Bios 14-15 Fellows
Jennifer Chou is the RJ Fellow at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). Jennifer graduated in 2014 from the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. During law school, Jennifer interned at the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office and the ACLU of Southern California, where she worked with staff attorneys on reproductive health access, inmate religious freedom, and immigrant rights in education. Through UCLA’s Asylum Clinic, Jennifer represented a young victim of domestic violence in her successful application for asylum. As a student in UCLA’s Appellate Advocacy Clinic, Jennifer will argue this spring in front of a panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. At UCLA, Jennifer also served on the boards of UCLA’s chapter of LSRJ, the Asian Pacific Islander Law Students Association, Law Women of UCLA, and the Women’s Law Journal. Before law school, Jennifer spent three years as one of two paralegal for the Public Policy Litigation and Law Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She did her undergraduate work in Political Science and Women’s Studies at Wellesley College, with a concentration in Asian American Studies. At Wellesley, Jennifer was recognized with the college Excellence in Leadership award for her role in advocating for the diversification of Wellesley’s American Studies Program and the expansion of its Asian American Studies curriculum.
Shelley Halstead is the RJ Fellow at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). She graduated in May 2014 from the University of Washington School of Law where she was a Gates Public Service Scholar. While in law school, Shelley participated in the Workers Rights’ Clinic, providing wage claim and wage liens assistance to low-wage workers who remain unpaid by their employers. She also participated in the Immigrant Families Advocacy Project, which obtains U-Visas for undocumented women survivors of domestic violence. Shelley interned at LSRJ’s National Headquarters in Oakland, and at Solid Ground in Seattle, where she advocated for public benefit recipients when they were denied, suspended, terminated from a benefits program. During law school, Shelley served as Co-President for the University of Washington’s LSRJ Student Chapter, Students for Labor and Employment Justice, and the Black Law Students Association. She also served as a board member and hotline volunteer of the CAIR (Community Abortion and Information & Resource) Project, helping low-income women access abortion. Prior to entering law school, Shelley traveled and worked in various places around the globe before becoming a union carpenter. As a member of Local 131, she was a shop steward and helped domestic partners gain access to employee benefits. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle.
Nerissa Irizarry is the RJ-HIV Fellow at the Positive Women’s Network – USA, based in Oakland, CA. Nerissa graduated in May 2014 from William Mitchell College of Law. She is passionate about promoting social justice through the law, particularly in relation to race, class, and gender. During law school, she did direct legal service work in public defense and juvenile dependency at the Child Protection Clinic and the Legal Aid of Marin. She has also worked as a community organizer, research assistant, conference facilitator, and has spoken about the experiences of LGBTQ people of color in a variety of forums. Since 2013, Nerissa has served as a board member on the LSRJ National Board of Directors. Nerissa entered higher education via Foothill College, and graduated magna cum laude with a presidential citation from Loyola Marymount University with a B.A. in Sociology. While at Loyola Marymount, Nerissa served as the President of the Gender Sexuality Alliance and spearheaded multiple systemic changes for the campus community, including the establishment of a LGBT resource center.
Abbey Marr is the RJ Fellow at Advocates for Youth. Abbey graduated in May 2014 from Harvard Law School. She is the Secretary of LSRJ’s National Board of Directors and president emeritus of Harvard’s LSRJ chapter. This year, Abbey is participating in the Harvard-Berkeley Exchange program to assist the Berkeley Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice in completing the first ever Reproductive Rights and Justice casebook. At Harvard, Abbey helped Professor Mindy Roseman design and teach the Harvard Reproductive Rights and Justice course and served as an editor on the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender and a co-chair of the Gary Bellow Public Service Award. Abbey spent her 2L summer as a Ford Fellow with the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance, working to pass state and local workers’ rights legislation, as well as to bring a gender angle to the immigration debate. She spent her 1L summer with the ACLU – Reproductive Freedom Project. Abbey graduated in 2009 from George Washington University with a degree in Political Science and Women’s Studies and served as the president of GW’s Planned Parenthood Vox chapter and received an award for an Outstanding Contribution by an Undergraduate Major, Women’s Studies. While at GW, she also worked with Advocates for Youth as an intern, blogger, and member of the International Youth Leadership Council. Between college and law school, Abbey worked for the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division and served as a volunteer case manager for the DC Abortion Fund.
Melanie Medalle is the RJ-HIV Fellow at SisterLove. She graduated in May 2014 from the Northeastern University School of Law. Melanie’s work is grounded by a community whole health lens, with an emphasis on the intersection between self-determination and the social determinants of health, reproductive and sexual health justice, racial and environmental justice. During law school, Melanie served as a Research Associate with the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy, addressing issues related to the domestic implementation of the international human right to health. She served as a legal extern with the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Office of the Attorney General, where she assisted in the enforcement of state and federal civil rights laws pertaining to race, sex, gender, and ability discrimination. As a legal intern with the California Appellate Project, she assisted in advocacy efforts for unrepresented persons facing capital punishment in California. She also served as a judicial intern for the Honorable Bruce M. Selya on the First Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and, as a legal intern with the Conservation Law Foundation, she worked on issues of community health, environmental justice, and climate change policy and energy regulation. At Northeastern, Melanie served as an officer on the Committee Against Institutional Racism, an Executive Board member of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, and a standing member of the Black Law Students Association. Immediately prior to law school, Melanie was an International Fellow with the Global Women’s Water Initiative in Uganda, partnering with women-led environmental initiatives to increase community-based access to clean water and sanitation.
Elena Peifer is the RJ Fellow at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. She graduated in May 2014 from the University of Michigan where she was a Darrow Scholarship Recipient. Elena serves on LSRJ’s National Board of Directors. During law school, Elena was the co-president for Law Students for Reproductive Justice and the Outreach Chair for Black Law Students Association. Under Elena’s leadership, Michigan LSRJ was awarded the Cari Sietstra prize for Excellence in Organizing. Elena served as Information and Technology Editor, Articles Editor, and associate Editor on the Michigan Journal of Gender & Law. Elena was additionally selected by the administration as a leader of the Michigan Access Program, an orientation program dedicated to social justice and diversity in the law school and legal community. Elena received recognition for her commitment to public interest work as recipient of both the Dean’s Public Service Fellowship and the Jenny Runkles Award. Elena has interned at Tahirih Justice Center, representing victims of gender-based violence in immigration and family law matters, and at the Immigration Practice of the East Bay Community Law Center, continuing to work with immigrant survivors of gender-based violence. During law school, Elena completed the Human Trafficking Clinic, the Child Advocacy Law Clinic, and an externship at the Family Law Project. Before law school, Elena worked for two years as a consultant for non-profits and a grant writer at the Glen Price Group. Elena received her B.A. in Gender Studies and Politics with a minor in Spanish from Pomona College.
Kelsey Ryland is the RJ Fellow at URGE (Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity). She graduated from Seattle University School of Law in May 2014. In law school, Kelsey was the Vice President and Co-President of her campus’ chapter of LSRJ. She received the Marilyn J. Berger Gender and Justice Award for her paper, “Anti Choice Laws as a Form of Reproductive Oppression.” Her summers in law school were spent as a policy intern at the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) in Washington D.C. and as a policy intern at Legal Voice (formerly the Northwest Women’s Law Center) in Seattle, WA. While at NNEDV, she worked to ensure the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. At Legal Voice, Kelsey researched complex legal issues relating to women’s rights in preparation for amicus briefs and impact litigation. Before law school, Kelsey was a domestic violence advocate at the Seattle Police Department with the Victim Support Team through AmeriCorps where she assisted survivors of domestic violence in finding immediate safe housing and getting connected to community resources. This experience informed Kelsey’s desire to attend law school and become a policy advocate. Kelsey is a queer woman who subscribes to a robust anti-oppression framework and believes that all people should have access to the resources they need to create a family, when and how they want, and to live in relationships free from violence.
Rachel Suppé is the RJ Fellow at the Reproductive Health Technologies Project (RHTP). She graduated in May 2014 from American University Washington College of Law, where she focused her studies on gender, sexuality, and reproductive justice. Since beginning law school, Rachel has interned at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, representing LGBT and/or HIV positive servicemembers facing harassment or discrimination, as well as at the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Center for Reproductive Rights. She served as President of her LSRJ Chapter, Senior Articles Editor of the Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law, a Student Advisory Board Member at the school’s Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, and a Student Attorney with the General Practice Clinic. Her research paper, “A Right in Theory but not in Practice: Voter Discrimination and TRAP Laws as Barriers to the Exercising of a Constitutional Right” was selected as one of LSRJ’s Second Place winners of the 2014 Sarah Weddington Writing Prize for New Student Scholarship in Reproductive Rights, and her paper “Pregnancy on Trial: The Alabama Supreme Court’s Erroneous Application of Alabama’s Chemical Endangerment Law in Ex Parte Ankrom” was recently published in the American University Washington College of Law Health Law & Policy Brief. Prior to law school, Rachel studied Social Work and Asian Studies at Skidmore College. After college, she worked at Family Planning Advocates of New York State, interned for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and taught English in China.
Ariel Tazkargy is the RJ Fellow at the National Women’s Health Network (NWHN). She graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in May 2014. While in law school, Ariel served on the executive boards of the Asylum Law Project and the Women’s Law Student Association. She currently serves as the Executive Editor of Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, which publishes many articles on topics related to women’s inequality in the law, including reproductive justice. As a staff member on the journal, Ariel authored “From Coercion to Coercion: Voluntary Sterilization Policies in the United States,” which has been selected for publication and will appear in the journal’s forthcoming in Volume 32, Issue 1. Ariel has clerked at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota in the Civil Rights Division, focusing on enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. She has also volunteered at Peace and Hope International Walk-in Legal Clinic in Minneapolis, MN, which provides legal advice and referrals to refugees and immigrants in the Twin Cities. Ariel continued helping refugees and diaspora communities in her work as a legal intern with the Advocates for Human Rights in Minneapolis, and during her internship with the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York. Ariel holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Kansas. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!