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Hearing the Nation's Heartbeat: Reproductive Rights in an Illiberal Age

Panel Discussion
Monday, March 13, 2023, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

The fate of the global order is intrinsically tied to global demographic trends. In the illiberal political imaginary aging populations, shrinking workforces and vanishing taxpayers translate to battle cries for saving the nation. The war on gender ideology centers on human reproduction: on putting the traditional (Christian) family first. Poland's almost complete ban on abortion is not new. The US Supreme Court's reversal of access to abortion in 2022 was the result of pro-life advocacy, strategic litigation – and strategic judicial appointments. Hungary followed suit by adding a 'heartbeat requirement' to a medial questionnaire used for granting abortions. Does the survival of the nation really hinge on revoking women’s reproductive rights? Where does this chapter sit in the illiberal playbook on rolling back human rights?

The panel discussion on developments in East Central Europe will place contemporary trends in their historic and global perspective.

Please note that it is a hybrid event. If you would like to attend in-person, please register here. You don’t need to register if you would like follow it online. The stream will be available here.


Marta Bucholc is Professor at the Faculty of Sociology at the University of Warsaw, and Associate Researcher at the Centre de Recherche en Science Politique at the Université Saint-Louis Bruxelles. From 2015 through 2020 she was research professor at the Kate Hamburger Centre for Advanced Studies “Law as Culture“ at the University of Bonn. She was visiting scholar at the universities of Jena, Cambridge, Graz and Saint-Louis Bruxelles, as well as Bronislaw Geremek Fellow of the Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna. Her research focus is sociology of law and historical sociology. She is the Polish PI in the research project “Towards Illiberal Constitutionalism in East Central Europe: Historical Analysis in Comparative and Transnational Perspectives.” She has a PhD from the University of Warsaw, and has been a member of the Law and Society Review's editorial advisory board since 2014.

Juliana Cesario Alvim Gomes is Visiting Professor at the CEU Legal Studies Department, and Human Rights Professor at Federal University of Minas Gerais, where she also coordinates the Human Rights Clinic. Before that, she taught at the federal and the state universities of Rio de Janeiro and has been a fellow at Fundacao Getulio Vargas Rio de Janeiro School of Law and a visiting fellow at the Global Health Justice Partnership at Yale Law School. She is also an elected member of the Brazilian Chapter of the International Society of Public Law and a member of the Mare Incognitum network on empirical research on the Brazilian Supreme Court. Since 2019, she has been hosting, together with two other law professors and a journalist, a weekly podcast on the Brazilian Supreme Court and Constitution, and she also has a decade of experience litigating for human rights before domestic and international courts. She received her doctorate at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, and also holds an LL.M. from Yale Law School.

Stefania Kapronczay has been Executive Director of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union since 2013. Previously, she was Head of the Patients' Rights Program from 2008 to 2012. She holds a law degree cum laude from the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of ELTE, Hungary, and an LL.M. from the Stanford Law School, where she wrote her dissertation on reproductive rights of people with disabilities. Her articles in Hungarian and English focused on the punishment of homelessness, the right to abortion, and state action against NGOs. Since 2014 she has been co-chair of INCLO, the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations. She was awarded a German Marshall Fellowship in 2014, was elected as a member of the European Young Leaders in 2018 by Friends of Europe, and served an advisory board member at Rajk Laszlo College for Advanced Studies.

Andrea Peto is a historian and Professor at the CEU Department of Gender Studies, Research Affiliate of the CEU Democracy Institute, and Doctor of Science of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Her works on gender, politics, Holocaust, and war have been translated into 23 languages. In 2018 she was awarded the 2018 All European Academies (ALLEA) Madame de Stael Prize for Cultural Values. She is Doctor Honoris Causa of Sodertorn University, Stockholm. Her recent publications include: The Women of the Arrow Cross Party. Invisible Hungarian Perpetrators in the Second World War (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), and Forgotten Massacre: Budapest 1944 (DeGruyter, 2021). Along with being editor-in-chief of East European Holocaust Studies, she is on the editorial board of seven international and two Hungarian academic journals, including Women's Studies International Forum and Contemporary European History.


Edit Zgut-Przybylska is re:constitution Fellow at the CEU Democracy Institute. She received a PhD in Sociology from GSSR at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology (IFIS) in the Polish Academy of Sciences. She holds an MA in Political Science from ELTE, Hungary, and graduated as a journalist at Balint Gyorgy Journalism Academy. She is a researcher at the European Studies Unit at IFIS, her research interest covers informality and populism in power in the context of democratic backsliding. She published in various peer-reviewed journals, is the Vice-President of Amnesty International in Hungary, and a fellow at Visegrad Insight. Currently, she is a visiting lecturer at the Foreign Service Institute of the US State Department. She previously worked at Political Capital Research Institute and prior to that, she was a journalist at various media outlets in Hungary.

The event is organized as part of the Towards Illiberal Constitutionalism in East Central Europe: Historical Analysis in Comparative and Transnational Perspectives project. The four-year project, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation’s ‘Challenges for Europe’ program brings together the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, the University of Erfurt, the University of Warsaw and the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague and the CEU Democracy Institute to study illiberal constitutionalism in Central and Eastern Europe. For more information please visit its website.