Law Student Wins Prize for Scholarship in Reproductive Rights

Law Students for Reproductive Justice, in collaboration with the Center for Reproductive Rights, has named second-year law student Elizabeth Chen a winner of the sixth annual Sarah Weddington Writing Prize for New Student Scholarship in Reproductive Rights.

Chen’s article, “Equal Protection: Why the HPV Vaccine Should be Mandated for Both Boys and Girls,” includes a constitutional analysis exploring why girls-only HPV vaccine mandates rely on gender stereotypes and perceptions of real differences between men and women.

“In the context of the equal protection clause, ‘real differences’ such as biological distinctions have been used to justify different treatment of men and women,” Chen says.

“Such justifications are inappropriate in the HPV vaccination context because men and women are equally at risk for contracting and transmitting the disease,” she adds. “In addition, I claim that gender-neutral vaccine mandates would help address gender equality by undermining assumptions that only women are affected by HPV, women are solely responsible for contracting the disease, and women alone should bear the consequences of the disease.” 

The goal of the Sarah Weddington Writing Prize is to encourage innovative analysis and advocacy, as well as to provide preparation for future thought leaders in the reproductive rights and justice movement. The theme of this year’s contest was “Beyond the Books: Realizing Reproductive Rights in Real Lives.”

Chen, the second-place winner, received a $500 scholarship. The full text of the winning submissions will be made available on the LSRJ website. The article also will run in an upcoming issue of the Washington University Journal of Law & Policy.