Unveiled: Attack on Women’s Rights in the U.S.

April 29, 2011  

By Stephanie Brown
stephanieb@smu.edu

Panelists at Thursday's "Under Fire: Women's Rights in the U.S." program.

As students flocked to Moody Coliseum, Thursday, to attend Ke$ha’s “Get Sleazy” concert, others climbed the steps of Dallas Hall, filling McCord Auditorium to capacity. These students and members of the Dallas community were interested in participating in a different, more serious event; one that addressed an issue that is under attack in the United States and worldwide.

 

Women’s Rights.

The Embrey Family Foundation and Southern Methodist University’s Embrey Human Rights Program hosted the event entitled, “Under Fire: Women’s Rights in the U.S.” The event featured four panelists who spoke on different aspects pertaining to women’s rights.

Reverend Gary B. MacDonald, director of advanced ministerial studies at the SMU Perkins School of Theology, spoke first from a religious perspective regarding the conflicted liberty women face in dealing with abortion. In his lecture, MacDonald discussed the church and how they had a responsibility to initiate conversation regarding abortion and most importantly, teach that there is more than one way to view the issue from a Christian standpoint.

“We are supporters of women’s rights because we are people of faith,” MacDonald said.

Following MacDonald, the Director of Internal Legal Program for the Center for Reproductive Rights, Luisa Cabal, took the podium to examine the global trends on protecting the reproductive rights of women.

“Challenging times call for bold strategies to combat these problems,” she said.

Cabal focused on several case studies pertaining to countries across the world where women’s reproductive rights have been non-existent or restricted and how organizations such as hers are working to eradicate this problem. Cabal shared that progress that has been made in countries where women’s rights are limited or absent. She concluded by insisting it was imperative to fight for women’s reproductive rights in order to be considered a fundamental human right.

The next panelist, Kathy Miller, the Executive Director of the Texas Freedom Network, presented on sex education in Texas. Miller infused her lecture with statistics that awed her audience. She also presented one particular statistic conveying the results of a survey conducted by the Texas Freedom Network in 2009 that caused the audience to audibly demonstrate their disbelief.

“In a state where 87 percent of the voting population wants comprehensive sex education in schools, this survey showed that 94 percent of high schools in Texas are teaching an abstinence only policy until marriage,” said Miller.

After she encouraged the audience to write to representatives regarding two bills that are before the Texas Legislature, which require the comprehensive teaching of sex education in schools, she turned the podium over to the final panelist, Kelly Hart.

Serving as the Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of North Texas, Hart expanded on what Miller discussed in regard to issues before the Texas Legislature, such as the Sonogram Bill and funding for programs such as Planned Parenthood.

“It’s a slap in the face to women for the government to say we’re going to take health care specific to your needs and wipe it off the map,” Hart said in reference to Planned Parenthood’s fight for funding.

As Hart concluded her lecture, Dr. Rick Halperin, director of the Embrey Human Rights Program, opened the floor for questions. During the question and answer session, the ethical responsibility of physicians to society, the Sonogram Bill’s implications on women and whether the male should role in the abortion process were debated.

Halperin closed the lecture by asking the audience to consider an idea regarding the law and women’s rights.

“In most countries the law is made by men for a certain purpose,” he said. “Is the law used to protect people as a shield or is it a sword used to remove people from the law and attack others in the name of the law?”

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