested in crafting an independent study or reading group

· Call for people to be on the board

o Very much a student led board

o More emails from national will follow about this

· National and the Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom

o They funded a number of full scholarships to the conference

o They will help facilitate religious and spiritual based programs with local LSFC chapters

o I have contact info for Emily Goodstein – or go on the web

Sunday, 11 March: Keynote Panel

· Jessica Arons, Center for American Progress

o I missed most of this, but I believe it was very much about mainstreaming reproductive rights and reproductive health and making it part of the standard progressive agenda

o Wants us to talk about the ‘ability’ to have a family or not, not the ‘right’

o Some talk about the roles and obligations of government

§ What they do when I buy a plane ticket

· Make sure I’m not paying too much

· Keep the airlines in business

· Make sure I’m safe

· Give me recourse if something goes wrong

§ Why don’t they do this when I have a reproductive health issue


· Rocio Cordoba (California Latinas for Reproductive Justice)

o Showcased a video that aired in California (and elsewhere) that effectively showcased the many facets and strengths of a diverse group of women (and, implicitly, all women)

o Point was to show that women already are responsible for so many things in life, why can’t they be responsible for their own reproductive health decisions

o Questions about how this will play to, for example, gay men

o Cacrf.org – women are: strong, knowing, wise, busy

o Awomanknowsbest.org

o It’s contextual

§ Health, family, community, faith, individual

· Ted Miller (NARAL Pro-Choice America)

o Had lots of statistics on polling

o I missed a lot of this

· Loretta Ross (SisterSong)

o One of the only speakers I heard who I’d consider truly radical (Robin Levi of Justice Now is the other)

o Invited us all to their national conference – which she referred to as the world’s biggest orgy

o Coined the term “reproductive justice” and feels a sense of ownership – it refers to reproductive rights as a human right

§ ‘Reproductive justice’ is not a drop in replacement for ‘choice’. They’re different and both are important

o 8 types of human rights

§ Civil

§ Political

§ Economic

§ Social

§ Cultural

§ Environmental

§ Developmental

§ Sexual

o Will work with groups on local (city/state) ratification of CEDAW!

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