April 6, 2007

ACLU advocates reproductive rights

The Undergraduate Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union at the University of Chicago (ACLUofC) hosted a Reproductive Rights Information Forum on Wednesday in Bartlett Lounge. Leah Bartelt, a U of C alumna (AB '98) and legal fellow working for the ACLU of Illinois, spoke on the current status of reproductive rights in Illinois.

The Reproductive Rights Project of the ACLU of Illinois, according to Bartelt, works to ensure access to abortion, birth control, and comprehensive sexuality education. The program also challenges any laws enacted by the Illinois General Assembly that restrict access to abortion.

Bartelt emphasized that Illinois has relatively open abortion laws compared to other states. However, she cautioned that this may change if the Illinois Supreme Court removes a current injunction against a law that requires parental notification for minors seeking abortion services, or if the United States Supreme Court upholds a law banning the "partial birth" abortion procedure.

After speaking about the ACLU's efforts to secure reproductive rights, Bartelt took questions from students. One student asked if the rhetoric employed by both pro-choice and pro-life groups has prevented useful dialogue between the two sides.

"Absolutely," Bartelt said, noting that it is a question of framing abortion rights as "justice or as a big moral issue." She added that the labels and names employed by both sides have created greater conflicts.

When summarizing the ACLU's beliefs on reproductive rights, Bartelt said, "We are for women being able to do what's best for them at every stage of their lives."