Looking into Restrictions on Reproductive Services and Emergency Contraception – Lift Louisiana

Hello! I’m Janna Mangasep, and I’m a sophomore majoring in Political Economy with a double minor in Mathematics and SLAMM (School of Liberal Arts Management Minor). I currently work for the nonprofit organization Lift Louisiana, and I’m primarily interested in public policy regarding women’s rights. Over the course of this semester, I’ve worked on a whole host of tasks: compiling a spreadsheet of policymakers’ voting behaviors on legislation pertinent to Lift’s mission, creating different infographics depicting data found regarding women who obtain abortions in LA, and working on a study on emergency contraception access in emergency rooms. All of these assignments, including many finished ones from earlier in the semester, entail a variety of skills, some of which I didn’t have prior to this internship.

One of the most significant aspects of my work at Lift is the new skills I’ve learned through practice. I hadn’t had any graphic design skills before I made the infographics on abortion restrictions in Louisiana. Although I wouldn’t call these documents groundbreaking in any way, they demonstrated to me that I can still expand on my preexisting knowledge of data presentation. While I had only created memos and one-pagers at my previous job at the Mayor’s Office, I now see new ways for me to convey information that push Lift’s goals into the public. This was an extremely refreshing experience for me!

Who has Abortions in the U.S. (Final)

Unfortunately, I’m not fully sure about the career path I’ll choose, but I do know that it will most likely be within the government. Therefore, I saw a connection between the rejection I faced in my work for our emergency contraception in emergency rooms (EC in ERs) study. During my work for this particular report, I narrowed down a list of all 200 hospitals across the state of Louisiana to the 100 hospitals that had emergency rooms. From this, I called each one asking them about three yes or no questions regarding EC accessibility for sexual assault survivors in order to collect data on this subject. Surprisingly, no matter the time of day I called and despite the fact I would ensure that the questions would be brief (accounting for the hectic lifestyle of ER staff), I would be either hung up on immediately or given a quick, rude denial. I ended up with only 19 hospitals worth of information. Though I’m sure this is nothing compared to what canvassing volunteers/workers go through, as the door slammed in my face was metaphorical, I felt as though I gained an understanding of the impatience that comes with interactions between those working on policy and those actually carrying out the responsibilities we try to monitor. There’s a difference between abstract concepts of data collection work and very tangible medical professionals’ work in hospitals. In order to actually effect change in fast-paced environments, we clearly have to consider these workers outside of our context of policymaking. Furthermore, this involves cooperation with those who may hold knowledge on the people in question. For example, we had connected with a volunteer from the LSU Medical School and only after I finished the study did I realize that we would have to rely on her much more than I initially thought. This kind of teamwork is crucial to any career within the government, and I’m grateful to have learned this even after a multitude of rejections from ER staff!

I’m incredibly excited to say that I’ll be continuing my internship into the spring semester of 2019. I look forward to see how this EC in ERs study pans out, the new skills I’ll learn, and the people I’ll connect with and cooperate with from both the work I do for Lift and the other amazing organizations in NCI’s Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Health Internship Program!

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PLEN: Women in Health Policy

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Meet LaKia Williams! LaKia is a neuroscience major who recently attended Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN)’s Women in Health Policy seminar thanks to funding from Newcomb College Institute. Read about her experience below:

Describe yourself and why you wanted to attend the PLEN conference:

While I care about medicine and how that relates to women’s health I also care about the social determinants of women’s health, particularly reproductive health, and the ways in which laws and institutions perpetuate a lack of Reproductive Justice. I have been trying to decide if I want to pursue an MD or MD/MPP (Master’s of Public Policy) and so I was excited to attend this conference and learn about women who were possibly practicing medicine and working on legislation or advocating for legislation.

What were your favorite parts of the conference?

My favorite part of the conference was listening to the panelists and being able to ask them questions and have a dialogue about varying topics, from how they secured jobs on Capitol Hill to their personal life.

I also enjoyed getting to meet the other students and learn about the impressive things they are involved in. I met a Rutgers student named Mariam who has an impressive internship history, and after I mentioned my interest in one of her internships she showed me the application process, and different ways to increase my possibility of getting accepted. Being able to connect with Mariam, and other girls like Kyra, Sarah, Layla, Angel, and Tiwonge, opened my eyes to different cultures and different career paths, and honestly made my conference experience that much more enjoyable.

Highlight a speaker or a job site you visited:

One of the panelists that I thoroughly enjoyed was Faisa Ali from the Maternal and Child Health Session. I felt like I really connected with her because she worked at the Edna Aba Maternity Hospital in Somaliland. Edna and her hospital were both featured in the book I read two years ago that made me want to be an Ob/Gyn and that opened my eyes to the injustice women face in regards to the reproductive rights and health. Ali spoke about how important it is that we know the issues such as fistulas and female genital mutilation (FGM) because many people already doing the work don’t know these terms. I also intensely appreciated the opportunity to listen to Ms. Faisa speak because, as someone who works for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, she knows a lot about the medical side of Reproductive Justice, Rights, and Health. And one of the things that she taught me was the importance of training our doctors to understand the social determinants of health and to be aware of some of the social practices that while they aren’t common to us in America, or widely lived in other countries. For example, she talked about the refugee and immigrant communities and how many women need surgery to reverse the genital mutilation they receive, specifically when their labias are sewn together to inhibit sexual intercourse. Ali spoke about how few doctors in America know how to reverse this surgery and that fact coupled with the stigma that the women fear of receiving forces them to pursue illegal, unsafe options to get the medical care they need. And this sounds all too familiar of an issue. From Ms. Faisa Ali I didn’t only learn about the need for FGM reversing surgeries but the overall importance of listening to patients and understanding what they need because as providers we can’t always anticipate what they need but we can always listen and learn.

Tell us one thing you learned that you hope to never forget:

On the first day we told about informational interviews and how important they are and how to go about conducting them. The speaker told us that we should always bring our resumes to these interviews and try to have as many people see our resumes as possible. I will also never forget how important it is to network with your equals or peers; I feel that for many people my age we often think of networking as something we have to do with professionals who are well established in their careers but through this conference I was able to meet and connect with so many other undergraduate women across the nation. They taught me things I didn’t know about.

Why should other students attend a PLEN conference?

Other students should attend PLEN because it will help you grow in a professional sense and also open your mind. The panels are filled with people of different views that will allow you to listen to people you disagree with and to learn from. PLEN is also an opportunity for you to stand out and make connections that can become helpful in the future or in the present. At one of the panels I asked a question and mentioned that I work in New Orleans, and afterward a woman approached me and asked me about my work. I told her I am an intern for the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies and since she was formerly based in New Orleans she knew of IWES. From there we connected and she offered to go out for coffee and learn more about each other. Opportunities like this are what make PLEN so impactful.

 


Does this sound like something you might be interested in? Tulane undergraduate students can apply to NCI for funding to attend PLEN conferences. Email Anna Mahoney at amhone4@tulane.edu for more information.

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

PLEN: Women, Law, Legal Advocacy

Byria Hamblin majors in political science with a minor in sociology, and is interested in a career in legal advocacy and human rights. With funding from Newcomb College Institute, she attended Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN)’s Women, Law, and Legal Advocacy seminar this year. Read about Byria’s experience below:

Describe yourself and why you wanted to attend the PLEN conference:
I have always been passionate about legal advocacy. I have also always wanted to work in DC, so I saw this conference as a great opportunity to get a glimpse of the legal sphere in DC.

What were your favorite parts of the conference?
My favorite part of the conference was getting to listen to how the speakers began their careers on the hill, how their experiences lead them to different paths of legal advocacy, and how their networks guided them through all of this. I also really enjoyed learning the value of networking, maintaining professional relationships, and informational interviews. I never saw networking nearly as important as all of the speakers stressed it was.

Highlight a speaker or a job site you visited:
The panel Careers on Capitol Hill was particularly rewarding for me. Being from the South and knowing very few people in DC, I have always questioned how I am going to get my start on the Hill. All of it felt so out of reach for me. Meagan Lynch’s story of how she launched her career on the Hill spoke to me. Her experience of rising from an intern to the Director of Communications sounded exactly like what I want to do. I knew I want to be promoted from within rather than bouncing from position to position. Consequently, I ran over to my favorite representative from home, Sheila Jackson Lee. I am now looking to pursue an internship in her office in DC!

Tell us one thing you learned that you hope to never forget:
I hope I never forget to own my accomplishments, that failure is a learning process, that money is a feminist issue, and that if we, as women, do not represent ourselves, no one else will.

Why should other students attend a PLEN conference?
I would highly recommend every women looking to pursue any kind of professional career to attend a PLEN conference. The confidence, networking skills and overall exposure the field of your interest is beyond rewarding.


Does this sound like something you might be interested in? Tulane undergraduate students can apply to NCI for funding to attend PLEN conferences. Email Anna Mahoney at amhone4@tulane.edu for more information.

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

PLEN: Women in Health Policy

Meet Emma Bassin. Emma majors in public health and Spanish and is interested in a career in resolving barriers to access to health insurance and delivery services in domestic and Latin American healthcare systems. With funding from Newcomb College Institute, she attended Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN)’s Women in Health Policy seminar. Read about her experience below:

 

Describe yourself and why you wanted to attend the PLEN conference:

I recently started my graduate studies in public health at Tulane with a focus in Health Systems Management, and I’m most passionate about the ways in which health systems can be restructured in order to best fit the health care needs of their more vulnerable populations. I’ve recently come to an academic/professional crossroads, where I know I want to work in this branch of health policy, but I am unsure about whether I want to work domestically or internationally. I was super excited to learn about future career paths from experts in the field!

What were your favorite parts of the conference?

I really enjoyed the opportunity to network with such an incredible group of health policy professionals, as well as with such accomplished collegiate peers. Learning about the varying experiences people had had on their journey to their current position was super reassuring, as I start looking for a job for next year. We spent an entire workshop developing our networking skills, and were able to practice them at a couple different events throughout the weekend. Additionally, I loved getting to learn from the other collegiate women about their experiences on their own campuses and their career goals for the future. It was so motivating to spend that time with women who are as passionate about this field as I am.

Highlight a speaker or job site you visited:

I visited the National Academy of State Health Policy (NASHP) for my site visit on the second day of the conference. We sat around a conference table with female leaders of the organization and learned more about the nonpartisan group’s efforts to support health policy innovation at the state level. These women came from a variety of backgrounds, including work in AmeriCorps, federally-qualified health centers, Medicaid expansion and other specialized health policy fields.

Tell us one thing you learned that you hope to never forget:

I think the biggest takeaway I got from attending PLEN is the importance of confidently asserting myself as a woman in the job hunt and in the workplace. I learned that a firm handshake and a “Thank You” email will go a long way, and that I can actually hold my own in an unfamiliar professional setting. I frequently second-guess myself when communicating professionally, but PLEN reassured me that I should own my accomplishments and proudly, yet humbly, share them.

Why should other students attend a PLEN conference?

Everyone should attend a PLEN conference during their time at Tulane, if they get the opportunity! Being immersed in such an empowering community of accomplished women from across the country was just the motivator I needed to power through the rest of the semester.


Does this sound like something you might be interested in? Tulane undergraduate students can apply to NCI for funding to attend PLEN conferences. Email Anna Mahoney at amhone4@tulane.edu for more information.

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

PLEN: Women, Law, and Legal Advocacy

Alyssa Huang recently received funding to attend Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN)’s seminar in Women, Law, and Legal Advocacy.

Alyssa majors in Political Economy – Economics and Public Policy and Environmental Studies, and is interested in a career in environmental law. Read about her experience below:

Candidly, this was the most inspiring and important weekend of my undergraduate career. I cannot thank Newcomb College Institute enough for enabling me to travel to Washington D.C. and participating in the PLEN seminar – Women, Law, and Legal Advocacy. This weekend was saturated with informational career and issue panels, career skills workshops, exposure to the various aspects of careers in Law in the public and private sector, and so much more. Aside from all of the amazing educational opportunities, the relationships I formed with the other young women in the conference are invaluable to my future in law. I know the ambitious, intelligent, and impressive women I met at this conference will be my future coworkers and allies.

From the start of the seminar, we were immediately immersed in a networking workshop (arguably the most important part of beginning and maintaining a legal career). Previously, I thought my networking capabilities were fairly mature however, I was able to learn tips and trick to expand the effectiveness of my future networking opportunities. Following this workshop, our keynote speaker – Krish Vignarajah, Former Democratic Candidate for Governor of Maryland; Former Policy Director to First Lady Michelle Obama at The White House – was boundlessly impressive and relatable! Ms. Vignarajah was so pleasant to talk to as a woman in the middle of her political career, I was able to ask her an informational question at the end of her speech. I asked “How did your former position as a consultant for McKinsey influence our compromise on the Michelle Obama nutrition campaign (as you may know the main objective of the First Lady’s campaign was shaped by funders like General Mills to shift the focus from nutrition to activity)” and her response was that “Like many things in politics and public policy one cannot be absolutist especially when it comes to funding large projects.” It was interesting to hear the perspective of someone so close to the campaign.

Later we heard a panel on a varied introduction to careers in law and public policy. This small taste of incredibly varied ideological perspectives was very entertaining. Later into the evening we heard from a panel of very accomplished public policy organizers, administrative directors, attorneys, and researchers. These different areas converged on the common theme of voting rights. It was a very thorough historical overview and debate of current and recent events affecting voting rights in America. The panel was made up of: Valerie Jackson, Senior Advisor to the Management Committee and Firmwide Director of Diversity & Inclusion, K&L Gates; Carolyn DeWitt, President and Executive Director, Rock the Vote: Liz Howard, Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice; Sabrina Khan, Senior Staff Attorney, Advancement Project; and Charlotte Taylor, Former SCOTUS clerk and current Partner in appellate law at Jones Day. Even though it had been an incredibly long and exhausting day, I was completely star struck when I approach Ms. Charlotte Taylor as being a SCOTUS clerk is my highest aspiration in my legal career. We were able to talk more about her wild trajectory to her role at the SCOTUS and the tactful moves she made to be the high-powered partner she is today.

The next day felt like something out of a dream. We went to the Supreme Court of the United States to meet privately with ten female clerks to a variety of justices (including recently appointed Justice Kavanaugh). I was so incredibly amazed by this invaluable experience. After the panel disbanded we broke up into small groups of 5 to each clerk and I got to have a deep personal conversation with a Yale Law Graduate, Sotomayor Clerk, and amazing woman Rachel. She was so attentive to our concerns and she offered sage advice on life, careers, and feminism. After the meeting, we were given a tour of the courthouse. This definitely fulfilled my wildest 7th grade dreams when my infatuation with the Supreme Court was the highest. Later that day, the awe-inspiring experiences continued. We went to the executive offices on Capitol Hill and we got to speak to congressional staff executives. After an unexpected breakout session on cybersecurity law and policy, I was able to talk with two very powerful women who ultimately gave me their cards and vowed to help me get as far along as they could. That was so amazing and unexpected, and I honestly have much better job prospects post-college because of this interaction.

The last day was bittersweet as the full conference was incredibly mentally draining, but we, as a cohort of 50 girls from extremely dislike universities, had come to bond and would soon need to part ways. We started early in the morning with a policy simulation for various interest groups coalition building. This exercise was created with the ultimate goal of our assigned interest groups to converge on a bill proposal for a congresswoman on criminal justice reform. I was elected the CEO of the Innocence Project inthe group I was assigned to, and I spoke publicly on the mission and direction of my group members. Unfortunately (or fortunately) our group was the only one to not join the coalition of various ideological groups that made a strong push for the legalization of marijuana. I insisted we stay true to our mission of reforming criminal sentencing procedures as our groups main focus was freeing the innocent serving life without parole or on death row. Our group advocated for the reform of the system through shifting away from faulty forensic practices and racially prejudiced system incarceration. We ultimately created and presented our bill as we felt we could not adequately compromise on our mission with provisions in the dominant bill. My effectiveness and leadership capabilities were certainly tried in this exercise as for the majority of the three-hour simulation, I was on the moral and informational defensive. I was really proud of our outcome and I learned so much about myself as a speaker and possible future advocacy.

Later there were more informational panels on salary negotiation (highly pertinent to seniors) and careers in law and policy by: Parnia Zahedi , Law Clerk, Senate Judiciary Committee in the Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein; 2L, Georgetown University Law Center; PLEN Alumna: Harini Kidambi, Corporate Associate, Morrison & Foerster LLP; Nicole Hutchinson, Attorney Advisor, U.S. Secret Service, PLEN Alumna; Andrea Johnson , Senior Counsel for State Policy, National Women’s Law Center. Another star studded panel that really affirmed my federal judicial system leanings. I was very pleasantly surprised by the strength of Tulane alumna at the PLEN seminar. There was a total of 4 former Tulanians I met throughout the weekend and I am extremely proud and honored to continue the tradition. Thank you so much, for this amazing opportunity, it changed my life.

 

 


Does this sound like something you might be interested in? Tulane undergraduate students can apply to NCI for funding to attend PLEN conferences. Email Anna Mahoney at amhone4@tulane.edu for more information.

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

PLEN: Women, Law, and Legal Advocacy

Meet Eva Dils! Eva is a political economy major with a public health minor. With funding from Newcomb College Institute, she attended Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN)’s Women, Law, and Legal Advocacy seminar. Read about her experience below:

Describe yourself and why you wanted to attend the PLEN conference:

As a current campus activist and an aspiring policy researcher, community organizer, and policymaker, I spend a great deal of time thinking about and working on public service issues. The deeper I delve into activist movements, the more I see lawyers at every turn. Lawyers create, review, and interpret legislation; advocate for nonprofits; and defend civil rights. I hoped that the PLEN conference would give me an opportunity to grow my understanding of the connections between law and public policy and connect me with peers and role models with similar interests and ambitions.

What were your favorite parts of the conference?

I greatly appreciated the practical skills I learned at PLEN. For instance, one speaker recommended we all create a networking spreadsheet to keep track of folks we want to stay in touch with.

Highlight a speaker or a job site you visited:

On Friday, we had the opportunity to spend a half day at the Supreme Court. While there, we heard from nine female clerks of the Justices. Though I learned I am certainly not detail-oriented enough for a career as an appellate lawyer, I had a powerful experience hearing from folks who influence the agenda and decisions of the highest court in our nation.

Tell us one thing you learned that you hope to never forget:

I hope to never forget my main takeaway from PLEN: I don’t know whether I want to go to law school, and I don’t know exactly what my career path will be, but that is okay. Armed with the knowledge of the many opportunities in the policy field, I am confident in my ability to confront and explore the unknown.

Why should other students attend a PLEN conference?

PLEN gave me the opportunity to connect with students with similar career ambitions in a variety of places in their student experience. I met several freshmen, many other upperclassmen, seniors who were just about to enter the workforce, and even a few recent graduates. I was able to observe the different ways in which different people engaged with the conference and learn from them. I also came away from the conference with several friends I will know throughout my career and life.

 


Does this sound like something you might be interested in? Tulane undergraduate students can apply to NCI for funding to attend PLEN conferences. Email Anna Mahoney at amhone4@tulane.edu for more information.

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

 

 

Sex Education, Policy Analysis and More at IWES

My name is LaKia Williams and I am a sophomore studying Neuroscience on the pre-medicine track to be an Obstetrician/Gynecologist. While I care about medicine and how that relates to women’s health. I also care about the social determinants of women’s health, particularly reproductive health, and the ways in which laws and institutions perpetuate a lack of Reproductive Justice. Because of that I am very grateful to be interning this semester with the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies (IWES) where I have been able to improve my knowledge on issues regarding laws surrounding reproductive rights and justice, sex education in Louisiana, and the world of Reproductive Justice.

So far my internship has included editing multiple sex education curriculums that were created by IWES to be taught in numerous schools in New Orleans. I have also been compiling sexual health data in Louisiana as well as in the nation at large in order to create a comprehensive analysis of Louisiana with respect to sexual health and sexually transmitted diseases/infections. Another project I’ve been working on is policy analysis. I created a one-pager of Louisiana sex education laws to be administered to IWES’ partners. I also mapped one of IWES’ sex education curriculum with Louisiana’s health education requirements to see how the two align.

One thing I particularly enjoy about my internship is the focus on mental health and mindfulness not only as an institute doing work in the community but also with a focus on the employees (and interns) as well. There are usually weekly staff tea times where we sit around, drink tea, and eat scones or cupcakes while listening to a lecture. One lecture that I particularly enjoyed was entitled “Treatment Options for Substance Use Disorders & Levels of Care in Greater New Orleans” which was very informative for me because I was able to learn about the different social issues involving substance abuse. The social worker spoke about the different social aspects of substance abuse and the Director of IWES, a psychiatrist, spoke about the physiological and psychological components of substance abuse and its neurological effects.

intern
IWES staff and I at the Packard Foundation Conference in Jackson, MS.

As an intern I was also able to attend a fully funded grantee conference in Jackson, Mississippi with five employees including two of my supervisors, the director, the chief program officer, and a program manager. I am grateful for this opportunity because I was able to learn more about the grassroots work that is being done in the south surrounding Reproductive Justice. I was also able to network with multiple women doing important work in the New Orleans community, from Lift Louisiana, Women with a Vision, and the Louisiana Public Health Institute and a former RRRH intern, I exchanged information with all these women which allowed me to grow my network and learn about their stories. This internship has allowed me to not only work in Reproductive Justice but to also grow my network, my networking skills, and my confidence.

Listening carefully, asking thoughtful questions

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It’s fall, which means it’s my third term as an intern with Newcomb College Institute’s Reproductive Rights and Health Internship program! In January, I first began my work with Dr. Katherine Johnson in Tulane’s Department of Sociology. Her Working and Nursing study is a qualitative study which intersects sociology and public health in its aim to gather the experiences of breastfeeding/pumping and working mothers in the greater New Orleans area. From best practices for workplaces to equitable maternity leave to studying the intersection of race and class in breastfeeding, our work is truly interdisciplinary and intersectional, which may be my favorite part of working on it.

In the spring 2018 semester, the majority of it was listening to interviews that Dr. Johnson had previously conducted and reviewing the transcripts for edits. As I entered the study without much prior knowledge about the ins and outs of breastfeeding and pumping, this was an informative period for me to begin understanding the health-related technicalities and larger emerging themes of the interviews, as well as understand my place as an ally and someone who is not just there to process information, but to learn from others’ lived experiences. In addition to breastfeeding, I continue to hear stories of births, infections and illnesses, family dynamics, interactions between race and class, and much more that make the stories so compelling and brave.

A lot has changed in our study since then. Our main focuses now are on the continued recruitment of breastfeeding women for the study, particularly women identifying as African-American, and in the analysis of data collected thus far through more quantitative means. Regarding the former, I’ve been able to conduct some of these interviews myself! This is the most directly engaging portion of my work, and one that I put a lot of thought and care into. I’m grateful for the period I had in the prior semester to familiarize myself with the interview structure and learn the best ways to ask particular questions. My top priority when conducting interviews is to listen, and in that, to be an ally for the interviewee. In my view, this means listening carefully and asking thoughtful questions according to the study and when additionally needed, and portraying and integrating that information in a way that is genuine and can ultimately advocate for Black working mothers. However, it is a critical and continual process.

Developing myself as an ally is an objective I’ve outlined for myself each term that I’ve worked with NCI, and I know I can do better still. It’s an aspect of my work that I’ve put a lot more thought into since the summer, when Dr. Johnson and I actively began brainstorming ways in which to recruit and most effectively interview women of color. A notable example of this is our quasi-investigation of an emergent theme from past interviews with Black moms: the existence of a stereotype that Black women don’t breastfeed. Some discussion we’ve heard from interviewees include that it is sexualized, frowned upon by older family members, or connected to the historical context of slavery and Black women being used as wet nurses for owners’ babies. Gaining these perspectives from the women we interview is absolutely vital to our work.

Our plans for data analysis have been developing significantly, and I’m about to take on a more technical challenge: statistical software! Dr. Johnson has been showing me the ropes of SPSS, and we’ve spent our past couple of meetings discussing the variables we want to test. A sub-topic of the study that we’re both interested in is maternity leave – what kinds are available? What do women have to do to make it work for their families? What policy changes would be feasible? – so my next task is to import our maternity leave data from the interviews and use SPSS functions to determine things like length of leave and associated demographic characteristics. After spending so much time with qualitative data, to see the words and stories from our interviews synthesized into reportable findings is something I’m incredibly excited to see.

And who knows? A project of even greater scope, like a paper or a conference presentation, could come from our analysis as well! Maternity leave is a fascinating policy area to me because its availability and feasibility for a mother can have real impacts on reproductive justice – such as affecting a woman’s decision to have a child if and when she pleases, and how her postpartum work-life balance may be altered as a result of the policy. Factor in critical issues such as socioeconomic status and policy effects can range anywhere from accommodating to debilitating and devastating.

Between ongoing recruitment efforts, quality-checking interview transcripts as they’re completed, and analyzing the riches of data we’ve collected so far, I will have no shortage of tasks on hand this semester. I’m thrilled to take the work I’ve put in and synthesize it into something grander that can speak to the people who need to hear it the most.

Strengthening Convictions for Comprehensive Sex Education

Hello, Newcomb College Institute! My name is Julia Guy, and I am a Tulane junior studying Political Economy and Environmental Studies. This is my fourth session working as a research assistant for Dr. Clare Daniel, but it is my third as part of the Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Health internship program. My current project is a continuation of last summer’s work, in which I am compiling a master list of school administration contacts across Louisiana to prepare an IRB proposal for a much larger project assessing the capacity for comprehensive sex education in the Bayou State.

As most of us know, comprehensive sex education is important for public health and reproductive justice for its most practical and autonomous reasons: young adults must know facts about reproductive organs, sexual intercourse and its implications, sexually transmitted infections, and contraceptive methods in order to more completely assess their reproductive options and make choices best for them and their situation. However, the most pressing current event of the past few weeks illustrated a need for CSE beyond one-sided teen pregnancy statistics or gender role-based STI prevention campaigns.

If the topics of sex and our bodies are breached at all in the American classroom, they are often laced with negative, shameful messages about the “proper” way to express sexuality and sexual behavior. Abstinence-only education often draws upon conservative, religious beliefs about morality to try to explicitly link sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage as a degradation of self-worth. Combination programs take a step forward by including information about contraceptive methods, but they often list grim statistics about effectiveness and continue to state that oft-repeated illogical line: “Abstinence is the only 100% effective method to prevent pregnancy and STIs.”

Dr. Ford’s testimony two weeks ago was utterly heartbreaking. Period. However, the national reaction, from the explicit dismissal from my own Texas senators to the toxic comment threads on local news sites, not only angered me, it once again proved that something is gravely missing from what our students are learning about not just their bodies and sexuality, but how to appropriately and respectful treat one another’s. True comprehensive sex education not only teaches the anatomy and process of sex but does so in a manner that presents all reproductive choices and situations as simply that: a choice. A personal choice, like all other individual or bodily choices, to be respected like any other. Of course, we should discuss consent and partner respect in the classroom; many existing programs of different types already do. However, removing stigmas and shameful messaging from how we teach about sex, and incorporating the positive, normal, and exciting parts for both men and women may help begin to bridge the gap so painfully displayed on our most solemn national stage this month.

Continuing Work at the New Orleans Children’s Advocacy Center

My name is Kennedy Williams and I am a junior at Tulane University, studying psychology and public health. I had such an amazing summer interning at the New Orleans Children’s Advocacy Center, that I knew I needed to find a way to stay on for the fall. Unfortunately, working for free during the school year wasn’t financially feasible for me. Thankfully, Newcomb offers a Reproductive Health and Reproductive Rights internship that could fund my internship into the fall semester. I’m so grateful to be able to finish the work I started this summer. I am able to continue to transcribe forensic interviews to be used in sexual assault trials, continue developing the first statewide assessment on human trafficking, and continue to create and implement a No Hit Zone policy in schools in the community. I also have the opportunity this semester to create an educational campaign for high school seniors called College, Sex, and the Law.