Ferries-Rowe talks on reproductive ethics, women’s health

The Women’s Studies Program hosted two events concerned with women’s health issues on Dec. 5 and 6, 2012. Both events, a lecture co-sponsored by the Philosophy department on Dec. 5 and this semester’s last Coffee with Cool Women gathering on Dec. 6, featured Dr. Elizabeth Ferries-Rowe, Assistant Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology at Indiana University.

Dr. Elizabeth Ferries-Rowe, courtesy of Dr. Catherine Seltzer

Dr. Elizabeth Ferries-Rowe, courtesy of Dr. Catherine Seltzer

Ferries-Rowe’s conversation with students who attended Thursday’s session coincided with the lecture she gave on the evening of Dec. 5: “Reproductive Ethics: Three Blind Men and an Elephant.”

Many of the students who attended the Coffee with Cool Women gathering had also attended the prior lecture in Peck Hall. The lecture had about 70 students in attendance, including Assistant Philosophy Professor Dr. Alison Reiheld’s entire Medical Ethics class.

During the lecture, Ferries-Rowe talked about her experiences with reproductive ethics from her own multiple perspectives, which include perspectives of a practicing OB/GYN, Catholic and feminist. While her experiences were obviously personal, she was not trying to sway students toward any individual worldview.

“She didn’t come in with a particular agenda,” says Women’s Studies Director and English professor Dr. Catherine Seltzer, “She was interested in exploring what she called the ‘gray areas’ of reproductive ethics and thinking about how, no matter what your politics, you can often see an issue differently.”

Ferries-Rowe spoke of how, as a resident physician just entering her career, she felt that she had a clear idea of her own personal ethics and how they related to her career. However, being in her career has changed her perspective on what she had thought were moral absolutes.

Students at Ferries-Rowe's lecture on Dec. 5

Students at Ferries-Rowe's lecture on Dec. 5

During the lecture, Ferries-Rowe shared some of her experiences in the medical field that challenged her preconceived absolutes. Through her work, she has found that there are many “gray areas” when it comes to reproductive ethics concerning religion and politics.

Specific issues that Ferries-Rowe spoke of in her lecture included abortion, fertility issues and the politics of women’s health. She expressed that thinking about and dealing with these issues in terms of social justice, immediate healthcare and politics is a very challenging aspect of her career.

Seltzer says that Ferries-Rowe talked about these issues in a manner that was “highlighting the difficulty of the issue in a way that invited students to think about it in new ways, that wasn’t simply engaged in the polemics that we’re used to.”

The Coffee with Cool Women session following the lecture gave students who had heard her story the opportunity to engage in conversation with Ferries-Rowe about these important and complex issues.

Each student who attended the event also got to know Ferries-Rowe on a more personal level, finding out more about her career journey and about how she juggles work, caring for her three children and pursuing a master’s degree in Bioethics.

The Women’s Studies Program and Philosophy department were very pleased to have Ferries-Rowe on campus to share her insights and experiences and to pose important moral questions to SIUE students.

“She was a dynamic, really wonderful speaker and exactly the kind of person we always hope to have for these kinds of events. It was wonderful to have her here,” Seltzer says of Ferries-Rowe.

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