Monday, November 11, 2013
On November 7-8, 2013, Washington & Lee University School of Law hosted a conference marking the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The conference, Roe at 40: The Controversy Continues,http://law.wlu.edu/lawcenter/page.asp?pageid=1620 , was largely organized by Sam Calhoun. The conference was co-sponsored by University Faculty for Life, ACLU of Virginia, Virginia NOW, the Frances Lewis Law Center, the Washington and Lee Law Review, and the Provost’s Office of Washington and Lee University.
The conference was unusual in that a variety of perspectives on abortion were included. The speakers were (in order of appearance): Clarke Forsythe, David Garrow, Sam Calhoun, Mary Zeigler, Richard Myers, Priscilla Smith, Tom Molony, Caroline Mala Corbin, Teresa Collett, Kathy Greenier, Randy Beck, Caitlin Borgman, Michael Paulsen, Maya Manian, Lynne Marie Kohm, Robin Wilson/Ryan Hrobak, and James Mahon. The papers from the conference will be published by the Washington and Lee Law Review.
The conference was quite interesting. I know all of the attendees greatly appreciated the hospitality of Sam Calhoun and everyone at Washington and Lee. The inclusion of diverse perspectives led to some contentious exchanges. I thought one of the fascinating aspects of the conference was the efforts of the supporters of abortion rights to deal with the issue of sex-selection abortion. One response, which revealed how extreme the law is in this country, was that the state can’t ever second guess a woman’s reason to have an abortion at any time during pregnancy. Another response indicated that these abortions didn’t really constitute sex discrimination against girls because until birth these were only potential girls.
This issue–sex-selection abortion–reveals (as do abortions for reason of disability) that the most important principle for supporters of abortion rights is not equality. The governing principle is the autonomous power to make life and death decisons about another human life.