There are many things you can do with your law degree. Just ask Caroline Reilly, a recent BC Law grad and former Impact blogger who has combined her passion for journalism with her legal education and training to advocate for change in reproductive health practices.
While at BC Law, Caroline took part in the school’s LEAPS program. The goal of LEAPS, or Leaders Entering and Advancing Public Service, is to provide opportunities for students to discover and develop their talents for advancing the public good through their chosen legal path. For Caroline, this path began with her desire to advocate for reproductive rights.
Caroline came to law school with an interest in abortion access and the intersection between reproductive rights and other forms of marginalization, but her story took a personal turn after being diagnosed with endometriosis during her first year of law school. Endometriosis is a chronic reproductive health condition that can cause acute pain, fatigue, organ dysfunction, and infertility. As a result, Caroline has had numerous procedures and surgeries, and even more ultrasounds.
To some, an ultrasound may seem fairly routine. But Caroline discovered a problem: archaic notions about purity and sexuality negatively, and directly, impacted healthcare. During a recent routine ultrasound, Caroline remembered a time from her teenage years when she was refused a transvaginal ultrasound because at the time, she was not sexually active. Still confused about why “virginity” – a social construct – had anything to do with treatment for a potential ovarian cyst, Caroline took to Twitter.
After sharing her own experience, Caroline was flooded with responses and realized there was a larger pattern of poor healthcare across the country. Caroline had women private messaging to say they had the same experience; that they never even thought of it until they saw her mention it, but that it never sat right with them. She had providers messaging to say they have to keep their techs from doing this and to explain how unnecessary a consideration of sexual activity is in these circumstances. She also had friends with pelvic pain conditions writing to say that although they’d never had a transvaginal ultrasound withheld, they had instead been forced to undergo one against their wishes; told that if they had had penetrative sex at any point in their life, they had no choice. And thus, Caroline’s LEAPS capstone project took off.
But Caroline wanted to do more than produce a practicum about the intersection of journalism, lawyering, and advocacy. She wanted to spark a conversation that would ultimately lead to change in the area of reproductive health practices. As a result, Caroline turned her research into a journalistic endeavor and pitched an article that was published by Teen Vogue. Already, Caroline has received responses from as far away as Australia and has heard from providers who are committed to looking into their own practices and procedures.
Caroline’s project provides a clear message: advocacy comes in many forms. By combining her love for journalism with her passion for reproductive rights, Caroline was able to convey a narrative, rooted in personal experience, that she hopes paves the way for even greater change.