April 27, 2020 — Khyra Kolidakis, a third-year student at the University of Houston Law Center and graduate of the school’s Pre-Law Pipeline Program, won first place in an annual writing competition sponsored by the State Bar of Texas Women and the Law Section.
Her essay, “Maternal Mortality and Domestic Violence: The Intersectionality of Pregnancy and Violence,” explores the social and political factors behind the high death rate in Texas among African American women.
“Black women in Texas are dying with frightening frequency after childbirth — at a rate nearly three times higher than that of white women,” Kolidakis said, citing a myriad of chronic health problems such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking habits. But she is most critical of the state’s refusal to extend Medicaid coverage and cutbacks in basic health care, access to birth control, mental health care, substance abuse treatment and other services that could help women become healthier before and after pregnancy. Stress related to health issues, poverty and living conditions often leads to domestic violence, she wrote.
The solution requires a multidisciplinary approach not only from state and federal agencies but in the areas of law, sociology, psychology, criminal justice, nursing, education and public health.
The essay competition required Texas law school students to identify and analyze legal challenges facing women based on recent news reports.
“During my time in law school, I have seen many of the horror stories recounted in the Chronicle up close and personal,” Kolidakis said. “I learned that many women in Houston and in Texas experience hardship, especially when pregnant.”
She will earn her J.D. in December and hopes to practice family and probate law. But she also plans to put lessons learned in a crimmigration course and working in the Immigration Clinic to use working pro bono on women’s issues.
Kolidakis graduated cum laude from Spelman College in 2017 with a focus in political science and government. After completing the Law Center’s pipeline program, she interned twice at the Winstead law firm and previously interned with the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus in Atlanta and with IMPACT Strategies, a political advocacy firm, in Washington, D.C.
She will be presented with the 2020 Harriet E. Miers Writing Competition Award at the Women and Law Section’s annual membership meeting scheduled for June 25 in Dallas. She also will receive $1,000 for law school-educational expenses.