Friday, May 20, 2016
Macaulay Honors College, CUNY, hosts Policing Reproduction Symposium, by Elizabeth Reis, Professor Macaulay Honors College:
As readers of this blog are well aware, since 1973, the year of the historic Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion rights, hundreds of pregnant women, particularly women of color, have been arrested, detained, and jailed for matters relating to their pregnancies. Some have had miscarriages and yet have been suspected of feticide; others have admitted drug or alcohol use to their physicians and have been arrested for harming the fetus; yet others have faced legal scrutiny for refusing bed rest orders or requesting VBAC (vaginal deliveries) instead of cesarean sections. Authorities have prosecuted pregnant women based on the idea of “fetal personhood,” the notion that an unborn fetus has the same rights as a pregnant woman.
On May 15 and May 16 Macaulay Honors College at The City University of New York hosted a symposium called Policing Reproduction that brought together a diverse range of scholars, students, and the public to discuss these alarming trends in women’s reproductive health. On May 15, Johanna Schoen, Professor of History at Rutgers University read from her new book, Abortion After Roe. On May 16, symposium panelists included Lynn Paltrow, J.D., Founder and Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women; Jeanne Flavin, Professor of Sociology at Fordham University; Kimberly Mutcherson, Vice Dean and Professor of Law at Rutgers Law School, Miriam Zoila Perez, a journalist and activist based in Washington, D.C. and author of The Radical Doula Guide: A Political Primer for Full-Spectrum Pregnancy and Childbirth Support; Michele Goodwin, Chancellor’s Professor of Law at UC Irvine School of Law as well as Founder and Director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy at Irvine and author of the forthcoming Policing the Womb; and Civia Tamarkin, award-winning journalist and filmmaker who is working on a film about these issues, Misconception: A War Story.
The range and depth of the symposium’s presentations and the lively discussions surrounding them can’t be easily summarized. But among the most important themes that emerged was that the systematic erosion of women’s access to abortion and other reproductive health services is part of a larger, under-acknowledged assault on women’s basic rights as citizens and persons.