Reproductive Rights Law Initiative

The Reproductive Rights Law Initiative (RRLI) at Case Western Reserve University School of Law aims to preserve, protect, and expand access to abortion and reproductive health care in Ohio and throughout the Midwest. Directed by Associate Dean Jessie Hill, the RRLI provides legal support to abortion providers and advocacy organizations, with the ultimate goal of creating a sustainable legal infrastructure in support of reproductive rights in Ohio. 

The RRLI works to preserve and advance the legal right of all Ohioans’ ability to make their own reproductive decisions through: 

  • Advocacy: By mounting legal challenges to abortion restrictions; engaging in proactive reproductive rights and justice work; defending against legal attacks on clinics and providers; and consulting with advocates who are working to effect change. 
  • Scholarship: By developing and deploying a rigorous academic infrastructure to influence current and future legal strategies for protecting reproductive autonomy. 
  • Education: By training and inspiring the next generation of attorneys with expertise in reproductive rights; offering public education efforts in the form of webinars, monthly and ad-hoc “breaking news” email updates, and regular law and policy “office hours”; and by serving as a much-needed information resource for information about reproductive health law and policy in Ohio. 

As the only law school-based program of its kind outside the East and West coasts, the presence and visibility of the RRLI sends a compelling message about the importance of reproductive rights in the Midwest and the need to continue efforts to protect and expand them. 

To get in touch with the RRLI, contact Program Manager Holly Bland at holly.bland@case.edu.

The Dobbs decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022 deeply destabilized the provision of abortion care in Ohio. Without the federal constitutional right to abortion, an injunction blocking the state’s six-week (“heartbeat”) ban was lifted, setting into motion the greatest legal battle for Ohioans' right to abortion of the last five decades. This resulted in a state constitutional challenge to the law — which required several months of planning and led to the temporary injunction that kept abortion accessible through 21 weeks and 6 days LMP. Then, on November 7, 2023, voters passed the Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety amendment at the polls, preserving abortion access and reproductive rights in the Ohio Constitution.

Dozens of abortion restrictions remain on the books in Ohio, but the Reproductive Freedom Amendment provides the RRLI and its partners with a powerful new tool for fighting to retain and expand abortion access in Ohio. 

The RRLI is a growing, trusted resource for advocates, providers, researchers and others in Ohio and nationally. Ohio is a critical state in which to do this work, since it is the seventh most populous state in the country, and in a key location geographically for abortion access, particularly for those traveling from Southern and Midwestern states in which abortion is currently banned. 

Who We Are

Jessie Hill, JD (she/her), is the Director of the Reproductive Rights Law Initiative, Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development, and Judge Ben C. Green Professor of Law. Hill has been writing about and advocating for reproductive rights for over two decades. Hill and the team are currently litigating numerous challenges to abortion restrictions in Ohio, including seeking to protect abortion access in Ohio post-Dobbs through ongoing litigation challenging Ohio's ban on abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy. She currently serves on the board of the National Abortion Federation Hotline Fund and has been invited to speak on reproductive rights law to various national groups, including the National Abortion Federation, the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Hill joined the CWRU faculty in 2003 after practicing First Amendment and civil rights law with the firm of Berkman, Gordon, Murray & DeVan in Cleveland. Before entering private practice, Hill worked at the Reproductive Freedom Project of the national ACLU office in New York, litigating challenges to state-law restrictions on reproductive rights. She also served as law clerk to the Honorable Karen Nelson Moore of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. She received her JD, magna cum laude, from Harvard University and her AB, magna cum laude, from Brown University. Her articles have been published in the Michigan Law Review, Duke Law Journal, Georgetown Law Journal and Texas Law Review, among others. She has also appeared in numerous local and national press outlets, including CNN, the New York Times, Ms. Magazine and NPR. 

Becca Kendis, JD, MSSA (she/her) assumed the role of Staff Attorney/Lecturer after spending three years as the RRLI’s Reproductive Rights Fellow. In addition to her work as a member of the RRLI team, Becca has held numerous roles over the past decade at organizations fighting for social justice and serving marginalized populations, including at CWRU’s Human Trafficking Clinic, the ACLU of Ohio, Milestones Autism Resources and NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. Becca’s interdisciplinary background ignited her passion for inter-professional collaboration and approaching advocacy through a creative and holistic lens, which she brings to her work with the RRLI. She holds a J.D. degree and a Master of Social Science Administration, both from Case Western Reserve University, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Social Change and Activism from the University of Michigan. 

Maggie Scotece, JD (she/they) joins the RRLI as a Staff Attorney/Lecturer from the Abortion Fund of Ohio, where she was Interim Executive Director and launched the organization’s first Legal Access Program to address legal barriers and the criminalization of abortion seekers. Maggie has extensive litigation experience, having served as an attorney with Disability Rights Ohio, as well as the Environmental Division of the Office of the Ohio Attorney General, and a litigation intern with the Human Services Division of the Alaska Department of Law. In addition to her reproductive rights background, Maggie also brings a deep connection to disability justice, including as a founding member of the Ohio Supported Decision Making Network. She earned a J.D. degree from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Italian Studies from Miami University. 
 

The RRLI team is supported by Holly Bland (she/they), who joined CWRU as the RRLI Program Manager in March of 2023. Her work focuses on overseeing, developing and managing the RRLI’s programs and projects. Formerly the digital director for Nation Consulting, a Wisconsin-based public strategies firm, Holly spent three years working to elect dozens of pro-choice candidates for public office, including Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justices Jill Karofsky and Janet Protasiewicz. Holly began her career at Preterm, Ohio’s largest independent, nonprofit abortion provider, where she worked in development while pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and promotional communications from Cleveland State University. Holly has spent the past 8 years as a storyteller with We Testify, a national organization dedicated to the leadership and representation of people who have had abortions, increasing the spectrum of abortion storytellers in the public sphere and shifting the way the media and public understands the context and complexity of accessing abortion care.