Talk centers on abortion rights

A recent Supreme Court decision was the impetus for a panel discussion on the future of abortion rights Thursday night.

At the event, which was sponsored by the Yale Law Students for Reproductive Justice, three legal experts discussed the state of abortion rights after the April Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortion. The speakers warned that the decision may make it easier to pass legislation further restricting access to abortion.

Law School professor Reva Siegel discusses the future of abortion rights in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, which allowed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban.
Ming-Yee Lin
Law School professor Reva Siegel discusses the future of abortion rights in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, which allowed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban.

Judy Tabar, CEO of Planned Parenthood Connecticut and the moderator of the panel, kicked off the discussion.

“As we analyzed the Supreme Court decision, when it came down, it was so much more stunning a blow than we imagined,” Tabar said.

In her remarks, Yale Law School professor Reva Siegel described the history, internal conflicts and rationales of the pro-life movement. She asserted that the Partial-Birth Abortion Act only prohibits a small number of abortions, but that the purpose of the statue was “to pick at uncomfortable spots.” Many of those who support abortion rights generally are more willing to legislate against “partial-birth” procedures.

Siegel received a slight laugh from the audience when she noted that members of the pro-life camp have begun to argue that abortion is a threat to women’s health and freedom.

“It’s a flip of the statement that we use to describe criminalizing abortion,” Siegel said.

Eve Gartner, deputy director of Public Policy Litigation and Law at Planned Parenthood, emphasized how the recent court decision was truly a radical departure from the past 30 or more years of Supreme Court decisions.

“We have our work cut out, but it’s not hopeless,” Gartner said.

The final speaker, Sondra Goldschein, state strategies attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, said she still has a positive outlook for the future of abortion rights. Laws can be passed on the state level to protect abortion rights, even if Roe v. Wade is overturned or further weakened by Supreme Court decisions.

“With primary season coming up, the state legislatures can’t be overlooked — they are crucial,” Goldschein said.

The organizers of the event said they were very pleased with the turnout at the discussion and with the diversity of the audience. Jael Humphrey LAW ’08, co-chair of the Yale Law Students for Reproductive Justice, said she found the conversation inspiring.

“We need to make sure that this decision affects us,” she said. “Our generation, having been born after Roe v. Wade, takes things for granted, to a certain extent. This ban is making people realize that they can personally be affected by these decisions.”

Susan Yolen, the vice president for public affairs and communication at Planned Parenthood of Connecticut, said she recognized the need to collaborate with law students.

“I would love to have more events like this,” Yolen said. “These are our future thinkers and legal scholars, it’s time to inspire them.”

The panel was also sponsored by the American Constitution Society, Yale Law Women and Planned Parenthood of Connecticut. Women comprised most of the audience, including undergraduates, law students, medical students and New Haven community members.

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