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Dr. Donnally Talks Gender and Feminism


By Erin Hannon

On Nov. 19, Dr. Jennifer Donnally of Hollins University gave the final speech of this semester’s lecture series on gender, feminism, and history. This lecture series was organized by one of the newest additions to the Roanoke College History Department, Dr. Gregory Rosenthal.

Dr. Donnally specializes in American politics, public history, and women’s history. Her interests have combined in her recent work, which focuses on the history of abortion in America. Specifically, Dr. Donnally discussed the complicated politics that surround abortion and the anti-abortion movement. The information from this talk comes from the extensive research Donnally did for several articles, including “Reproductive Rights in the Past and Present” and “Abortion Costs: The role of Race and Welfare in Anti-Abortion Rhetoric and Strategy, 1967- 1977.”

Donnally explained that part of the reason why abortion has become so controversial is because it is tied up with several other complex issues such as race, religion, and gender. However, abortion is not just a social issue, it also involves culture and economic factors, and is a part of public and private life.

One thing that Donnally was sure to clarify is that this movement is more than just pro-life. It is actually much more complex. Within the anti-abortion movement, there are many different factions, all of which have beliefs that are slightly different.

Donnally also made sure to discuss one of the most controversial issues surrounding abortions: government funding. In 1976, the U.S. government passed the Hyde Amendment which prohibited government funding from paying for abortions. However, the issue of government funding continues to be a major focus in modern American politics, specifically in relation to Planned Parenthood, an organization that is essential in providing healthcare to those who cannot always afford it. One of the services that they provide is abortions. However, in accordance with the Hyde Amendment, none of their money from the government goes towards paying for abortions. Yet, members of Congress are still trying to defund Planned Parenthood because they are under the assumption that tax dollars are going towards abortions.

The presentation concluded with a question and answer session where Dr. Donnally clarified some of her points and provided more in-depth explanations about her work. While this speaker series has come to an end for this semester, Dr. Rosenthal has plans to continue this series with a new set of topics and speakers in the upcoming spring semester.