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Women’s studies conference in Kentucky to attack ‘right wing’ laws on abortion, trans issues

The University of Kentucky will soon hold its 5th annual Gender and Women’s Studies conference, with this year’s theme focused on decrying so-called “right-wing … injustices.”

“Justice on Trial” is the theme for the Aug. 31 conference, as “right-wing parties” have “paved the way for conservative laws that harm the bodily autonomy of women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and other marginalized communities,” according to the conference website.

“Left-wing politicians and activists across the globe work for human rights and protections,” it stated. Some of the “injustices” the conference will address include “Anti-abortion laws, anti-trans laws, and encroachment on academic freedom,” according to the conference website.

But not all feminists agree laws protecting the unborn are an injustice.

“Pro-lifers are constantly being lectured by abortion businesses and their surrogates who frame abortion as ‘reproductive justice,’ a part of ‘women’s rights’ when they are actually wrongs against women and unborn children,” Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life, told The College Fix via email.

Feminists for Life has been active in Washington, D.C. since 1994. Foster is the only pro-life woman who served on the National Taskforce on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence that passed the Violence Against Women Act.

“From the states to Congress to the U.N., we see attempts to slip in language in regulations and legislation that promote ‘freedom,’ ‘choice,’ and ‘reproductive health.’ Translation: Abortion. Nothing is as it seems,” Foster said.

The College Fix reached out to the email provided by the conference website to ask if any contrary voices would be featured at the conference, but did not receive a reply.

In addition to the topics like “anti-abortion” and “anti-trans” laws, the conference is accepting submissions for papers that address issues like “environmental justice,” “carceral justice,” and “immigration/refugee/border justice,” according to its website.

No keynote speakers or schedule for the conference have been announced. Past speakers include Andrea Jenkins, the first transgender black woman elected to public office in the U.S., who now serves as city council president of Minneapolis.

Previous conferences have held “workshops and “panels” on “the power of the #MeToo movement, self-care, food justice advocates, white supremacy, roots of reproduction and many others,” the university’s website states.

Sponsors for the conference include UK’s gender & women’s students graduate student organization and the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies.

The Fix reached out via email to the University of Kentucky Director of Undergraduate Studies in the women’s studies department, Charlie Zhang, but did not receive a reply.

In Jan. 2024, The College Fix reported on the introduction of Kentucky’s Senate Bill 6, proposed by Republican Sen. Mike Wilson, to prohibit discrimination at public postsecondary education institutions “due to the individual’s refusal to support or endorse any divisive concept.”

Divisive concepts described include classifying one’s race or sex to be inherently more or less privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive.

At the time, Wilson told The Fix via email that the bill “does NOT limit discussion in the classroom, it simply protects students and employees from being held up against the false litmus test DEI principles are shrouded in.”

The bill “is about protecting First Amendment rights for everyone at our Kentucky public universities,” Wilson told The Fix earlier this year.

Progress on Senate Bill 6 appears to have reached a standstill.

“Lawmakers could revive the bill when they return April 12 but they would have no time to override Dem. Gov. Andy Beshear’s certain veto,” the Kentucky Lantern reported.

In recent years, political disputes between administration and students at the University of Kentucky have come to the forefront.

In 2019, a transgender joke in a University of Kentucky production of “Shrek: The Musical” sparked a bias complaint from students. ​​

That same year, UK administrators were caught mocking and conspiring against students who sought approval for a Young Americans for Freedom chapter at the university.

“Campus leftists ‘like’ the power they wield to keep conservatives from freely organizing and sharing their ideas,” a YAF spokesman said at the time in a news release.

MORE: Kentucky bill would ban ideological discrimination in public universities

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Anna Lofgren is a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island where she studies secondary education. Anna has been a guest columnist for The Providence Journal and hosts two FM radio shows through her university.