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Compiled by Eric Weld   Date: 10/16/12 Bookmark and Share

Q&A with Carrie Baker, Study of Women and Gender

Carrie Baker

The Right Time for "Making Connections"; Saturday, Oct. 27, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Is there a "war on women" in the United States today?

That question is a starting point for "Making Connections: Violence Against Women and Reproductive Justice," a symposium Saturday, Oct. 27, featuring a keynote lecture by Kim Gandy, president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Plenary sessions will follow; see complete symposium schedule. Gandy also serves as the 2012 Five College Social Justice Practioner-in-Residence, and is giving lectures and visiting classes among the Five Colleges in October and November (more information).

Carrie Baker, assistant professor of the study of women and gender, and coordinator of "Making Connections," responded to questions for the Gate about the symposium.

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Gate: Why is this the right time for a forum like "Making Connections?"

Carrie Baker: In 2011, state legislators passed more restrictions on access to abortion than in any previous year. So far in 2012, Arizona banned abortion after 18 weeks, Virginia legislators proposed to require women seeking abortions to submit to invasive ultrasounds, Title X family planning funding is under attack, North Carolina legislators refused to compensate women whom the state had subjected to forced sterilzation, and many states still shackle incarcerated women during childbirth. Meanwhile, reports of rampant violence against women abound—sexual violence in the military and on college campuses, intimate partner violence in the home, sex trafficking of women and girls, and the systemic violence of poverty and the prison industrial complex. Native American, immigrant and GLBT women experience some of the highest rates of sexual assault, yet Congress has so far refused to extend the protections of the Violence Against Women Act to cover these groups..

Kim Gandy

On the 35th anniversary of the death of Rosie Jimenez—the first women to die as a result of the Hyde Amendment restricting public funding for abortion—this symposium brings together Smith alumnae working on violence against women and reproductive justice with longtime feminist activist Kim Gandy to discuss connections between interpersonal and systemic violence against women and increasing restrictions on women's reproductive lives.

Gate: What makes Smith the ideal place for hosting a conference such as this?

CB: The Five Colleges has the highest concentration of feminist scholars in the country, and an abundance of smart, ambitious students who will be tomorrow's leaders. This conference will bring these folks together with scholars and activists from around the country to discuss these important issues.

Gate: What do you hope to accomplish with this conference? What kind of follow-up might it inspire?

CB: The primary goal is to inform students and community members on the latest research and public policy on violence against women and reproductive justice, but the symposium also provides an opportunity for students to network with Alumnae working in public policy and public health. In addition, the conference will enable people working in a diverse range of areas to share information and strategize about future directions.

Gate: In your perspective, have we stepped backward from the gains made by women during the past 40 years?

CB: In some respects we have and in others we've made progress. The recent onslaught of restrictions on women's reproductive rights and cuts in reproductive health care for low-income women are taking us backward. On the other hand, the Affordable Care Act, which expands health care to many more women, and President Obama's inclusion of contraception without co-pays as part of the Act, are steps forward. But the high rate of violence against women persists despite decades of work to combat it.

Gate: Who should attend "Making Connections?"

CB: Anyone interested in women's health and lives should attend the conference. The symposium is open to all students, faculty and staff at the Five Colleges, as well as community members.

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