Tag Archives: abortion

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Old in Print: Looking back at the Future via Abortion Legal Scholarship

Today’s research pathway took me to this article from 1974.  Thirty eight years ago.  It’s a long time.  Yet in this article (available open source on SSRN) Parental Preferences and Selective Abortion: A Commentary on Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, and The Shape of Things to Come, 

Richard Delgado and Judith Keyes predict with some accuracy the place we are at now.  Not dramatic accuracy – but I was still (perhaps wrongly) surprised.  They write:

In particular, the Court did not consider whether a decision to abort based on advance knowledge of certain characteristics of the fetus would also be protected by the mother’s right to privacy. The opinions were simply silent on this issue, and the novelty of the questions raised by selective abortion, as well as the obvious implications of this practice for genetic engineering,” make a legal and constitutional inquiry timely and important. In addition
to providing an advance view of some of the dilemmas that more sophisticated methods of human genetic engineering will pose ten or
twenty years hence,8 analysis of selective abortion can provide new
insight into the dynamics of the recent abortion decisions and their
implications for the debate concerning the beginnings of human life.


and the first attempt at reproducing a human being asexually, by cloning, can be expected by the end of the century.


Such problems can be dealt with willy-nilly as they arise, or can be studied now, while they are still in the germinal stages and the law of ends has not yet hardened into a fixed pattern. For the reasons discussed in this Article, it is not too early to begin sober reflection on the manner in which these ultimate questions of human personality vis-A-vis public and private preferences should be resolved.

New on SSRN Reva Siegel, Dignity and Sexuality: Claims on Dignity in Transnational Debates Over Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage

Dignity and Sexuality: Claims on Dignity in Transnational Debates Over Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage by Reva Siegel :: SSRN.


Dignity’s meaning is famously contested. This essay explores competing claims on dignity in late twentieth-century debates over abortion and in the first decisions on the constitutionality of abortion legislation that these debates prompted. Advocates and judges appealed to dignity to vindicate autonomy, to vindicate equality, and to express respect for the value of life itself. Appeals to these distinct conceptions of dignity are now appearing in debates over the regulation of same-sex relations. Analyzed with attention to competing claims on dignity, we can see that in the debate over same-sex relations, as in the debate over abortion, a crucial question recurs: Do laws that restrict non-procreative sexuality violate or vindicate human dignity? Agonists who hold fundamentally different views about sexuality share an allegiance to dignity, enough to fight for the authority to establish dignity’s meaning in debates over sexual freedom. Today, as in the 1970s, dignity’s meaning is being forged in cross-borders conflict over dignity’s sex.

I am looking forward to reading this and thinking about Canadian jurisprudence which has struggled to define and operationalize “dignity” in a variety of equality rights contexts. See for instance, Denise Reaume, Discrimination & Dignity available on SSRN here.


Motion 312 [legal definition of a human being] back in the House of Commons Sept. 21

The abortion rights coalition of Canada has lots of info here:

Motion 312 Action Alert. Sign our petitions, send a letter to your MP, join an action!.

I reported on the first hour, with lots of links, here.

And Radical Handmaids have very kindly created a drinking game for the purpose of debate watching.  Which is funny even without playing.


via Jotwell: Womb as Wedge: What We Can Learn from Revisiting the Political History of the Abortion Controversy in the US

Here’s my post on Jotwell Equality.

[What? You don’t read Jotwell: The Journal of things we like (lots)?]

Womb as Wedge: What We Can Learn from Revisiting the Political History of the Abortion Controversy in the US – Jotwell: Equality.

Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegel, Before (and After) Roe v. Wade: New Questions about Backlash, 120 Yale L.J. 2028 (2011), available at SSRN.

Sitting in Toronto or maybe Bristol, we have a tendency to watch American politics with both fear and amusement, rather like (or so I hear) some people watch Jersey Shore or Keeping up with the Kardashians: Who are these people? Why do they behave this way?

This is delightfully, smugly, self-satisfying. It is neither analytic nor strategic. And when, inevitably it seems, our relatively open access to abortion (as Carol Sanger has called it, the “luxury of legality”) starts to be challenged, it might leave us rather less than prepared. Greenhouse and Siegel’s article illustrates how a slow burn, not the blast of Roe v. Wade, led to the bitter struggle over reproductive rights in the U.S. today.

continue reading here.

With thanks to my colleague Ben Berger for pushing the article on me, and CUNY’s Ruthann Robson for promo’ing the piece on Constitutional Law Prof Blog.