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Helena Silverstein, associate professor of government and law at Lafayette, will deliver a talk entitled “Abortion, Pregnant Teens, and Constitutional Rights: Evaluating Pennsylvania’s Parental Consent Requirement” at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7, in the auditorium of Kirby Hall of Civil Rights.

The talk, the first of two Jones Faculty Lectures for the 2000-01 academic year, is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by Lafayette’s Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Faculty Lecture and Awards Fund, established in 1966 to recognize superior teaching and scholarship. A reception will follow the lecture.

Silverstein will present findings concerning the constitutionality of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act as it pertains to minors. The statute regulates, among other things, a pregnant minor’s access to abortion. Under the law, it is illegal for physicians in Pennsylvania to perform abortions on pregnant minors without either the consent of one parent or a judge’s permission to bypass that consent.

“A study of how Pennsylvania’s county courts respond to inquiries into the judicial bypass procedure demonstrates that most courthouses are not prepared to implement or provide accurate information on bypass proceedings,” says Silverstein. “Since the constitutionality of parental involvement requirements is contingent on the availability of a bypass option, I will suggest in this lecture that the courts’ lack of readiness poses a significant threat to the rights of pregnant minors. Thus, although Pennsylvania’s abortion law has formally passed constitutional scrutiny, it fails, in practice, to guarantee a young woman’s constitutional rights.”

Silverstein joined the Lafayette faculty in 1992. She is the author of Unleashing Rights: Law, Meaning, and the Animal Rights Movement, published in 1996 by University of Michigan Press. She also has contributed articles to Studies in Law, Politics and Society (Volume 19, 1999), Law and Social Inquiry (Volume 24, Number 1, 1999), Focus on Law Studies (Volume XIV, Number 1, Fall 1998), Cause Lawyering, (Oxford University Press, 1998), and A Different Kind of State? Popular Power and Democratic Administration, (Oxford University Press, 1993).

Silverstein has been review essays editor for Law & Society Review since January 1999 and section chair for Judicial Politics and Public Law, Western Political Science Association, since May 2000. She is a member of the Board of Trustees, Law & Society Association; the Editorial Advisory Board, Law & Society Review; and the Nominations Committee, Law & Society Association. She also has served on the Graduate Program Workshop Committee, the Ad-Hoc Committee on Governance, and the New Book Prize Committee for the Law & Society Association. Silverstein has been a grant proposal reviewer for the National Science Foundation and an article reviewer for Law & Society Review, Law & Social Inquiry, and Studies in Law, Politics and Society.

She holds master’s and doctoral degrees in political science from the University of Washington and a bachelor of arts degree, cum laude, in political science and economics from the University of Pennsylvania.

Her awards include a Mellon Summer Research Fellowship, 2000; the Pi Sigma Alpha Award for Best Paper Presented at the 1999 Annual Meeting of the Western Political Science Association; the Betty Nesvold Award for Best Paper Presented on Women and Politics at the 1999 Annual Meeting of the Western Political Science Association; and the Aaron O. Hoff People’s Choice Award for Outstanding Contribution to the College Community at Lafayette, 1998.

Silverstein is a past resident faculty advisor of Lafayette’s McKelvy House Scholars Program, in which about 20 students of high academic achievement and promise reside together in an historic off-campus house and participate in shared intellectual and social activities.

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