The NYU School of Law held its first conference for the Carr Center for Reproductive Justice on Tuesday, opening with a keynote from law professor Carol Gilligan.
Gilligan, who was named one of America’s Most Influential People in 1996 and held Harvard University’s first ever chair in Gender Studies, has been studying the issue of reproductive rights following the Roe v. Wade case.
“To ask the question raised on this conference, ‘Where is the woman?’ will [be as] revelatory as it was for me to listen to pregnant women and bring issues that are currently at the margin of reproductive justice to the center of our consideration,” Gilligan said about the conference’s central topics.
NYU’s Carr Center was established in 2013 to conduct research, provide legal services and promote justice for reproductive rights. The center has three branches — a fellowship program founded in 2010, a clinic started in fall of 2013 and an annual conference.
Gilligan said that the debate should be more broadly focused on women’s rights.
“The issue isn’t abortion,” Gilligan said. “It’s women having voices.”
Gilligan said people live in a patriarchal society where a gender binary is set and established early in development. She argued that this system of patriarchy stands in the way of an equal society. The patriarchy essentially rips the voice from women, thus eliminating any chance at true democracy, Gilligan said.
Anna Ognibene, a lawyer who works for Her Justice organization, said the idea of a need to redefine the gender binary resonated with her while she was in the audience.
“The idea of reframing the gender binary was especially interesting,” Ognibene said.
At the end of her keynote, Gilligan said both women and men have a stake in responding to the question, “Where is the woman?” in policy discussions.
The rest of the conference held presentations throughout the day for women who have been particularly influential in the fight for reproductive justice with a panel.
The keynote was influential for audience member Swathi Reddi, a social worker as Safe Horizon.
“It resonated with the work I’ve been doing,” Reddi said. “[Gilligan was] definitely effective as a speaker [and] incredibly relevant for work in women’s rights.”
Larson Binzer is a deputy news editor. Catherine Wright is a contributing writer. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.