Law School's LSRJ Chapter Recognized for Excellence with Top National Award

The Law School’s Law Students for Reproductive Justice chapter received top honors from their national organization this month with an award recognizing excellence in campus organizing—and member Marlow Svatek, ’16, received second-place in the organization’s national writing contest.

“I couldn't be prouder of this year and this organization, which has really refused to confine itself to the four walls of the Law School, and which has dedicated itself to using its influence to actively contribute to the community,” said LSRJ’s immediate past president Kaitlin Beck, ’17, after learning that the chapter had been given the 2015-2016 Cari Sietstra Organizing Award. “I also couldn't be more grateful that the national organization has recognized our efforts. This is an invaluable shot of encouragement, which will help us to keep growing these types of projects.”

She said she wasn’t surprised that Svatek was one of three winners of the 2016 Sarah Weddington Writing Prize for New Student Scholarship in Reproductive Rights Law.

“Marlow is a fantastic writer—a Law Review member as well as a writer in residence at Ms. JD—and is exceptionally dedicated to women's and girl's equality,” Beck said. “The Sarah Weddington was made to recognize women like her."

Svatek’s paper, “Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Why Courts Should Consider Cumulative Effects in the Undue Burden Analysis,” argues that courts should consider the cumulative effects of multiple abortion restrictions when determining whether there is an undue burden, rather than looking at each challenged restriction in isolation. It was recently accepted for publication in the New York University Review of Law and Social Change for Spring 2017.

“I am honored to have received this award, which is named after the female lawyer who argued for legalized abortion in front of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade when she was just 26 years old,” Svatek said. “I hope my paper will help ensure that the right to an abortion does not become hollow in the face of mounting state restrictions. I am passionate about this issue because I think that the ongoing fight for women's equality is being fought in the reproductive rights arena.”

Beck said the Law School’s local LSRJ chapter focused its efforts this year on pro bono and volunteer work, as well as on cross-campus and community involvement. They reprised their annual Candygram fundraiser, raising more than $1,000 for the Legal Council for Health Justice. They are also currently co-sponsoring a film series with the University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, and working with the Medical Students for Choice on a sex ed-themed trivia event that will benefit the Chicago Abortion Foundation.

Beck said that the chapter’s 2015-2016 Pro Bono Coordinators, Vera Iwankiw, '17, and Holly Berlin, '18, also deserve special recognition for their role in organizing volunteer projects.

“Through their organization efforts, our membership completed more than 50 hours of pro bono work on four unique reproductive justice projects in the past year, with more projects underway,” Beck said.  

The Cari Sietstra Organizing Award, named in honor of LSRJ's founder and former executive director, is awarded annually to a current LSRJ member or chapter that has demonstrated excellence in campus organizing in the previous three semesters. Criteria considered include applicants' efforts to advocate for reproductive justice on their campuses and in their communities, successes in overcoming adversity, and participation in the LSRJ network on the regional or national levels.

“The Law School is so proud of the work that this student group has done and is thrilled that they have received this national award,” Interim Dean of Students Abbie Willard said. “The chapter has taken a multi-faceted approach to achieving their goals, which is a terrific model for other organizations to follow.”