Category Archives: Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Health

Mapping the Intersections

By working with Lift Louisiana, I’ve come to consider the relationship between politics and reproductive justice–and the ways in which our political system both uplifts and constricts reproductive rights–more deeply and more critically. This semester, I’ve spent the bulk of my time with Lift creating legislator profiles depicting the voting histories of various Louisiana representatives from prominent parishes, highlighting their decisions in terms of sexual education, abortion, and economic justice bills during the past five years. The results are incredibly sobering to say the least. They indubitably reflect the sheer power our representatives hold over our access to reproductive healthcare, they also suggest a clear path toward improving reproductive healthcare access for folks in Louisiana, in other states, and in the United States more generally. Through advocacy efforts, activism, and voter turnout, we hold considerable power to demand that our needs be met and our rights be codified into laws that benefit women and gender minorities. And while the voting histories contained within these legislator profiles may prove sobering, this fact isn’t (thankfully).
Although creating hundreds of legislator profiles has been incredibly taxing and time-consuming, it definitely proves worth it. Not only have I learned a great deal about Louisiana representatives, various reproductive justice bills that have been presented before the Louisiana legislature, and the Louisiana political system more generally, but these profiles will have a meaningful impact in Louisiana communities. Since these profiles will be passed out at community meetings, advocacy trainings, and other programming, they will provide voters and activists with information pertaining to their legislators, which will lead to more informed decisions in the voting booth. And that reality alone is well worth hours spent entering data in Microsoft Publisher!
I’ve also started working on a project with Sister Heart, a local thrift store established by and for formerly incarcerated persons to facilitate re-entry and economic independence. Entitled ‘Prison Gourmet’, the program will include formerly incarcerated folks recreating commissary recipes to initiate a conversation about mass incarceration, the prison-industrial complex, and systemic disparities in the criminal justice system. By engaging in this event planning, I’ve come to draw more nuanced connection between the reproductive justice and criminal justice reform movements–two causes that are very dear to my heart.

An update on my semester with Dr. Lederer

The first few weeks of my work with Dr. Lederer have been full of progress and learning. Working with Dr. Lederer has been an incredible journey of engaging with scientific research from start to finish. Although we are not ready to submit our manuscript to a journal quite yet, our readiness toward publication is closer in sight.

I have spent several months coding qualitative responses to the question of “What, if anything, did you learn after watching the educational intervention?” Through content analysis, I categorized over 300 responses to themes, such as learning everything and nothing, and about prevention, transmission, symptomatology, health consequences, etc. Once all the data was reviewed by both Dr. Lederer and me, we input the information into SPSS, a statistical software, to compute the significance of our results. After, I was tasked with writing about the results. Through academic and research opportunities, I have engaged in scientific writing, but never for the purposes of publication. While my section is still in its rough draft stage, the process has been an exciting learning opportunity for scientific writing.

My scientific writing skills have also been refined through the submission of my first poster presentation proposal for the American College Health Association Conference in May 2017. Dr. Lederer and I used the same research to develop a proposal to share findings with health professionals, educators, and administrators about gaps in student sexual health knowledge and possible ways to minimize the deficiencies. We will not find out about our acceptance for a few weeks, but I am grateful for the opportunity to be considered for such an incredible presenter position.

My work on sexual health knowledge deficiencies has become an integral part of my college experience and I am thankful for the chance to see the work to fruition. I hope to incorporate this research into future career endeavors whether it is through direct engagement with sexuality health education or indirect understanding of distal and proximal factors that can influence sexual health outcomes. I look forward to working on the next steps of this project and I am hopeful that the research will be perceived as significant for others as it has been for me.

First Month of Research with Dr. Lederer

The first month and a half of my internship as a research assistant for Dr. Lederer at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine has gone very well. My main tasks have included continuing to compile a literature review on web-based sex education interventions as well as helping Dr. Lederer create posters to present her research at the upcoming American Public Health Association (APHA) conference in Atlanta.

Dr. Lederer’s dissertation research focused on the impact of graphic images within a web-based STI education intervention. Among many other things, she collected data on how well the participants’ knowledge improved and also included several questions on how well the participants liked the intervention. Together this provides information on the efficacy of web-based sex education interventions, which is the focus of my smaller project. I have been searching for literature containing pre-existing information on how well sex education works when it is delivered digitally rather than in person in order to explore the need for a new study. While we thought there would be an excess of research on this topic, if seems that most literature focuses on the effectiveness of sex education websites rather than digital interventions, like a teacher’s voice recording over a PowerPoint. I have been improving my literature review techniques through this project, and may continue to refine my searches to make sure that we have encountered all relevant literature. However, it appears that there may be justification to analyze and publish this subset of Dr. Lederer’s data, which is very exciting! The next steps would be coding and statistically analyzing survey responses.

The other major task I have been working on is creating and editing Dr. Lederer’s poster presentations for the upcoming APHA conference. This has been challenging because I have no background in graphic design, but in the process I have learned the basics of using three software programs to produce info-graphics and posters. I have also learned more about the process that researchers go through to present their work, and what I may be able to look forward to if I am able to publish my thesis.

Overall, I’m very grateful for the experience I have had through the RRRH internship this year and am excited to continue through the end of this year and into next semester!

Introduction to Reproductive Justice

A couple of weeks ago, the Young Women with a Vision program participants were able to attend the annual Let’s Talk About Sex conference organized by SisterSong, the National Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. This year’s conference theme was “Resist. Reclaim. Redefine.” As SisterSong states, women of color “must resist the systems of oppressions that plague our daily lives, reclaim our human right to bodily autonomy, and redefine our futures.” Since the conference, at YWWAV, we have been working to unpack this message through several workshops that seek to teach the fundamental definition of reproductive justice, as well as the ways in which various oppressions Black women experience relate to reproductive justice. Aiding us in the creation of the curriculum for these workshops is Lakeesha Harris, the new Reproductive Justice and Sexual Health Program Manager at WWAV.

In preparation for discussions, the young women have been reading relevant texts such as Dorothy E. Roberts’ Killing the Black Body, which touches on a wide range of issues including eugenics, the devaluation of Black motherhood, harmful stereotypes of Black women and their sexuality, and the history of violence against Black female bodies in the United States. Participants have also been introduced to the work of Kimberle Crenshaw, who coined the term “intersectionality,” and watched videos depicting the personal accounts of everyday women of color like themselves who have in some way experienced a violation of their human rights. The discussions surrounding these texts and videos have served to create a space of learning through the sharing ideas, but also a space of healing through the sharing of feelings and emotional support. I’ve consistently been able to connect the concepts covered in our conversations to my studies back on campus and my own personal experiences. In the process I’ve learned more about the women who came before me, the young women who will go on to lead the fight for reproductive justice after me, and myself.

One conversation that has stood out to me in particular focused on the stereotype of “the angry Black woman.” The curriculum of our program often focuses on addressing the multitude of ways in which Black women are oppressed in our society and in the process, illustrates that it is a fact that Black women are constantly treated unfairly due to the structures of the social systems in place. When Lakeesha posed the question of “How do you feel when you’re treated unfairly?” to the girls, at the core of all their responses was “angry.” She in turn responded to this reaction by saying “but you can’t get angry.” In this statement, she was making the point that all too often, when Black women respond to injustice by allowing their true feelings to come to light, the major consequences are a reinforcement of the negative stereotypes applied to them day in and day out, and very real negative implications in their personal lives. When they express dissent, they are labeled as “sassy,” “insubordinate,” or “aggressive;” they are expelled from their schools and fired from their jobs. Their responses to injustice are seen as unjustified. The result is young girls who are forced to repress their feelings and undergo chronic stress that wears them down physically and mentally, leading to a multitude of adverse health outcomes. Another consequence is that young girls are led to themselves doubt whether or not their emotions are valid and in the process internalize the harmful myths and stereotypes regarded as “truth” by the systems that oppress them.

YWWAV gives girls the space to be angry, to accept that that anger is not only okay, but valid, and to transform that anger into motivation to break down the social constructs that are barriers to their health and wellbeing.  It gives me the opportunity to do the same.

First Few Weeks at Lift Louisiana

Image result for comprehensive sex educationI am now several weeks into my internship with Lift Louisiana, and I am so excited about all of the work I am doing. My main project for the semester is launching a new campaign called #MyLouisianaSexEd, which aims to collect stories from students in Louisiana about their experiences, both positive and negative, in sex ed.

So far, I have updated our website to get it ready for launch and began reworking, editing and creating the materials we will need to make the campaign launch successful. While I plan to pilot the campaign at Tulane next month, I am also working to create a network of campus leaders around Louisiana so that the campaign can be successfully launched at college campuses around the state this year. I  have started to compile a list of student organizations and their leaders at universities across the state to pinpoint who could be launching these campaigns. Currently, I am working on developing a webinar to present to these statewide campus leaders about what the campaign is and what they will need to do to launch it.

As the date of the campaign’s launch grows nearer and nearer, I am only more excited about the work I am doing with Lift Louisiana. Hopefully, once the campaign launches statewide, we will collect a plethora of student stories to better not only our understanding of the good and bad of sex ed. in Louisiana, but the understanding of our legislators as well. The information we are collecting is key to humanizing the idea of comprehensive sex ed. for our legislators – we need these stories to show them that sex ed. is not simply some abstract form of education for kids. Rather, it is something that will impact their health and well-being throughout their lives. I look forward to launching the campaign in the upcoming month and seeing what we can accomplish!


First Few Weeks with NOAF

Hi everyone! In my first few weeks interning with the New Orleans Abortion Fund, I feel like I’ve already been a part of so much: from fundraising nights and clinic escort trainings to big-picture discussions about the future of the organization with the NOAF community and getting the chance to meet Southern abortion providers and advocates.

Left: Alex and I tabling at Sex Ed Bingo, a fundraising event for NOAF

Right: A crowded room of supporters coming to hear Dr. Willie Parker, one of the few abortion providers in the state of Mississippi, come to New Orleans to speak about his book: Life’s Work: a Moral Argument for Choice

One of the most interesting events I’ve been a part of so far has been a NOAF Values Alignment Discussion and Training workshop. This event brought together different members of the NOAF community, from clinic escorts (those who escort clients in and out of the women’s health clinic in New Orleans) to client intake volunteers (those who answer the NOAF hotline and speak with clients directly) to board members and interns. Getting a chance to meet and speak with all of these different people was a great experience and a good way to understand the breadth of services the organization provides. [I also participated in a clinic escort training and hope to take my first shift in two weeks (so expect another post on that)!] It was also a great way to see how organizations, especially small community-based organizations and nonprofits, structure their organization, both in terms of services and values. I was able to contribute to the conversation about the next steps NOAF would like to take forward in terms of collaboration with other organizations, recognizing how race & class plays into the relationship between NOAF’s volunteers/board members and its clients, and fundraising. This upcoming Tuesday, Alex and I will be meeting with several other NOAF members to brainstorm a list of action items and corresponding goals regarding diversity through community engagement. I look forward to working on these goals with NOAF!




Countless Amazing Experiences with NOAF!

imagejpeg_0-4            It’s only been a month and a half with NOAF, and I’m shocked by how much has already occurred.  From events to meetings, I’ve found that I love working with Amy Irvin even more than I thought I would.  One of the highlights has been a meeting with a board member, Mary, and Amy to discussion development.  Mary has over 20 years of administrative development experience, so she was able to help us brainstorm some terrific ideas.  It was easily one of the most educational and motivating discussions I’ve had about fundraising, and it’s been driving force behind my work for NOAF ever since.  However, it’s been helping out at the that has taught me most about the actual organization


Over the last couple weeks, I’ve already helped out at two different NOAF events: Sex Ed Bingo and a book reading and discussion for Dr. Willie Parker’s book, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice.  Bingo occurred during the first week of my internship, and the opportunity to table with the other intern, Samah, was a great experience.  It allowed me to get a sense of NOAF’s tongue in cheek approach to reproductive rights that is so unique to the organization.  Surprisingly, I also learned a lot of colloquial terminology about sex, most of which I had never heard before.  At Dr. Parker’s event, I was able to witness a different, more formal approach that still retained the friendly yet intimate atmosphere that NOAF produces so well.  After that night, I now understand the complex relationship between religion and reproductive rights that is so central to New Orleans.  Both events were truly eye-opening.

I’m so excited for NOAF’s plans in the upcoming weeks.  This weekend, Samah and I will be attending the organization’s values alignment discussion.  Staff, board members, volunteers, and supporters are meeting to discuss the direction they hope to move in going forward.  It’s going to be an amazing experience to be part of.  I can’t wait to help them identify new goals and programs for the future.  Soon after that, I’ll be attending my first story sharing event, which I’ve heard such terrific things about.  Every opportunity that allows me to better understand the advocacy component of NOAF’s work only makes me more committed.  Going forward, I’ve been tasked with drafting the organization’s End of the Year Appeal.  This is both exciting and mildly terrifying since 30% of the organization’s donation are often raised during the holiday season with this campaign.  I’ve already learned so much in my preliminary research, so I’m excited to see how the campaign goes!

Round Two at Lift Louisiana


Hello hello! My name is Amber Thorpe, and I am a senior (terrifying) from Los Angeles, California pursuing a dual degree in anthropology and political science with a minor in Africana Studies. In addition to serving as an intern with Lift Louisiana, I also work at the Center for Public Service as a Service-Learning Assistant, Community Engagement Advocate, and Curriculum Specialist in addition to interning at the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center. In my spare time, I engage in archaeological research through the Tulane University Anthropology Department. In addition, I serve as the Historian and Website/History Committee Co-Chair of Students Organizing Against Racism, the Vice President of the Tulane Anthropology Club, and the Historian of Amnesty International at Tulane.

This past summer, Newcomb College Institute (NCI) provided me with an incredible opportunity to work with Lift Louisiana, a New Orleans-based non-profit organization that works to educate, litigate, and advocate for reproductive rights and reproductive healthcare access in Louisiana. This work proved incredibly thought-provoking, challenging, and well worth long days and arduous tasks. So rewarding, in fact, that I gladly jumped at the chance to continue working at Lift as a public policy intern during the fall 2017 semester!

This semester at Lift Louisiana, I am working on a variety of projects. I have spent the past few weeks working on creating legislator profiles for numerous representatives and senators from six different major parishes in Louisiana. These profiles include information pertaining to the legislator and their voting history on Louisiana legislative bills surrounding economic justice, abortion, and sexual education. After I complete this project, these profiles will be disseminated at community meetings in these parishes to provide voters and constituents with more information about their legislators. In addition, I am finishing up a project I spend a great deal of time working on during the summer–a toolkit surrounding advocating for women’s rights & reproductive healthcare access in Louisiana. After I finish these projects up–around the end of October–I will likely work on a project focusing on the nexus of criminal justice and reproductive justice. More details on that later!

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Starting back up with YWWAV

My name is Hali Ledet and I’m a junior at Tulane majoring in Public Health on a pre-med track. My main areas of interest are maternal/child health and women’s health, particularly as they relate to marginalized groups. I hope to acquire a Masters of Public Health in Maternal Child Health, then go on to work as an OB/GYN and provide high quality, accessible care for the women who need it most. This semester will be my second semester working with the Young Women with a Vision (YWWAV) program, and I am excited to jump back into things!

YWWAV provides a safe space for middle school and high school-aged Black girls in New Orleans to share and learn from their experiences and the experiences of those with similar backgrounds through workshops, projects, community engagement activities, and discussions that focus on issues related to human rights, intersectionality, Black feminism, reproductive justice, and social justice. My role is to aid in the facilitation of these endeavors while also serving as a mentor and providing guidance when needed. As a young Black woman from Louisiana, I see reflections of my younger self in the program participants and am looking forward to continuing to build meaningful relationships with them as we all learn and grow together.

I believe that real change in the field of reproductive justice can only be effected when a life-course approach is taken to address the issues that impact women and inhibit their agency. Before mothers are mothers they are women, and before women are women, they are girls. By continuing my internship, I hope to look at both the obstacles and triumphs of young Black girls in our city through a public health lens and learn of the ways their physical, mental, and sexual wellness are made vulnerable, and what we can do to change that so that we are one step closer to a more equitable and just society in which everyone’s life is valued.



Ready to get back to work!

My name is Brittney Sheena and I am a senior at Tulane University majoring in neuroscience and minoring in public health and Spanish. I am excited to continue working as a reproductive rights and health intern this semester. My knowledge of reproductive health issues developed significantly from my experience over the summer and I know my understanding will continue to grow this semester.

Over the summer, I conducted research with Dr. Alyssa Lederer on sexuality health education. Unfortunately, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have a disproportionate impact on adolescents and can lead to adverse health implications. My principal research project has been investigating college students’ gap in STI knowledge. Through literature reviews and qualitative coding analysis, Dr. Lederer and I have positioned ourselves to use this semester to work on journal publications and poster proposals. In addition to STI knowledge gap research, I helped work on an instrument design project and a grant proposal, tasks I did not anticipate when I entered the position, but I am unbelievably grateful for the intellectual and academic development they provided. I am curious what other research experience will arise as I continue this journey.

In addition to my research on sexuality health education, I work at the Behavioral and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Lab at Tulane Medical School, where my research team and I assess how the mother-child relationship can influence child development. I am also a proud member of Tulane Emergency Medical Services, Mortar Board Honor Society, and Kappa Alpha Theta. I want to pursue an MD/MPH to not only treat patient symptoms and maladies, but also prevent health issues through culturally appropriate education and coordination of health actors.