Bringing her research talents and passions to a non-profit organization this summer, Annaliese Downey is spending her summer vacation doing important advocacy work in a research-based internship. Annaliese is working on an applied study with the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC), a nationwide pro-choice group that focuses on ensuring abortion rights and access, carrying out political and educational work to support reproductive rights and health.

She is working to update and expand on a previous survey done in 2016 by the organization, reviewing more than 140 Crisis Pregnancy Centre (CPC) websites across Canada (except British Columbia) to collate new information about the services and resources advertised by the centres.

The research objective is to gather firm data on the CPC's approaches to client recruitment, address problematic findings, and provide information to the public regarding claims and services the CPC's promise.

Annaliese is a senior undergraduate student studying English and Women and Gender Studies. She says she sparked a passion for reproductive justice and injustice in Dr. Carol Williams’ upper-level course on reproductive justice and rights (WGST 3010: Reproductive Rights, Behaviours, and History), adding that she saw this as an opportunity to pursue her passion further while doing advocacy work.

I really enjoyed that the U of L and Applied Studies program were very flexible in allowing me to do this research from a remote placement during the COVID-19 pandemic as it provided me with an opportunity that I may not have been able to access otherwise. I also appreciate the support I have received from Dr. Carol Williams as she has sent me many informative articles about current reproductive topics in Canada and has made the research process both fun and a great learning experience. My personal philosophy is that every day I learn something new, I consider it to be a good day, and with Dr. Williams' expertise and wisdom, I have had many good days!

She adds that she has been able to gain a myriad of research skills and has increased her understanding of reproductive health care services and the work required to sustain equitable access to these services.

“By working in conjunction with the ARCC, I have been able to witness, and contribute to, the range of activities and research undertaken by a non-profit organization to generate and address reproductive justice in Canada. A skill that I am very happy to have been able to learn is how to do quantitative research and begin to assess findings. Seeing the data come together has been really exciting and I would love to do more quantitative research in the future.”

Annaliese is being professionally mentored through the ARCC by Joyce Arthur, an acclaimed researcher and advocate for reproductive rights in Canada. Annalise says she has been able to learn a lot from Joyce and has grown as a researcher, adding that she’s looking forward to continuing her work with the ARCC after her current project is completed.

This experience has been very valuable to my education as I am interested in pursuing legal studies in the Reproductive Health Law program at the University of Dalhousie. Because ARCC has an established national reputation and is research based, this experience has assisted me in building a strong profile to add to my graduate application.

Annaliese has three pieces of advice for students looking to become involved in their own research projects: talk to your professors about their interests and current projects, seize opportunities as they are offered to you, and be on top of everything to make sure the work gets done!