Women in Health, Medicine, & Science (WiHMS) was proud to be a part of another successful and enlightening Women’s Week series. As part of this year’s theme, "Making Public Policy Personal," WiHMS did a follow-up to their 2022 MEDiversity Week webinar to focus on the role of public policy in reproductive rights and justice in Utah and the U.S.
Our WiHMS Co-Directors, Amanda Bakian, PhD and Holly Sharp, DDS, moderated a robust and informative conversation with our panelists who hold expertise and professional experience in reproductive health, philosophy, law, social justice, religious faith, public health, and medical ethics.
Our panelists provided insightful historical context on legal cases, health policy, and stances taken by religious organizations and how these positions have persisted or evolved over the years to lead us to our current landscape of reproductive healthcare access.
Leslie Francis, JD, PhD and Jessica Sanders, PhD, MSPH, discussed that changes to laws and policy started to gain momentum during the Civil Rights Movement. For example, Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 was a Supreme Court decision giving married couples the right to access contraception. The bioethics movement, focused on autonomy and choice, was also gaining ground during this decade.
Contributing to the historical perspective while beginning to get into the deep complexities of this topic, Reverend Monica Dobbins explained positions on reproductive rights, justice, and health care that varying faiths and religious bodies have taken over the years, elaborating on how they have stayed the same or shifted with time. For example, the Catholic Church has remained steady in its position, while the Southern Baptist Convention previously held a more moderate stance leaving decisions primarily up to families with some moral boundaries. Dobbins also explained how progressive religious movements often embraced sterilization and eugenics, showing that there have been extremes in stances taken on both ends of the spectrum throughout the late 19th century into the 20th century.
Throughout the webinar, the panelists touched on a variety of additional topics, including:
- health inequities that historically and currently marginalized communities face
- the local community’s thoughts and concerns regarding policy on reproductive care as informed by a recent survey
- potential effects of these policies on other laws and statutes
- disability and decisions relating to getting pregnant based on current policy
- how religious professionals can counsel those seeking guidance for themselves and their families
Throughout, the panelists frequently returned to the fact that the nuance and complexity of the subject needs to be taken into consideration. Decisions regarding abortion, reproductive, and sexual health care are deeply personal, and each person responds differently when it comes to their own experiences with the medical establishment, social situations, religiosity, and access to resources.
To access a recording of this webinar, please visit the WiHMS Webinar website or enjoy the video on the Women's Week 2023 YouTube playlist.