Symposium Overview


Abortion: Research, Ethics, and Activism was a symposium highlighting the power and relevance of primary source documentation to the history and future of abortion.

Thirty years after the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, the controversy and public debate continue. The Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture at Duke University is at the forefront of documenting this debate. Given the Center's commitment to acquiring and providing access to a wide range of materials related to the medical, social, legal and political history of abortion, the library is a natural place to engage in multi-disciplinary dialogue regarding abortion and issues associated with it.

Through a combination of plenary addresses and breakout sessions, the symposium addressed the relationship of the academy to social movements, the evolution of medical ethics, the intersection of feminism and abortion rights, international perspectives on access to abortion, and other topics. It offered an opportunity for faculty, students, and staff of varying viewpoints to join creators of collections held by the Bingham Center in engaging these topics. The symposium intended to open doors to new collaborations, raise awareness of the value of primary source materials to scholarship and activism on the topic of abortion, and increase understanding of how the history of abortion affects its future.


The goals of this symposium were to historicize and contextualize the issue of abortion in order to facilitate the pursuit of common ground and shared understandings; to increase the library's collections of published and unpublished materials documenting abortion in order to better serve scholars and activists; and to improve our understanding of the responsibility of the academy to a social movement and to social justice in general.

This symposium and related exhibits were part of the 15th anniversary celebration of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture. The two exhibits, "The Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture: Fifteen Years and Counting," and "A Century of Choices: Selections from the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture" were on view in Perkins Library from October 24 – December 29, 2003. These programs were made possible with the support of Duke University's Kenan Institute for Ethics, Program in Women's Studies, Women's Center, and University Libraries.