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JANUARY 2018 - Annual Giving
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Religious Exemptions, Hospitals, and You: Know Your Reproductive Healthcare Rights

By Monica Ramsy, 2017 Fran Kandel Public Interest Fellow

The Fran Kandel Public Interest Fellowship which I was awarded for the summer of 2017 has provided, and continues to provide, invaluable opportunities to me as a budding lawyer.  Combining the opportunities provided by the Fran Kandel Fellowship with my position as a summer law clerk at the ACLU of Southern California’s LGBTQ, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project, I launched a multifaceted public education campaign about religious refusals.  You can link to that materials I created here.

One in six hospital beds in the United States is controlled by a Catholic hospital, most of which receive billions of taxpayer dollars yet prohibit a considerable range of reproductive health services -- contraception, sterilization, infertility treatments, and abortion – based upon a religious directive. This disproportionately affects the lives of the multiply marginalized: women of color, low-income women, immigrant women, and transgender and gender nonconforming people.  Although reports charting the landscape of religious refusals and access to reproductive healthcare currently exist, there are glaring lacunae in Know-Your-Rights materials available for those most affected by these barriers to healthcare. By creating Know-Your-Rights materials that reflected the needs and experiences of persons seeking healthcare—particularly, those living in Los Angeles—I aimed to provide crucial, and crucially empowering, information to those whose rights to safe, accessible healthcare have been violated.


In my role with this campaign, I conducted in-depth intake interviews with patients and healthcare providers and created Know-Your-Rights materials by synthesizing these narratives in light of relevant law. While these materials are accessible for use by the general public, they have been designed with the specific goal of empowering the marginalized communities whose narratives they reflect. As such, I hope that my research joins the frontlines in the battle for the health and humanity of persons seeking reproductive healthcare in California, generally, and Los Angeles, specifically.

In addition to being used to facilitate Know Your Rights trainings to patients, the materials I created are being used by the ACLU to facilitate teach-ins to healthcare providers, practitioners, and advocates. This summer, I presented the materials to the California Coalition for Reproductive Justice. And recently, ACLU attorneys shared my work with a group of healthcare providers, practitioners, and advocates at the Research Consortium on Religious Healthcare Institutions.

Here are some ways you can support advocacy efforts against religious refusals of healthcare: 

My first summer working as a lawyer has offered pivotal opportunities for my passion for public interest work to flourish. As a summer law clerk at the ACLU of Southern California’s LGBTQ, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project, I have furthered both my dedication to and skills for anti-oppression advocacy work. As a Fran Kandel Fellow, my passionate commitment to public interest work—especially in the field of reproductive justice—has only grown. Without the support of the Fran Kandel Public Interest Fellowship, the crucial learning experiences I enjoyed this summer would not have been possible.