Annual student forum seeks civil engagement on abortion and reproductive rights

Indiana University Bloomington’s Political and Civic Engagement program, PACE, will host a one-day, one-credit-hour course on abortion and reproductive rights from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 27.

Nearly 100 undergraduates will participate in the forum, which aims to promote productive civil discourse on difficult topics, teach students to challenge their own assumptions and emphasize deliberative democracy.

PACE logoThe annual forum is in its seventh year. Past topics included policing in the U.S., national security, climate change and Internet security.

“PACE hosts this event in order to train students to engage in what President Obama called in his last State of the Union address ‘rational, constructive debates,’” said Sandra Shapshay, PACE director. “Our format offers a safe space for undergraduates to discuss issues of tremendous public importance, informed by experts from various perspectives and in moderated small-group deliberations that enable all voices to be heard and engaged with respectfully.”

The forum brings panelists and experts from various backgrounds and perspectives together to complement the student small group discussions.

This year’s guest speakers include Judith Allen, professor in the Department of History and senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute; Jason Eberl, the Semler Endowed Chair for Medical Ethics in the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Marian University; Dawn Johnsen, the Walter W. Foskett Professor of Law at Maurer School of Law; and Judy Klein, staff physician at the IU Health Center.

The practice of deliberation is vital to a democratic democracy, Shapshay said. The PACE forum allows students to both work through the difficulties of public disagreement and reveal new solutions made possible by engaging in a community discussion.

“We hope that students will learn that even highly contentious issues like abortion and reproductive rights can be discussed in a rigorous, productive and civil fashion,” Shapshay said.


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