Jane MaienscheinFeatured Speaker

    Talking About Abortion: Defining Terms of Debate

    Thursday, August 18, 12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. CDT    |    Zoom Room B


    In part because Roe v. Wade seemed to have settled many issues about abortion, for many people, we have had too little reflective discussion in the US. We tend to stand apart and yell how obviously wrong “they” are. Yet there is room for navigation of our currently troubled waters. This talk will lay out some of the challenges and urge us to promote open and honest discussion where we can. As a starting point, we cannot have meaningful debate if we do not share our terms. Meaningful discussion will therefore require work to define terms. By social convention, dictionaries provide definitions, often time-honored historically accepted definitions. According to standard accepted definitions: “Contraception” is not “abortion.” A “miscarriage is not an abortion.” A fertilized egg in a glass dish is not a “pregnancy.” An “embryo” does not have a “heartbeat” as early as 5 weeks, nor does it feel “pain.” Yet many seek to impose their own non-standard meanings on these terms. Misuse of such key terms, including in Dobbs, leads to confusion and encourages yelling rather than working together. We can do better.


    Jane Maienschein specializes in the history and philosophy of biology and the way biology, bioethics, and bio-policy play out in society. She also serves as Fellow and directs the History and Philosophy of Science Project at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

    Professor Maienschein and her team focus on the history and underlying assumptions in development, genetics, and cell biology. They analyze epistemological standards, theories, and laboratory practices and combine that with their studies of people and institutions, as well as the changing social, political, and legal context in which science thrives.

    She served as fellow with the U.S. House of Representatives during the 105th Congress. Professor Maienschein has filled many leadership roles at ASU and with professional societies including as president of two international organizations, panels with NIH, NSF, NEH, and committees at the National Academy of Sciences. Founder and director of the Biology and Society Program and Center, she promotes education and research at the intersection of biological science and society, with an emphasis on effective communication about science.


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