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Hundreds of Harvard Law School Students Participate in Sit-In for Increased Legal Education in Reproductive Rights

The Harvard Law School Alliance for Reproductive Justice organized a nine-hour sit-in at Wasserstein Hall to advocate for greater educational resources dedicated toward reproductive rights.
The Harvard Law School Alliance for Reproductive Justice organized a nine-hour sit-in at Wasserstein Hall to advocate for greater educational resources dedicated toward reproductive rights. By Ryan H. Doan-Nguyen
By Ryan H. Doan-Nguyen, Crimson Staff Writer

Between classes, during lunch breaks, and while completing assignments, hundreds of Harvard Law School students participated in a day-long sit-in on Tuesday to demand that the school’s administration increase educational opportunities related to reproductive rights.

Members of the Harvard Law School Alliance for Reproductive Justice organized the protest, encouraging passersby from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to sit on the floor of Wasserstein Hall’s lobby and sign on to a letter the student organization will present to HLS leadership on November 1.

The letter — which had more than 800 signatories as of Thursday evening — outlines three main demands for HLS: the establishment of a reproductive rights clinic, the hiring of at least one full-time reproductive rights professor, and the creation of a reproductive justice curriculum.

ARJ co-president and third-year HLS student Vandana Apte said the Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson ending federal protections for abortion has fueled student advocacy for reproductive rights.

“Especially in light of Dobbs and the momentum that a lot of students have had since then, we decided that this was a great opportunity to have a sit-in,” she said.

The sit-in’s date — October 6 — coincided with the “Day of Student Action for Reproductive Justice” organized by the Graduate Student Action Network and the Young Democratic Socialists of America. As part of the nationwide day of action, students at more than 50 schools and universities staged reproductive justice protests and hosted informational events.

ARJ plans to solicit more signatures from HLS faculty and alumni, host speaker events, and run a pro bono reproductive rights hackathon throughout the rest of the month, according to the organization’s leaders.

Second-year HLS student Morgan B. Carmen, co-vice president of ARJ, said the sit-in was “just the very, very beginning” of the organization’s efforts.

“On day one, the fact that we’ve around 807 signatures I think is very telling for what we’re going to see for the rest of the month,” she said.

Samantha J. Nagler, a third-year student at HLS and co-policy chair of ARJ, said she believes protesting via a sit-in is important because it ensures a “physical presence on campus,” noting that Wasserstein Hall was an ideal choice because it holds the most law school classes on campus.

“We definitely have admin’s attention now in a way that we probably wouldn’t have if we had pursued other forms of advocacy,” Apte added.

In response to the protest, Law School spokesperson Jeff Neal wrote in an emailed statement that HLS has “always welcomed input” from students, and that multiple law school offerings “touch on these topics.”

“We have also hosted a visiting professor specializing in reproductive rights and justice in each of the last several years, including one this spring,” he wrote.

Apte said she believed the protest gave people “an outlet” to express frustration they have “kept pent up for many months” after Dobbs v. Jackson.

“A lot of that energy really came out today, and so it felt like it was a very powerful thing that we did,” she said.

—Staff writer Ryan H. Doan-Nguyen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ryandoannguyen.

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