Stockton University’s 17th annual Constitution Day featured Professor Mary Ziegler as its keynote speaker on Thursday, September 29th, 2022. Ziegler is one of the leading experts on the legal history of the debate in America about abortion with an extensive list of books, OP-EDs, interviews, and lectures about the legality of the abortion debate.
The event was kicked off with opening remarks by retiring co-chair Professor Linda Wharton, who has been part of Constitution Day at Stockton since 2006. Stockton University President Harvey Kesselman then introduced Ziegler and her topic of “Reproductive Autonomy in the aftermath of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.”
In her address, Ziegler began with how the history of the abortion debate in America stemmed from the Nixon administration and compared the past with present events surrounding abortion laws today. Ziegler specifically highlighted the politics and media polarization surrounding abortion rights and noted how drastically different the views of each party in the 70s differ from today.
Professor Ziegler also talked about the specific ramifications of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that coincide with the history of the abortion debate. She explains that this ruling is a matter of fetal personhood, or when a person becomes a person. Ziegler also noted the impacts of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which has left court battles within states with trigger laws that enact abortion bans or restrictions.
Following Professor Ziegler’s speech was a 20-minute Q and A with questions asked by the audience. With each question, Ziegler provided thorough responses with both historical and legal contexts.
Professor Ziegler was asked a variety of questions, ranging from the ramifications of the overturning of Roe v. Wade and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to what these rulings mean for other debated topics like same-sex marriage, and LGBTQIA+ rights.
In terms of public support for court reform, Professor Ziegler claimmed that “nobody has had a very serious conversation about court expansion. President Biden has been decidedly uninterested in court expansion. I think there’s fear that court expansion would be unpopular, but as for term limits, I think that would be popular. The problem is that the best argument to have term limits is that you would probably need a constitutional amendment which is very difficult to achieve…”
Professor Ziegler went on to discuss many what-if scenarios in the event that the Supreme Court continues to rule unfavorably on high-profile cases. These ideas prompted the audience to ask about Congress’s constitutional power in codifying or restricting abortion rights.
“It’s not clear. The possibilities would likely be seen in the commerce clause because abortion is a business and particularly we’re in that business so to speak is floating from state to state, especially in a post-Dobbs world. Or the Fourteenth Amendment which of course has section five, which allows congress to enforce recognition of existing rights. It would potentially be hard for Congress to codify abortion rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, because the courts just finished saying there are no abortion rights,” said Ziegler.
To conclude the Q and A, Ziegler left the crowd with a lot to think about when it comes to civic engagement for the next generation. Additionally, she stressed the importance of keeping personal information safe from app and social media tracking as abortion laws change, vary by state, and the debate goes on.
For more information about Professor Mary Ziegler and the legalities of women’s reproductive health, Stockton’s website has more links to her books and interviews that detail more extensively on abortion rights and laws.
Categories: Campus Life, News and Events, Politics, Stockton News