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Forum Addresses National and International History of Abortion Politics

Forum discusses impending Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade.

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Three Knox College professors shared their insights and advice at a May 20 panel on Roe v. Wade. The speakers were Karen Kampwirth, Robert W. Murphy Professor of Political Science and associate professor of international relations; Duane Oldfield, associate professor and chair of political science and chair of international relations; and Magali Roy-Fequiere, associate professor and chair of Gender and Women's Studies and chair of Africana Studies. The three faculty members presented information about the national and international history of abortion politics, and the likely outcomes and effects if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Oldfield spoke on the partisan polarization of abortion, likely individual outcomes in each state, issues framing and the complexity of public opinion, and interstate outcomes and possibilities.

“Abortion was not always a partisan issue,” he said. “However, when outside social movements began to weigh in, the political parties deviated on the issue.”

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, Oldfield said 26 states are likely to outlaw abortion, some of which are poised to extend the reach of their laws beyond state borders. Oklahoma, for example, has a bill which would prohibit all abortions except for medically necessary cases, and allow private lawsuits against those who obtain an abortion or help someone to obtain an abortion.

Kampwirth shared the story of a Nicaraguan friend who died after not getting what would have been considered a medically necessary abortion. She then spoke about the politics of abortion in Latin America, specifically in countries where there is a total or near total ban, like Nicaragua and El Salvador.

“Patriarchy is everywhere,” Kampwirth said in reference to abortion as an international issue. “But it differs greatly from place to place.”

Roy-Fequiere spoke about the intersection between abortion and other social issues, focusing on the disproportionate effect abortion bans have on people of color. She also said this effect even continues beyond abortion, as Black women have the highest mortality rate in childbirth.

Roy-Fequiere also shared some stories about her life as a young woman growing up in Puerto Rico, and how access to birth control and abortion affected her.

“In a patriarchal society, women are always under the threat of coerced pregnancy,” she said as she ended her presentation.

The floor was then opened up for questions and comments from those in attendance. Several attendees shared their concerns about the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade, including what the possible implications could be for other landmark cases. The panel agreed that political activism, especially voting, would be the best way to be involved and potentially influence the outcome of this issue. 

This event was sponsored by the Knox College Departments of Political Science and International Relations, and the interdisciplinary program in Gender and Women's Studies.

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Printed on Friday, June 24, 2022