UDC Law’s diversity sets Firebird Nation apart from other law schools, and that diversity goes beyond who we are to what we stand for. To celebrate and explore that diversity, UDC Law is introducing “Alumni POV,” an opportunity for you to share your expertise and perspective on today’s biggest issues.
Each month, we’ll feature a key legal, social or political issue in the words of our alumni and share two or more different viewpoints on the issue.
June 2022: A Post-Roe America
Douglas Stringer '02 on Pro-Life for the Whole Life
In the weeks leading up to Dobbs, Douglas Stringer ’02 was interviewed by Black Catholic Messenger (BCM) and wrote a series of opinion articles detailing the need for the pro-life movement to embrace what Democrats for Life for America (DFLA) calls Pro-Life for the Whole Life. Stringer is DFLA’s Candidate Outreach Director and has nearly 30 years of experience in government relations and policy analysis with Session Law Firm.
He explained to The Advocate how attending the law school prepared him to appreciate that political, social and moral issues are complex and multifaceted and – as he described them – never as black and white as they seem. He also spoke about the impact of his legal education on his career in government relations and the ways in which his professional and educational experience have informed his own perspectives.
Stringer wrote, “My time at UDC Law helped me to examine the nuances and effects of the law, realizing that all legislation, even with the noblest of intentions, can have very different consequences.” He went on to describe how working on real cases involving individuals as part of the clinical program further grounded his approach on social and political issues. “Working in the clinics exposed me to real-life issues related to poverty, housing and healthcare that could have very well served to enhance my notion that one needs to take hands-on, real-life situations into account before making any moral determination either for or against any one person or ideology.”
In the interview with BCM, he discussed the moral dichotomy of voting for Democratic candidates whose positions on abortion differed from his own. “Every time I would vote, especially for President, or for a Democrat candidate who was staunchly pro-choice, it would be something in that was in the back of my mind,” he said. He told The Advocate that he realized “there are quite a few factors to consider when evaluating an individual’s moral character for effective governance,” and attending UDC Law helped him learn how to better evaluate the relationship between his beliefs and a candidate’s stance on discrete issues. He added that today’s polarized political climate has complicated the matter further. “Republicans have taken this issue and completely and totally manipulated it,” he told BCM. “I really don’t think that Republicans are so much pro-life as they are anti-abortion.”
That idea of life is what Stringer and DFLA describe as Pro-Life for the Whole Life, which urges the creation and support of programs that empower and assist people at all stages of life. “The abortion issue is not as black and white as it may seem,” Stringer said. “Being pro-life also means being anti-death penalty; being pro-life also means being anti-exploitation; being pro-life also means being anti-poverty, pro-justice and pro-equality.”
UDC Law prepares students to practice law, promote justice and change lives, and Stringer is no exception. Before law school, Stringer worked for Democratic Congressman Mike Ward in his district office in Louisville, Kentucky, hoping the congressman’s reelection would bring Stringer back to D.C.
Ward was not reelected, but Stringer came to Washington anyway, working with AARP before joining Session Law Firm, P.C., which specializes in government relations and small business development. He has been with Session for more than 20 years – including part-time while in law school – and describes himself as a government relations professional, a path he says was augmented by gaining a law degree. “Having a law degree is a critical asset for the government relations professional,” he said. “The benefits of the professional experience I’ve gained at the firm and my law school education go hand in hand.”
Within his work at Session, Stringer highly regards advocating before the Council of the District of Columbia. “It’s a treasure to not only study and interpret the law but to actually be involved in the process of drafting, developing and implementing the law itself,” he wrote.
Individual beliefs notwithstanding, real world impacts of the Dobbs ruling are already being seen along the spectrum of the abortion debate, illustrating Stringer’s assertion that this issue lives in the grey. Stringer’s and DFLA’s pro-life approach is indicative of that grey, as it supports progressive ideals and programs. Stringer urges public officials to embrace a moral character that “involves action towards the actual enhancement of life, not just being for or against a particular set of issues.”
As a Firebird, Stringer learned how to navigate that grey, crediting what he learned in class as well as his extracurricular activities while a student. He was president of the Christian Law Society at UDC Law, which he says helped him grow personally, spiritually and professionally. When asked what advice he would give to students similarly navigating complex issues, he said, “it’s important for students to know that it is possible to remain solid in your beliefs while identifying legal and or professional opportunities to excel [and] while putting those beliefs into practice. You can do well while doing good.’
Heather Molina '07 on the ripple effect of Dobbs
“I am fortunate to live in a state where I still have autonomy over my body.” Heather Molina ’07 reflected on the wide-reaching impacts of the Dobbs ruling, including D.C.’s unique vulnerability to restrictions on abortion, the larger Constitutional framework of a right to privacy and the ripple effect of the decision. In addition to graduating from UDC Law, Molina is UDC Law’s Assistant Director of Career and Professional Development and an adjunct faculty member.
She is also a resident of Maryland, where abortion protections were written into state law by referendum three decades ago. Following Dobbs, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said the state law would remain in effect and that he “swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of Maryland, and that is what I have always done and will continue to do as governor.” Furthermore, a law goes into effect July 1 in Maryland that protects the right to abortion care, including allowing for the procedure to be performed by nurse practitioners, physician assistants and midwives and requiring insurance to cover abortion procedures.
While Molina feels relieved that her own rights are protected as a Marylander, she knows the impacts of the Dobbs ruling have only just begun to unfold. For instance, in the District of Columbia – which Mayor Muriel Bowser called a “proud pro-choice city” – not having status as a state leaves abortion laws vulnerable to federal oversight of not just reproductive rights but other values held by most D.C. residents. “District residents still don’t have a voting member of Congress, so there is a lot on the shoulders of Congresswoman [Eleanor Holmes] Norton. She has to convince lawmakers from around the country to let D.C. maintain its local laws,” Molina explained. “There are several issues important to D.C. residents that are left vulnerable due to the District’s complicated status, and the outcome of the midterm elections could create an environment in which those residents’ values are not reflected in its laws.”
Molina also discussed the moral complexity of abortion itself and the concept of choice. “The decision to have an abortion – or even to consider it as an option – is deeply rooted for many people, and it’s understandable why some people believe so strongly that it would never be the decision they’d make for themselves,” she said. “It’s a deeply personal choice, just like any other healthcare or well-being decision, but that’s just it. These are choices made by individuals for their own quality of life and through their own principles.”
In law school, Molina said her Constitutional Law course and discussions with professors helped her better understand how the right to an abortion – more specifically Roe v. Wade’s reasoning that the Fourteenth Amendment provides a fundamental right to privacy – served as a cornerstone for other fundamental rights. “During my time at UDC Law, we talked a lot about marriage equality, as it was a hot button issue at the time. We discussed at great length how regulating a single issue – like abortion or marriage or contraceptive use – can have a ripple effect on other singular rights,” she said, “and we’re seeing that impact a bit already following Dobbs with Justice Thomas’s suggestion to revisit Obergefell, Lawrence and Griswold and the potential for lawmakers to introduce measures to stop people in anti-abortion states from traveling outside state lines for the procedure.”
Molina was referring to Justice Clarence Thomas’s separate concurring opinion in which he suggested the Court should revisit other cases on individual rights, namely those protecting marriage equality, same-sex consensual relations and the use of contraception. Additionally, she referenced the growing momentum among anti-abortion groups to urge lawmakers to introduce legislation that would restrict people from traveling to states with less restrictive abortion laws or empower private citizens to enforce such laws through civil litigation.
“In the end and independently of any legal analysis, I believe the key words are still ‘choice’ and ‘personal privacy,’” Molina said in closing. “I deeply respect the autonomy of individuals to believe and act in accordance with their values. I also understand those values may not be the same as mine. Problems occur when only one of many potential viewpoints on an issue becomes the law of the land and we no longer get to make the choice we want or need to make for ourselves. Medical and lifestyle-based choices are often private and stem from an individual’s unique circumstances. Overturning Roe takes those circumstances right out of the picture.”