LAW 612

Reproductive Rights and Justice


Constitutional & Public Law, Health Law

Roe v. Wade is by far the best-known Supreme Court decision in the United States today. One reason this is so is that the battle over reproductive rights that began in earnest in the 1970s has never died down. The right to abortion remains at the center of multiple constitutional and political conflicts in this country; indeed, the right is more contested and controversial now than it was at the time Roe was decided. This seminar will examine the legal regulation of abortion, with a particular eye toward understanding where we now stand with respect to this issue and how we reached this point. But, importantly, conflict over reproductive justice is not simply about abortion. It is also about the right to procreate and to control one’s sexuality, about the ability to make decisions about family life and family structure that may depart from state-sanctioned models, and about the meaning of autonomy amidst vast social inequality. Increasingly, it is also about reproductive technologies, who can and should have access to such technologies, how such technologies are regulated, and who pays for them.  

We will examine legal doctrine in all of these areas. But none of these areas can be understood exclusively in terms of legal doctrine. Current controversies involving reproductive rights and justice are powerfully shaped by the political and social worlds in which they arise, so we will spend time talking about how law has interacted with culture to produce these controversies. Our aim will be to understand how the legal doctrines and practical realities of reproductive rights and justice interact with concerns about race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, religion, and politics to shape some of the sharpest and most important legal and political conflicts of our time.

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