2025 Design-Your-Own Fellowship Applications are Open

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Samantha Nagler

The Project

Samantha’s (she/hers) project with Gender Justice will work to improve access to reproductive healthcare in Minnesota by challenging crisis pregnancy centers’ harmful practices through impact litigation, policy advocacy, and community organizing and education.

Crisis pregnancy centers prevent pregnant people from getting important reproductive healthcare by posing as medical providers, disseminating misinformation about the risks of abortion, and promoting medically unsound claims. They also collect sensitive information from patients and, because they are subject to little to no regulation, they are not required to keep that information private. In Minnesota, there are ninety crisis pregnancy centers, and they outnumber abortion providers ten to one, leaving Minnesotans with few options for reproductive healthcare, especially in rural areas.

Samantha’s passion for gender equality, which began at a young age, has inspired her to pursue a career advocating to protect and expand the rights of women and LGBTQ+ people. It is a critical time to fight for reproductive justice, and Samantha is committed to using the law to ensure access to safe, comprehensive reproductive healthcare.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Samantha will bring litigation against crisis pregnancy centers, using consumer protection laws to counter their deceptive practices. She will also advocate for regulation of crisis pregnancy centers, urging the legislature to forbid their false advertising and require that they keep sensitive patient information private. Throughout, Samantha will engage with the communities harmed by crisis pregnancy centers, working to educate the public about how to access reproductive healthcare.

Because of my family’s experience with abortion, reproductive justice is important to me in principle, but also on a personal level.

Samantha Nagler /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Kimia’s (she/her/hers) project will focus on protecting and expanding access to reproductive healthcare and gender affirming care for young people across the United States through legal research, legislative drafting, and federal congressional and administrative advocacy.

Currently, fourteen states have completely banned access to abortion and an additional 10 states are hostile towards abortion rights. Young people are among those most affected by these bans, due to their limited income and ability to travel independently. Simultaneously, bans on gender-affirming care for young people are escalating across the country. Twenty-two states have passed legislation banning best-practice medical care for transgender youth. Kimia’s project seeks to, in close collaboration with the LGBTQ+ movement, develop and advance legislative strategies that enshrine the bodily autonomy rights of young people into federal law.

Fellowship Plans

Kimia’s project will build on existing work at the Center for Reproductive Rights that touches on the intersection of reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ health care. Kimia will develop a coalition group focusing on youth access to health care, at the intersection of reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ rights. Further, she will create educational materials such as issue briefs and data sheets related to the topic to be used for public education and advocacy efforts. Additionally, she will collaborate with key stakeholders in the reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ movement to develop innovative legislative strategies that will protect young people’s right to access gender-affirming care and abortion.

As a child of Iranian immigrants, I have always been aware of the fragility of human rights that we as Americans often take for granted. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the Center for Reproductive Rights and contribute towards a movement that prioritizes protecting and expanding access to reproductive health care as a human right.

Kimia Khatibi /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Nora’s (she/her/hers) project works to expand access to abortion and other reproductive health care through affirmative impact litigation and policy work, using innovative and creative strategies to ensure access to care for those most harmed by Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, more than a dozen states have total abortion bans in effect, many more impose severe restrictions, and the anti-abortion movement continues to seek new ways to restrict abortion access. The people most harmed by the wave of abortion restrictions post-Dobbs are the same people who faced the greatest obstacles to accessing care when there was still a recognized constitutional right to abortion. For many people of color, people with low incomes, young people, and people with disabilities, among others, the promise of Roe v. Wade was never a reality, and the barriers these already disadvantaged groups faced to accessing abortion care before Dobbs have only compounded.

Fellowship Plans

Nora’s project with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project will focus on affirmative litigation to protect and expand access to abortion and other forms of reproductive health care. Through litigation and collaboration with policy advocates and grassroots organizers, Nora will work to proactively expand access to abortion in states where abortion remains legal, prevent further erosion in ban states, and ensure access to reproductive health care beyond abortion, particularly for people of color and others most harmed by abortion restrictions.

Whether as an abortion doula supporting people through their abortions or as a legal advocate through my fellowship project, I am passionate about ensuring that all people have access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care.

Nora Ellmann /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Rachel (she/her/hers) will advance reproductive justice for youth in federal immigration custody through her project at the National Center for Youth Law.

Young people fleeing to the United States often come from countries with staggering rates of sexual violence and early pregnancy. When unaccompanied children are placed in immigration custody, they face unique barriers exercising their bodily autonomy and accessing reproductive and sexual health resources. Detained youth confront difficulties accessing abortion care, prenatal care, unsafe custody environments, and infringements on their privacy. There are few oversight mechanisms to ensure the treatment of detained youth is safe and legal.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Rachel will engage in investigation, litigation, advocacy, and collaboration with children’s legal service providers to protect the reproductive rights of youth detained by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). She will build a factual record about problems facing pregnant and parenting youth in ORR custody. Rachel will develop new potential litigation, support class action lawsuits, and engage in administrative advocacy to enforce youth’s rights. Additionally, she will provide technical assistance to youth and their legal service providers to facilitate access to reproductive health care and resources.

When the Supreme Court’s decision came down in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Rachel first thought of the teenagers and young mothers she worked with in immigration detention prior to law school. She feels honored to work at the intersection of the immigrant justice and reproductive justice movements at this critical moment.

Media

Morgan Lewis Co-Sponsors Three Public Service Equal Justice Works Fellowships

I pursued a law degree because of my experiences advocating for children and families in immigration detention. I am so grateful for the opportunity to start my career as a lawyer fighting for the autonomy, dignity, and well-being of immigrant youth.

Rachel Smith /
2023 Equal Justice World Fellow

The Project

Amanda’s (she/her/hers) project will advocate for abortion access for disabled people through impact litigation, technical guidance on disability rights for abortion care professionals, and education outreach on reproductive rights.

Disabled people will experience the harshest outcomes resulting from the end of constitutionally protected right to abortion following the overruling of Dobbs and the subsequent wave of state laws restricting access to abortion. One analysis found that abortion bans in 26 states that are certain or highly likely to ban abortion could affect up to 2.8 million women with disabilities. Disabled people have an equal likelihood of becoming pregnant as nondisabled people yet they have significantly higher health risks while pregnant and are significantly less likely to have access to basic reproductive healthcare. As the abortion landscape is changing rapidly state-by-state, it is imperative that both abortion access advocacy and strategies include disabled people in impactful way.

After seeing several of her family members experience barriers due to disabilities, Amanda decided to focus her career on disability justice and combine it with her passion for reproductive justice.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Amanda will collaborate on amicus briefs to highlight issues that particularly impact disabled people in environments that restrict access to abortion, such as lack of accessible travel for disabled people seeking abortions. She also will create guidance on providing access to abortion healthcare based in disability rights for both abortion providers and abortion funds with feedback from disability self-advocates. Additionally, she will seek to build coalitions between the reproductive justice and disability justice movements to yeild a more intersectional and inclusive movement for abortion rights.

Media

Disability and Civil Rights Organizations File Amicus Brief to Texas Supreme Court on Texas Abortion Ban Exceptions

I deeply believe in the principles of intersectionality that are so critical in both reproductive justice and disability justice spaces. Everyone deserves accessible and inclusive abortion healthcare.

Amanda Spriggs Reid /
2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Zoraima (she/her/hers/ella) works to protect the right to abortion and ensure meaningful access, particularly for poor people, people of color, and those living in rural areas, using innovative legal strategies.

In December 2021, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which presents a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and threatens to upend over 50 years of precedent protecting every pregnant person’s right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy before viability. The stakes are extremely high: If Roe v. Wade falls, abortion will likely be banned in half of the country. But even if Roe v. Wade is upheld in any capacity, hostile state legislatures will continue to push abortion care further out of reach, especially for poor people, people of color, those living in rural areas, and other marginalized communities who already struggle to navigate a complex web of restrictions.

Fellowship Plans

Zoraima’s project will use impact litigation, advocacy, and coalition building to protect the right to abortion and ensure those seeking abortion care have meaningful access to care, regardless of income or geographic location. Zoraima will craft and execute litigation and advocacy strategies based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Jackson Women’s Health Organization and challenge novel abortion restrictions passed in current and future state legislative sessions.

She will also help navigate barriers to abortion access, with an emphasis on barriers to accessing and providing care across state borders. Zoraima’s project will focus on building and strengthening coalitions throughout the reproductive rights, health, and justice movements to develop community-driven tools and guidance for patients, healthcare professionals, abortion funds, and practical support networks that seek or provide abortion care and support across state borders.

Media

Protecting the Right to Abortion Post-Roe

Equal Justice Works Introduces 2022 Class of Fellows

As someone who has exercised my constitutional right to abortion, I am dedicated to using my legal education and career to advocate for everyone’s right to decide whether, when, or how to parent.

Zoraima Pelaez /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Ndome (she/her/hers) works with the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) to expand access to maternal healthcare for low-income pregnant people and women of color by addressing legal barriers to midwifery care through impact litigation, policy advocacy, legal research, and community education.

The United States has the highest maternal mortality ratio among developed nations, and Black women and Indigenous women are disproportionately affected. Unlike many other wealthy nations where midwives  care for most birthing people, the U.S. has imposed medically unnecessary legal and financial barriers to midwifery services.

Midwifery care has the potential to address many barriers to safe and respectful maternal health care. Expanded access to midwifery care, including more midwives of color, can equitably improve maternal health outcomes and enable low-income pregnant people of color to make meaningful decisions about where, how, and with whom they will birth.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Ndome has:

  • Analyzed transcripts of interviews with midwives and midwifery stakeholders, drafted a memo identifying the urgent legal and policy issues faced by interviewees, and presented findings
  • Managed and analyzed the results of an open records request made to a state health department regarding midwifery licensure regulations in preparation for potential litigation
  • Researched claims and remedies available through litigation to address barriers to midwifery, identified a venue, assisted with interviewing potential plaintiffs, and has started drafting a lawsuit challenging midwifery restrictions in chosen state
  • Contributed to submissions to the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues and the United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination describing racial inequalities in access to sexual and reproductive health care in the United States

Next Steps

In the next year, Ndome plans to:

  • Identify priority bills to support or defeat in priority states during the next legislative session
  • Draft model bill language or advocacy materials to support coalition’s legislative priorities
  • With CRR team of litigators, draft and file lawsuit challenging midwifery restrictions in chosen state

Media

Reproductive Rights Discussion with Hillary Schneller and Ndome Essoka

Reducing Inequalities, Advancing Human Rights

I believe that reproductive rights are human rights and should be treated as such.

Ndome Essoka /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Gabriella engaged in advocacy, public education, outreach, and litigation to challenge the use of religion to discriminate against individuals seeking reproductive health care and LGBTQIA+ New Yorkers.

Increasingly, religion has been weaponized to discriminate against people seeking reproductive health care and LGBTQIA+ individuals. A growing number of religious and secular hospital mergers has resulted in more and more health care being subject to religious directives that prohibit certain types of care, ranging from miscarriage management to treatment of ectopic pregnancies, gender-affirming care, and end-of-life care. Gabriella’s project sought to develop solutions to intercede in hospital mergers to preserve access to care; educate people to make informed decisions about their health care; challenge the use of religion to discriminate against patients seeking reproductive care, as well as LGBTQIA+ people; and, ultimately, lay the groundwork to eliminate health care deserts in New York State.

As a queer woman of color who grew up religious, Gabriella knows and understands firsthand how religion can be weaponized to harm others and how law and policy can deeply shape one’s sense of self. Gabriella’s experience working on a range of civil liberties issues, including reproductive justice and LGBTQIA+ rights, as an intern, research assistant, volunteer, and advocate made her the right person for this project.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Gabriella:
  • Co-authored and filed five amicus briefs challenging the use of religion to discriminate in New York State courts, the Western District of New York, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Supported on-the-ground efforts to preserve comprehensive access to care in a proposed merger between a secular community hospital and religious health care system in Schenectady, NY, and collaborated with a community coalition to help educate the public and elevate the impact of religious directives on reproductive health care and LGBTQIA+-inclusive care
  • Engaged in legislative advocacy supporting hospital transparency legislation, which aims to provide New Yorkers with the tools to determine whether their local hospital provides the care they need prior to admission and to identify communities where particular services are completely unavailable
  • Filed a New York State Division of Human Rights complaint on behalf of a Latinx mother who was non-consensually drug tested while giving birth at a private hospital
  • Worked on the Princess Janae Place v. New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and Makyyla Holland v. Broome County litigation teams to challenge the discriminatory treatment of transgender and nonbinary people by government actors
  • Worked on the Princess Janae Place v. NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance litigation team, a case suing the state benefits agency for discriminating based on gender identity against nonbinary New York residents seeking public assistance
  • Engaged in research and strategic thinking on how to challenge discrimination in hospital settings, specifically relating to sex and pregnancy discrimination
  • Conducted research to support legislative efforts to ensure religion is not used to discriminate

Next Steps

Gabriella will continue working at the New York Civil Liberties Union, becoming a staff attorney. She will primarily focus on the use of religion to discriminate, reproductive rights and justice, and LGBTQIA+ rights.

 Media

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The Bronx Women’s Bar Association Hosts Legal Program on Reproductive Rights

Introducing the 2020 Fellows Fighting for the LGBTQ+ Community

Five NYU Law Graduates Named 2020 Equal Justice Works Fellows

NYCLU Calls on State To Require Abortions at Catholic Hospital in Lockport

State Approves Plan for New Lockport Hospital

New Catholic Health Hospital Gets NYS Health Panel Approval Despite Opposition

No person should be denied health care because of a provider’s religious beliefs. I am grateful for the opportunity to combine my lived experiences and passion for reproductive, social, and economic justice to protect people seeking reproductive health care and LGBTQ New Yorkers from discrimination.

Gabriella Larios /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Clara worked to protect and expand access to reproductive care, particularly for low-income women who live far away from the nearest reproductive health clinic, using a variety of innovative legal and advocacy rights, at a critical time when the Supreme Court was likely to decimate the right to an abortion.

In the Fall of 2021, the Supreme Court will hear case directly challenging Roe v. Wade. There is no path for the Supreme Court to uphold the abortion ban in question without overturning Roe’s core holding—that every pregnant person has the right to decide whether to continue their pregnancy prior to viability. Clara’s project moved the ball forward in a number of ways, including providing complex research and analysis about ensuring abortion access across state borders and litigating cases in state court.  Her work will help pregnant people access critical care even if the Supreme Court guts the federal right to an abortion.

Fellowship Highlights

During her two-year Fellowship, Clara:

  • Filed a lawsuit challenging a suite of anti-abortion laws in North Carolina that significantly limit access to critical reproductive care, and successfully defended the lawsuit against a motion to dismiss
  • Developed in-depth research memoranda on legal questions raised by the increased need for women to travel across state lines to access abortion care
  • Advised clients –clinics and individual doctors– seeking to expand their model of care to reach rural populations without easy access to reproductive services
  • Joined several litigation teams challenging multiple state restrictions placing significant burdens on people trying to access their constitutional rights
  • During the COVID-19 crisis, joined several lawsuits fighting to release vulnerable state prison and jail detainees and forced officials to implement conditions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 behind bars. As the only reproductive rights focused attorney at the ACLU’s national office working with these teams, her work focused in part on pregnant detainees and nursing mothers

Next Steps

Following her Fellowship, Clara will be taking some time off to focus on independent writing projects, and then will jump back in the ring working with a legal organization committed to ensuring the right of all people to make the best decision for themselves and their families about whether and when to have children, without undue political interference.

Media

Pandemic Lawyering: A Year in Review

Clara Simone Spera Discusses Her Work to Protect and Advance Women’s Reproductive Rights

Protecting Access to Reproductive Care

All women—not just those of means—should be able to make the best decision for herself and her family about whether and when to have children without undue state or political interference.

Clara Spera /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Riley will provide legal information and education to incarcerated mothers in Washington State to help reduce the chances of permanent family separation. Because greater systemic change is needed, Riley’s Fellowship project will also pursue legislation and impact litigation to create alternatives to incarceration as well as improve child welfare laws to better address the needs of these vulnerable families.

For true equality, we must challenge structural power inequalities and respond to the needs and leadership of communities most affected by various forms of oppression.

Riley M. Hewko /
Equal Justice Works Fellow