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Lawyers of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We will be using this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs, and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the author and not Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to respectfully participate in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog, and guest writers are welcome.


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Guest Blog: LGBTQ Rights Up For Interpretation?

Posted By Kimberly Ahrens, Wednesday, March 14, 2018

LGBTQ Rights Up For Interpretation?


This past June, I fell in love with Tennessee after visiting a friend who moved there a couple years back. We spent an entire day floating down the Harpeth River—enjoying the slow pace and dense lush forest that hugs the riverbank. After our canoeing adventure, we gathered around a fire pit in her backyard, watched a blanket of fireflies illuminate the earth around us, and discussed how different life is in Tennessee compared to Southern California.


The conversation turned to the question of whether my wife and I would ever consider moving to Tennessee. As a lesbian couple, it is impossible for us to not consider the level of LGBTQ acceptance when we consider moving to, or even visiting, another state or country. And, Tennessee is a prime example of a state that does not have any explicit law prohibiting discrimination against me based on my sexual orientation.  


Without explicit federal protection from workplace discrimination, LGBTQ families like mine are left at the mercy of state non-discrimination laws and shifting interpretations of federal law. A simple decision to move to a state void of any statewide anti-discrimination laws, coupled with recent federal government position reversals, could easily result in an inability to find a job merely because of the gender of my spouse.


Over the years, LGBTQ people have been forced to rely on a hodgepodge of regulations, state laws, federal guidance opinions, and local ordinances to create a patchwork of protection against discrimination. Unfortunately, this path can be unpredictable and unreliable because many states do not have any anti-discrimination laws and federal agencies have complete discretion to rescind, revise, or rollback their guidance opinions.


I look forward to learning more about recent changes to the interpretation of LGBTQ protections under federal civil rights laws and pending legislation at an upcoming MCLE panel discussion coordinated by Lawyers Club's LGBTQ Committee and Tom Homann LGBT Law Association (Friday, March 16, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. – register here to join us).  


The panel will include esteemed speakers, Amanda Goad, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU Foundation of Southern California, and Alexander Chen, Equal Justice Works Fellow, National Center for Lesbian Rights. They will provide an in-depth review of recent federal government position reversals on sexual discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, religion as a license to discriminate, transgender military service, and more.


After the panel discussion, guests are welcome to attend a reception where we can mingle and continue talking about these important topics.


Kimberly Ahrens is the founder of The Ahrens Law Office and is the current chair of Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee.


Tags:  discrimination  equality  guest blogger  LCB  LGBTQ 

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My So-Called First World Problems: Racist on a Plane

Posted By Rebecca Zipp, Tuesday, March 6, 2018
My So-Called First World Problems: Racist on a Plane


I start a jury trial in less than 48 hours. I have work to do. I have an opening statement to perfect and witness statements to review. Instead, I am sitting here in 22A (window seat, so completely trapped) next to a white supremacist who doesn’t even have the decency to be ashamed of himself.


I remember I have a kippah in my purse. I find it, put it on. When I arrive at my hotel later, I will be annoyed, because I will realize I actually had three kippot in my purse, and could have shared them with other passengers. (I had just attended a Jewish wedding.)


I asked the flight attendant whether the airline has a policy about racist clothing. I later discovered that they do, and it isn’t allowed. But the flight attendants were in the dark about this policy, because at least two of them said, “Oh, yes, we saw that when he boarded the plane.”


The flight attendant did offer me an available middle seat elsewhere. Are you kidding me? Move the white supremacist. Or at least make him take off his vest.


I feel sick.


I feel like punching him in the face.


There is an anger and a fear that I am not accustomed to experiencing.


The vest is hanging over the armrest and it is touching me.


My discomfort is palpable.


The kippah on my head is my son’s and it says Benjamin on it in Hebrew letters.


I wish I had a bobby pin.


I would use it to keep my kippah in place. I swear.


Is coughing on him too passive-aggressive? Is the kippah passive-aggressive?


I grew up charmed, in New Jersey! The closest we got to anti-Semitism was an uncomfortable dispute over lyrics in the school Christmas concert.


I know people harbor hate. But to wear it on your sleeve? In an airport in a major city?


What is this? And who are we?


Rebecca Zipp is a San Diego County Deputy District Attorney in the Economic Crimes Division, and focuses her practice on securities fraud and elder financial abuse cases.

Tags:  LCB  My So-Called First-World Problems  race  racism 

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Guest Blog: Why Support Lawyers Club?

Posted By Eric Ganci, Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Why Support Lawyers Club?


I was asked to write an article about why I support Lawyers Club. And more importantly, why I, as a male, support an organization with a mission statement focused on females.


Any time I’m asked about my support for LC or any similar organization, I have the same gut reaction—because this talk can go one of two ways. The first way is the expected answer: LC has an incredible mission statement, it’s well-run, with quality events, it gives platforms to important issues, and voices to the underrepresented, etc. But, that’s not where my initial reaction goes when I’m asked this.


And, I get asked – at least a few times a year, “Why are you a member of LC, isn’t that an organization for women?” That right there? That’s the reason I support LC. It’s because I’m even asked that question, and it’s the fact that I’ve even been asked to write an article like this. The reason that anyone sees an organization with a gender-focus as something that they can’t, or needn’t, or shouldn’t be a part of, is exactly why I support LC. So, I’m not going to write an article about why I support LC; instead, I’ll discuss how you can support LC.


This is what I’ve been doing over the past few years, and I hope it lights a fire in you to do the same.


Call the organization by its proper focus:


Let’s start with the LC mission statement: “To advance the status of women in the law and society.”


So, pop quiz—I’ll give you a statement, and you say if it’s right or wrong. (Yes, you are being graded on this, and yes, I am judging you based on how you answer this). Ok, the statement: “This is a female bar organization,” or “This is an organization for women.”


If you said it was wrong, then [hugs]. If not, then [facepalm]. There’s no faster way to create the wall of “Me v. You” then to identify this organization in a limited way, or “just as” something. If you’re explaining this organization to a male, you might as well say, “This is a female org, for females, run by females . . . and you’re not included, invited, or wanted.” Because even if you don’t say this, this is what the listener hears.


My advice, say what the organization is by its mission statement. Nowhere in the mission statement does it say it’s only for females. Or to be technical, it doesn’t say it’s for females per se. It says this org is here to advance women in the legal field and society. Ah, that’s some inclusive stuff right there!


Ok, now that we have a proper framing to who we are as an organization, what are some actual things you can do right this second (well, after you finish reading this article).


Get male attorneys involved:


Guess what? Many men appreciate fact that an organization would want to foster this kind of mission. But you know what, men can be a part of this support too! With leadership shoes in the legal profession still overwhelmingly being filled by a more seasoned generation of white men, one of the best approaches is inviting the exact people in power to make change.


So, my ask to you: Think of your male colleagues, reach out to them, and offer to bring them to an event. Go to the Lawyers Club website, find an event, and offer the invite.


This is what I’ve been doing in San Diego, and it’s been wonderful. Many men either feel like they are not wanted or they would just not be accepted at an organization focused on promoting women. But if you specifically invite them, bring them, and introduce them to other members, then you’re showing them they are wanted in this organization. It’s also incredibly inclusive to walk into the event with the person you invited. That can be easy as meeting them outside the event and walking in with them, but obviously you could rock-star it and walk or ride to the event with them.


Get young attorneys involved:


You know who will be still around when we’re retired? Younger people! Yes, let them carry the torch and take care of us when we’re older! Also, this needn’t be new attorneys—it can be law students too. I’d start with the law student organization presidents, because they’re the most likely to keep community service going after law school.


Get judges or other high-ranking legal professionals involved:


Simply put, this will help the fire spread. People notice when someone high up the food chain walks into the room. Especially if they’ve never been there before. Once you’ve brought this person in, ask them for suggestions of who else you could invite to join you next time. Keep that momentum going!


Bring one person, or a few?


Here’s food for thought: Now that you’re going to take action right after you finish this article, do you want to bring just one person, or do you want to bring several? My thought is to bring one. It’s way more intimate and special to know that you specifically reached out to only them. Plus, it’s easier to introduce one person to other attendees instead of a group. But, if you want to bring a group of people and can pull it off, then go for it!


Wrapping up:


 “Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” said Gandhi, and so say I! Now that you’ve read my feelings on this, you can do one of two things: you can just take it in and maybe think it was a nice sentiment, or you can act on it. My hope is that you take action and reach out to some people, contacts both old and new, and invite them to join you. Offer to bring them to an event, and ask them to share this message with their spheres of influence. Actually, while writing this article I took a break and did the same thing myself by reaching out to a male colleague to invite him to a LC signature event: Red, White, and Brew (coming up on March 1, 2018). (And, if I’m patting myself on the back, last week I invited a female colleague who is also a newer lawyer to a LC luncheon). I’d love to hear if you do the same!


Guest blogger Eric Ganci is a DUI trial lawyer by day, and a face-melting live-band karaoke drummer by night.

Tags:  be the change  female organization  inclusion  male attorney  mission statement  outreach 

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Guest Blog: 45th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade – Part 5

Posted By Courtney L. Wine, Monday, February 12, 2018

45th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade – Part 5


Women Need More Choices


While in law school, I interned at the California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr). I was hired by Sabrina Martucci Johnson, who was the organization’s CFO/CAO at the time. Ms. Johnson is an advocate for women, and any time we have spoken about reproductive rights, it has been obvious to me that she cares deeply about women’s access to reproductive health care.


Ms. Johnson is the founder and CEO of Daré Bioscience, a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company committed to the development and commercialization of innovative products in women’s reproductive health. Daré’s first clinical candidate is a nonhormonal contraceptive ring called Ovaprene®. By helping to develop a nonhormonal birth control ring, and thus expanding the options women have in that realm of health care, Ms. Johnson is advocating for women’s reproductive rights in a time when women’s health care is being challenged.


As part of a Lawyers Club blog series in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, here’s a summary of my interview with Ms. Johnson:


What is your role in the reproductive rights and services field?


SMJ: We founded Daré Bioscience to ensure that innovative products for reproductive health make it to market so that women have numerous choices when it comes to maintaining their reproductive health (whether it is contraception, vaginal health, menopause, fertility or sexual health). Expanding product choices helps enhance access and reduces stigma. I am also on the board of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest.  


What does the term "reproductive justice" mean to you?


SMJ: It means having access to the right products and services to address your specific reproductive needs and circumstances, no matter where you live, what your socioeconomic status is, your race, or your health.


How do you think reproductive rights and services have changed since Roe v. Wade or since you began your work?


SMJ: It has changed to expand beyond abortion to broader access to reproductive care, and beyond limited legal arguments to include the social and health factors that impact women's reproductive choices and decision-making ability.


What would you say is the number one need or reproductive service for those who have limited or no access to services in San Diego?


SMJ: More needs to be done on behalf of women and their families to deliver new and improved forms of contraception, fertility treatments and products for vaginal health. Bottom line: Women need more choices – including non-hormonal contraception – so that wherever they are in their reproductive lifecycle they have viable options.


We also need to continue to work hard to ensure that people have access to the information, services, and products they need. There are organizations that can provide appropriate, unbiased, and inclusive care, and we should make sure there is general awareness of these services.


For an interesting look at women’s health and the biotech industry, please read this STAT News article, co-authored by Ms. Johnson and Jessica Grossman, CEO of Medicines360. In the article, Ms. Johnson and Ms. Grossman articulate the barriers that women face regarding access to health options.


Courtney L. Wine wrote this for the Lawyers Club Reproductive Justice Committee and is contracts counsel at the California Institute for Biomedical Research.

Tags:  reproductive justice  reproductive justice committee  reproductive rights 

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Guest Blog: 45th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade – Part 4

Posted By Christina Prejean, Tuesday, January 30, 2018
45th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade – Part 4


As part of a Lawyers Club blog series in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, I interviewed Chrissy Cmorik, the Education Outreach Manager of the San Diego location of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest (PPPSW). Below, Ms. Cmorik details her role in the reproductive justice movement, and discusses both the changes made since Roe v. Wade and what still needs to be done to ensure that everyone has access to the reproductive services they need.


What is your role in the reproductive justice movement?


CC: My role at PPPSW is Education Manager. I ensure that our agency is providing medically accurate, inclusive, and comprehensive sexuality education in our communities. I ensure that all youth, regardless of their zip code or legal status, are receiving the same high quality sexuality education. I also train teachers, medical professionals, and other professionals on reproductive health as well as other topics around trauma informed care, sexual health disparities, values and sexuality. I have been a member of San Diego County’s SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) for 14 years. In this role, I respond to sexual assault cases to provide immediate counseling as well as advocacy to the survivor.


What does "reproductive justice" mean to you?


CC: Reproductive Justice is when all people have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies, sexuality and reproduction for themselves, their families and their communities in all areas of their lives.


How do you think reproductive rights, services or access have changed since the Roe v. Wade decision?


CC: There have been many changes since Roe v. Wade that has improved access for some members of our communities, in regards to access to abortion, birth control and reproductive health in general. But many of our marginalized communities (rural population, people of color, youth, and LGBTQ people) have been left out of the conversation around health care needs and access. In the past 13 years since I have been working with PPPSW, I have seen how people are starting to become more aware of the intersectionality between health and many other social justice issues and the organizations starting to work together to address health disparities and access.


What would you say is the number one need or reproductive service for those who have limited or no access to reproductive services in San Diego?


CC: Transportation. In San Diego, we do not have a strong public transportation system like other big cities. It is difficult for those who do not drive or have access to a car to access services at our health centers.


Where do you think the reproductive justice movement is heading, locally, statewide and/or nationally?


CC: I think we are headed into creating easier ways to access services; mobile health centers, minute clinics, etc. I also think we are starting to work out of our normal silos and with other organizations to help address the whole person and all of their needs.


What are the best ways for attorneys and law students to help?


CC: Advocating against and working to eliminate T.R.A.P. (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws that infringe on a person’s access to reproductive health.



Christina Prejean is a civil litigation attorney at Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman, LLP, who also handles pro-bono cases through Casa Cornelia and Protect Our Defenders, and wrote this for the Reproductive Justice Committee.

Tags:  guest blogger  LCB  reproductive justice  reproductive justice committee  reproductive rights 

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Guest Post: 45th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade - Part 3

Posted By Katie Aul, Thursday, January 25, 2018
45th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade – Part 3


As part of a Lawyers Club blog series in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, I interviewed Amanda Le. Le serves on the Board of Directors for the San Diego Coalition for Reproductive Justice and she’s employed by the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties as a policy associate. At ACLU, her responsibilities include advancing reproductive justice such as implementation of comprehensive sexual education through the California Healthy Youth Act which became law in January 2016.


Below is a summary of my interview with Ms. Le:


What does "reproductive justice" mean to you? 


AL: To me, reproductive justice addresses one’s complete well-being and the ability to exercise complete autonomy over one’s own body. The Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice points out the importance of fighting for (1) the right to have a child; (2) the right not to have a child; and (3) the right to parent the children we have, as well as to control our birthing options. This description resonates with me.


It’s important to emphasize that the human rights framework of today’s reproductive justice movement was founded by women of color for women of color. I give credit to key figures in the movement including Loretta Ross of Sister Song Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective.


How do you think access to reproductive services and the ability to exercise reproductive rights has changed since Roe v. Wade


AL: Certainly, there’s greater access to reproductive services in California, in terms of availability and legal rights. However, access options can vary depending on affordability, distance to travel, and stigma. For example, denial of critical care at religiously affiliated hospitals is not uncommon. One in six hospital beds in the U.S. is in a facility that complies with Catholic directives prohibiting a range of reproductive health care services.


What would you say is the most needed reproductive service for those who have limited or no access to reproductive services in San Diego? 


AL: Oh, that’s hard. I’d say the greatest need is comprehensive sexual health education. It’s essential for people to have medically accurate and unbiased information so as to make healthy decisions. Additionally, it’s important that people know their rights related to their sexual health and accessing reproductive services.   


Where do you think the reproductive justice movement is heading – locally, statewide or nationally? 


AL: This has been a tough year for the reproductive justice movement. We’ve seen constant attacks on people’s reproductive rights and more. Nevertheless, it’s been heartening to see strong resistance and demonstrations of support from individuals and communities intent on protecting their more vulnerable neighbors.


I’m very inspired to see young people take ownership of reproductive justice issues in innovative and visionary ways. I’ve met students who were politically engaged, passionate, active in their communities, self-aware and confident. I truly believe that allowing more of this work to be informed and led by young people can only benefit the reproductive justice movement.  


What are the best ways for attorneys and law students to help the reproductive justice movement? 


AL: Law students can educate themselves on California Senate Bill 320, written to expand access to medication abortion at public universities. Currently, no publicly-funded university in California provides their students with medication abortion service. Students seeking early pregnancy termination are unable to access this care on campus, and often must find their way to unknown providers without reliable transportation. 


For attorneys: Donate your legal expertise through pro-bono work on cases related to reproductive justice, or volunteer time to a particular campaign. For attorneys with more disposable income than time, the reproductive justice movement welcomes financial support. For example, the National Network of Abortion Funds provides financial support to folks seeking an abortion throughout the country.


Lastly, attorneys and law students can help by sharing their own abortion story or sharing about a time they helped a loved one obtain an abortion. I believe in the power of storytelling to reframe narratives and lessen the stigma of abortion. 



Katie R. Aul wrote this for Lawyers Club’s Reproductive Justice Committee and is an associate at Ryan & Associates. 

Tags:  guest blogger  LCB  reproductive justice  reproductive justice committee 

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Guest Blog: 45th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade – Part 2

Posted By Tracy Rogers, Thursday, January 18, 2018

45th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade – Part 2


As part of a Lawyers Club blog series in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, I interviewed Marsela Rojas-Salas, Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Coordinator with El Programa Hispano Católico. Ms. Rojas-Salas will be receiving the first ever Audre Lorde Emerging Leader Award at the 45th Anniversary of Roe V. Wade Breakfast Celebration Breakfast hosted by the San Diego Coalition for Reproductive Justice on Friday, January 26, 2018. Below is a summary of my interview.


Marsela Rojas-Salas moved to San Diego in 2015 for graduate school and in the spring of 2016, furthered her activism with California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ). With CLRJ, Rojas-Salas’s confidence in organizing began to grow. “The power of holding space for our traumas collectively, while organizing with and educating our community on reproductive justice issues was affirmed,” said Rojas-Salas.


Expanding the reproductive justice network has been critical to her role in the movement. This led to bringing No Más Bebes to San Diego State University, engaging students to become more critical of the history of sterilization against Latina immigrant women in Los Angeles. Rojas-Salas also co-facilitated a workshop on the differences between reproductive rights, health, and justice through the Women’s Resource Center.


In August of 2017, CLRJ staff hosted their first California Latinas Presente! in which members from the San Diego chapter recruited community members to join a Day of Action. CLRJ provided hands-on training on California's policy making process and effective policy advocacy strategies, followed by visits with federal and state legislators and their staff to discuss priority reproductive justice policy issues like the Gender Recognition Act, which passed in California!


Rojas-Salas wants readers to know that reproductive oppression and the resulting movement involves many overlapping societal factors. Reproductive oppression is represented through the forced sterilization of black, indigenous people of color in the 1960s and 1970s in Puerto Rico and Los Angeles; coerced sterilization of women in prisons that only recently ended in 2014; and the ways in which people with disabilities have been deemed unfit for parenthood.


Reproductive oppression is also illustrated by the ways in which the mainstream media portrays poor black women as “Welfare Queens,” and the children of undocumented women of color as “anchor babies” who seek to suck the system dry of its so-called benefits. Such stereotypes blame women of color for overpopulation and insufficient government funds, and thus, shape U.S. policy that is anti-immigrant, anti-black, and forces parents of color and their respective communities to struggle under capitalism.


Reproductive justice must also be about the right to have children and the right to raise youth in a world free of police brutality, environmental racism, sexual and gendered violence, homophobia and transphobia, violent detention centers and deportations, gentrification and displacement of communities of color, and so much more! This requires radical friendships, says Rojas-Salas. “For many of us, our politics and our activism are intimately tied to cultivating radical friendships with women, femmes, queer, and trans folks of color,” and many more.


When asked, “What are the best ways for attorneys and law students to help?” Marsela replied, “Utilize a reproductive justice lens in your work. There is an organization called “If/When/How” that supports law students in creating reproductive justice chapters on campus and even provides online toolkits on various issues such as reproductive justice in the prison system, women of color and the struggle for reproductive justice, reproductive justice for LGBTQ folks, as well as a chapter leader guide.”


Tracy Rogers is an appellate lawyer specializing in criminal appeals and wrote this as the Lawyers Club liaison to the San Diego Reproductive Justice Coalition.

Tags:  activism  guest blogger  LCB  politics  reproductive justice  reproductive justice committee  reproductive rights 

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Guest Blog: 45th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade – Part 1

Posted By Mehry Mohseni, Tuesday, January 16, 2018

45th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade – Part 1


As part of a Lawyers Club blog series in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, I interviewed Professor Kimala Price. Professor Price will be the guest speaker at the Reproductive Justice Committee meeting THIS THURSDAY, January 19, 2018, at 12:00 p.m. at DLA Piper downtown. Dr. Price will be sharing her experience working in the reproductive justice social movement, her most notable research findings, and she will share highlights from her next publication entitled Reproductive Politics in the United States. This meeting is open to all Lawyers Club members and lunch will be provided. Please RSVP to by January 16th, 2018.


Here’s a summary of my interview with Professor Price, who has been involved in the reproductive rights and justice movements for more than 25 years as a scholar and an activist:  


MM: What does "reproductive justice" mean to you?


KP: First of all, reproductive justice is different from the “pro-choice” framework. Reproductive justice is both a theoretical and political organizing framework based on human rights doctrine and social justice principles. “Choice” is based on individual rights to privacy and autonomy, often narrowly focused on abortion rights.


Reproductive justice argues that reproductive oppression not only happens to individual people, but also to entire communities, such as the systematic coercive sterilization of women of color, poor women, and women with disabilities in the US throughout the 20th century.


Reproductive justice is also intersectional in its approach to reproductive and sexual politics. We must understand how gender, race/ethnicity, sexuality, socioeconomic class, ability, and other markers of identity interact with each other and how various groups of women experience reproductive oppression differently.  


MM: How do you think reproductive rights have been affected since the Roe v. Wade decision?


KP: Reproductive rights and justice have been under constant attack ever since the Roe decision. The Hyde Amendment (1976) bans the use of federal funding for abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, states have enacted 231 abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2014. At the state and federal level, there have been efforts to cut family planning funding in general. All of these and other actions have made it more difficult for many women, especially low-income women, to access reproductive and sexual health services, although these services are legal.


MM: What are the best ways for attorneys and law students to help?


KP: The first step is to become better educated about the framework. There are a few “classic” books that laid the groundwork for the reproductive justice framework: Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts; Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive Justice by Jael Silliman, Marlene Fried Gerber, Loretta Ross, and Elena Gutiérrez; and, Pregnancy and Power: A Short History of Reproductive Politics in America by Rickie Solinger.


Another step is to support reproductive justice organizations by donating money, becoming members, and volunteering. I suggest supporting the smaller organizations run by women of color such as SisterSong, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Black Women for Wellness, Forward Together, and ACCESS Women's Health Justice.


I also suggest talking about RJ issues with your personal network of friends, acquaintances, and family. Post about these issues on social media, and hold elected officials accountable for reproductive justice issues. Commit to getting more young people involved in the RJ movement and in politics in general.


To learn more, RSVP for the January 19th Reproductive Justice Committee meeting where Dr. Price will be speaking (email me at


Mehry Mohseni is a family law attorney with the firm Cage & Miles, LLP and wrote this as RJC Co-Chair. 

Tags:  LCB  reproductive justice  reproductive justice committee  reproductive rights  women of color 

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Why the outing of sexual harassers is not enough

Posted By Olga Álvarez, Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Why the outing of sexual harassers is not enough


Originally published in the San Diego Union Tribune


As the #Metoo campaign unfolds and the lives of powerful men crumble before our very eyes, Time magazine has made the bold choice to select the Silence Breakers as Persons of the Year. Like many feminists, I applaud the magazine’s choice, but my cheer is tempered by caution. To be sure, the outing of the most brazen and most powerful of sexual harassers may be vindicating to women who have suffered in silence for so long. But to me, the key challenge is not determining how to proportionately punish the harassers, nor is it how we can better nip harassment in the bud, or even how to prevent a culture of harassment from blossoming in the workplace. Instead, the more relevant, albeit the more vexing problem is, what makes our industries – from media to academia, from entertainment to law – so ripe for sexual harassment?


The problem is broader than any one industry, and broader even than the workplace. We know that sexual harassment and sexual violence exists in our schools, religious institutions, and even our homes. Regrettably, our culture has failed to keep pace with feminist ideals of personal choice and self-determination. Our media, our education system, our entertainment and our laws, routinely objectify, commodify, and regulate the bodies of women. The outing of serial harassers in newsrooms, legislatures and Hollywood demonstrates that in far too many industries, sexual violence is the norm and victim-blaming is commonplace: the very definition of a rape culture. We not only blame women; we don’t believe them.


In June, Anita Hill headlined Lawyers Club’s Annual Dinner. In 1991, a 35-year-old Anita Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. The committee, led by Joe Biden and comprised entirely of white men, eagerly cross-examined Ms. Hill about her sex life, why she “allowed” the harassment to continue, and, of course, why she hadn’t come forward sooner with these allegations? Why, indeed. (Joe Biden offered a half-hearted apology to Anita Hill in recent weeks, no doubt encouraged by the number of news stories about sexual harassment.)  In the recent past, women and men coming forward with harassment allegations against powerful men have been derided by the accused as liars, extortionists, too undesirable to harass, oversensitive and of course, the perennial favorite, crazy.


So, why don’t more women come forward? Because we can be certain that our personal lives will be combed through by lawyers and reporters; that our careers will be snuffed out before they’ve begun; that we will be terminated from our jobs for making trouble; that too many of us do not understand our rights, and even if we did, we can’t access a lawyer, can’t afford a lawyer, and really can’t afford to lose our jobs.  As a society, we need to ask smarter questions. Questions like, “Why would he do such a thing?” and “How can we help you through this?” rather than “What did you do to lead him on / deserve this?” “Were you in a room alone with him?” or “What were you wearing?” (Brock Turner’s rape victim, famously, wore a cardigan, as if that were the point.)


Instead of perpetuating a culture where victims of sexual harassment and abuse are blamed and the perpetrator’s actions are excused, every one of us must take responsibility for changing it. Better laws and stronger policies are necessary but insufficient on their own. Often, laws and policies focus on how to address harassment after the fact. Of course, perfecting those remedies is critical. But what is really needed is to ask how we can prevent harassment from occurring in the first place. 

Part of the answer, of course, is buy-in from the top. The C-suite, the managing partner, the agency director, need to make clear to the organization that workplace harassment will not be tolerated.  More broadly, though, we need to both develop and teach empathy, communication skills, and problem-solving skills to our children well before they enter the workforce. We must offer intellectually honest sex education curricula which emphasize healthy sexual behavior, self-respect and respect for others. Respect is anathema to objectification, the act of treating a person as an object without regard to their personhood or dignity.


Our harassment problem is, at its core, an objectification problem. Only when – and if – our society resolves to treat women as people, and by this I mean people who are fully capable of bodily self-determination, whose value is not defined by the male gaze, who deserve equal pay for equal work, will we be addressing the root cause of sexual harassment in a meaningful and holistic way.


Olga Álvarez is co-founder and shareholder of Heisner Álvarez, APC in La Jolla. She is a Certified Legal Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law and is president of Lawyers Club.

Tags:  LCB  legal profession  metoo  sexual harassment 

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Chasing the Last Wave: Reclaiming My Name

Posted By Molly Toronski Wescott, Friday, December 8, 2017

Chasing the Last Wave: Reclaiming My Name


Although I have been absent from the Lawyers Club Blog (LCB) for some time, I have nevertheless been chasing my own last wave on the path to realizing my true, feminist self. My journey recently culminated with a legal name change, as reflected by my new last name. I have come to think of my recent experiences as “reclaiming my original name.”


When I married young decades ago, I took my husband’s last name without giving it a second thought. That is what women (or at least the vast majority of women) did at that time. That married name became my professional name as well as my personal/family name. At one point, I recall pondering the question of why women continue to take their husbands’ names, a tradition rooted in patriarchy and property rights, as we lawyers know. It is, of course, more convenient for couples/parents and children to have the same last name, but why in heterosexual marriages do couples always assume the man’s last name? (I recognize that some couples join and hyphenate their names, but that can be problematic in many ways.) If men took women’s names in equal share, then the practice of a shared last name would seem fairer and more in line with my feminist thinking.


When I found myself starting a new chapter of life in San Diego (no longer married), I began to think about not retaining my married last name. I was not eager to retake my maiden name (which I had been using and continue to use as my middle name), as it is not the easiest name to spell or pronounce. Moreover, that name harkens back to who I was at a much younger age, and I’m not that person anymore. I then began to think about taking an entirely different last name. I read an article about women divorcing later in life and taking a new last name entirely of their own choosing. One day it came to me that I would take my mother’s maiden/adopted last name of “Wescott.” I had always loved that name and when I mentioned the idea to my mother who just turned 94, she felt honored and thrilled.


And so I began the legal process of petitioning to change my name. After filing the petition and arranging publication, I was required to appear for a court hearing on a Friday morning calendar. While I was not sure what to expect at the hearing, I found a diverse group of people changing their names for various reasons and a judge who treated the proceedings as wholly celebratory! I walked out of her courtroom feeling happy and complete, and feeling like I had somehow reclaimed my original name. The process of then changing my last name (and email) on numerous accounts and in every place that my name exists has been a time consuming one, but not as daunting of a task as I had feared. The process proved liberating, and it is now essentially complete.


We assume many different “names” and titles during our lives, and many are temporary. Often it is necessary to let go of one form of name or one chapter of life in order to move on with life in a deeper way. Letting go of my former last name and assuming a name once held by my mother has allowed this new chapter in my life to take hold in a much deeper way while allowing me to reclaim something I had thought lost.    


As we chase the last wave of feminism, I hope we will figure out a better solution for “naming” ourselves, our spouses and our children, so that we can all retain our original name. 



Molly Toronski Wescott, who serves as the Assistant Dean for Career & Professional Development at USD School of Law, is passionate about advancing women in the legal profession.



Tags:  Chasing the Last Wave  equality  feminism  feminist  gender  LCB  name  women 

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