New RHRJ Certificate Trains Students for the Movement

by Rory Woodard

This is the first time since I was five years old that I won’t be heading back to school come September. I just finished my senior thesis, and in a month, I’ll be moving to New York City to begin full-time reproductive justice work.

I’ll be working with an organization whose goal is to expand the scope of family medicine to include abortion care. People shouldn’t have to seek out specialists to receive these basic healthcare services. Reproductive care is an integral part of supporting families, and I am honored to help train family medicine residencies.

Thanks to CLPP and Hampshire College, I feel prepared for activist and healthcare work that is guided by theory. I have been in various leadership positions in the CLPP Student Group, including being a co-organizer of the annual abortion speak-out, which was a transformative experience. I’m also a birth doula and an aspiring full-spectrum doula.

In addition, I am one of the first graduates of the recently developed Five College Certificate in Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice (RHRJ). Emphasizing the relationship between critical thinking and movement building, the program provides a foundation of theory to help emerging young activists grow.

Not only does the certificate build a directory of courses related to RHRJ, but it also creates intentional community. This helps students already doing RHRJ work, and it also draws in students who might not have otherwise discovered it.

I want to be clear that my privilege helped me access this education. I’m a white, queer girl from a lower-middle class family in rural Vermont. I didn’t need a formal education to gain this knowledge, but my engagement with academia brought me to the movement—and thanks to this certificate program, it can bring in many others.

My self-designed course of study at Hampshire was in Reproductive Justice and The Politics of Health, with a concentration in Pregnancy, Birth, and Full-Spectrum Care. I’ve taken courses on the politics of abortion, feminist health politics, the political role of reproductive and genetic technologies, and the anthropology of birth. I’ve learned that systemic, intersectional oppression is inseparable from the experiences of pregnancy, birth, and parenthood.

Merging my doula work with my political theory, my senior thesis discussed the role doula work plays in birth justice. Doulas are brave in taking on a challenging direct support role that, in its intimacy, is uniquely positioned to assist in radically transforming how we care for pregnant and birthing people.

My coursework was an essential component of the organizing skills I was gaining through CLPP. I put these skills into practice as a 2014 Reproductive Rights Activist Service Corps intern with National Advocates for Pregnant Women. Everything I did there was guided by the critical race, gender, and prison theory I learned at Hampshire.

The knowledge and practice I’ve been inspired by in my undergraduate education will shape my reproductive justice and doula work in the months, years, and decades to come. I am glad that the RHRJ certificate will give many more students the opportunity to merge theory and practice in the movement.

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