Katie Watson discusses “Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law, & Politics of Ordinary Abortion”

Date(s) - 02/07/18
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

Seminary Co-Op Bookstore

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Seminary Co-op Bookstore

Katie Watson discusses “Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law, & Politics of Ordinary Abortion”

Seminary Co-op Bookstore

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 6:00–7:30 p.m.


Katie Watson discusses “Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law, & Politics of Ordinary Abortion”

At the Co-op

About the book: Although Roe v. Wade identified abortion as a constitutional right over 40 years ago, it bears stigma (a proverbial scarlet A) in the United States. Millions participate in or benefit from an abortion, but few want to reveal that they have done so. Approximately one in five pregnancies in the US ends in abortion. Why is something so common, which has been legal so long, still a source of shame and secrecy? Why is it so regularly debated by politicians, and so seldom divulged from friend to friend, or loved one to loved one? This book explores the personal stigma that prevents many from sharing their abortion experiences with friends and family in private conversation, and the structural stigma that keeps it that way. It argues persuasively that America would benefit from working to reverse such stigma, providing readers with tools that may help them model ways of doing so.

Our silence around private experience with abortion has distorted our public discourse. Both proponents and opponents of abortion’s legality tend to focus on the extraordinary cases. This tendency keeps the public discourse polarized and contentious, and keeps the focus on the cases that occur the least. Katie Watson focuses instead on the remaining 95% of abortion cases. The book gives the reflective reader a more accurate impression of what the majority of American abortion practice really looks like. It explains why this public/private disjuncture exists, what it costs us, and what can be gained by including ordinary abortion in public debate.

As “Scarlet A” explains, abortion has been a constitutional right for nearly 45 years, and it should remain one. What we need now are productive conversations about abortion ethics: how could or should people decide whether to exercise this right? Watson paints a rich, rarely seen picture of how patients and doctors currently think and act, and ultimately invites readers to draw their own conclusions.

About the author: Katie Watson is a bioethicist and lawyer who has taught bioethics, medical humanities, and constitutional law for fifteen years at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. In her role as an ethics professor, she has been elected a Board member of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, Chair of the Ethics Committee and Board member of the National Abortion Federation, and Bioethics Advisor to and Member of the National Medical Council of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In 2017, she began practicing law again, joining the ACLU of Illinois as Senior Counsel for the Women’s and Reproductive Rights Project.

About the interlocutor: Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune. His twice-a-week column on national and international affairs, distributed by Creators Syndicate, appears in some 50 papers across the country.