Fabiola Gretzinger ’22, Robina Post-Graduate Fellow at the Center for Reproductive Rights
Working for the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, she is keeping a watchful eye on the status of abortion laws around the globe
Fabiola Gretzinger ’22 helps maintain a global perspective on abortion laws as a legal fellow at the Center for Reproductive Rights in Washington, D.C.
From that lens, Gretzinger sees a “wake-up call” in the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. The court’s ruling in June ended the constitutional right to abortion established nearly 50 years ago in its Roe v. Wade opinion, now enabling states to impose their own bans.
“Emotionally, it was difficult and it was a big step back,” says Grezinger, referring her own personal beliefs rather than speaking for the center. “If anything, it’s inspired us to keep fighting. Seeing what came from the Dobbs decision, I just don’t think that I’ll stop working on reproductive rights anytime soon.”
In September, Gretzinger began a yearlong fellowship at the center, a nonprofit global human rights organization working to protect reproductive rights around the world through litigation, legal policy and advocacy. She received a Robina Post-Graduate Fellowship, which the Law School awards yearly, to support her role on the center’s Legal Strategies, Innovation and Research team.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without the financial support of the school,” Gretzinger says.
Maintaining a Global Map
At the center, Gretzinger’s responsibilities include assisting in maintaining its World Abortion Laws Map, which records the legal status of abortion in countries around the globe. She also supports development of key legal principles related to abortion and monitors and analyzes national abortion laws around the world to track reproductive rights trends.
While some countries have removed abortion restrictions, the most significant recent change globally has been the Dobbs decision in the United States, Gretzinger says. That ruling underscored the need to focus on advancing reproductive rights by working with lawmakers and the executive branch rather than just through the courts. (The center filed the Dobbs complaint in 2018 on behalf of Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, seeking to block that state’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, according to the center’s website).
Gretzinger appreciates the international focus of the center and her work there. She was born in Oregon, moved to Costa Rica when she was three and lived in Peru for two years before returning to Costa Rica, where she graduated from high school. Before law school, she majored in political science at the University of Minnesota, moving to the United States in part to connect with her Midwestern roots.
Hopes to Continue Women's Rights Work
Gretzinger hopes to continue working with the center in a permanent position after her fellowship and to move abroad to continue her work in international women’s rights. Unsure whether to concerntrate on litigation or policy advocacy work when the graduated from the Law School, Gretzinger likes getting to do some of both in her fellowship.
“I love the people that I’ve met at the center and the people are very passionate about what they do,” Gretzinger says. “If the option presents itself, I would like to stay with the center long term because it aligns what I want to do in international women’s rights.”
Growing up in Costa Rica, which Gretzinger describes as “a very religious country where they have very different views on (abortion), where we didn’t even talk about it,” influenced her interest in reproductive rights. But those rights involve more than abortion, she assured her mother, and also encompass maternal health, gender-based violence and sex education, among other issues.
While at the Law School, Gretzinger took part in the Human Rights Litigation and International Advocacy Clinic, where she conducted advocacy at the United National level and developed litigation strategies for international human rights violations before federal courts.
Gretzinger previously worked on international human rights litigation as a legal intern at the Center for Justice and International Law as well as a part-time law clerk at Global Rights for Women. She also served as an immigration paralegal for almost three years.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer based in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.
This article is a special online-only extra to the fall edition of Minnesota Law magazine.