(3 cr., optional non-intensive writing credit)
The abortion rights controversy has been a part of American law and society for more than a century. Abortion is far more than a legal and constitutional issue. Its moral implications have permeated the very fabric of our politics, society and culture. As such it can serve the student of law to illustrate in some of the starkest terms the intersection of law, jurisprudence, religion, politics, social and cultural attitudes. Our culture responds to changes in the legal landscape and the law reflects changes in social and cultural norms.
In the last thirty-plus years since the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Roe v. Wade the
controversy has heated up rather than settled down. Everyone knows that the U.S. Supreme Court
justices are aging and change and appointments have taken center stage during the
administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. With Chief Justice John Roberts taking
over from the late William Rehnquist and, possibly more important, Justice Samuel Alito
replacing Sandra Day O'Connor, the Constitutional jurisprudence of abortion is in flux more than
ever. We have yet to see what change, if any, the addition of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena
Kagan will make in the coming years.
How has this single issue come to dominate American constitutional, legal, cultural and political
discourse? This course looks back over the last 200 years or so to find out how the abortion
rights controversy became the legal, constitutional, jurisprudential, political and social problem
of our time. We will look at the changes in statutory and case law as well as cultural artifacts
including opinion polls, memoirs, films and scholarly essays.
The final for this course is a self-scheduled take home essay exam due anytime between the end
of the reading period and 3 p.m. on May 6, 2011. There is a 2500 word limit and students can
take up to 8 hours in which to complete the exam. Writing (non-intensive) credit is optional.
Students who wish credit can write a casenote of a federal or state abortion/reproductive rights
case. The casenote will be due on the last day of classes. I will provide a list of federal cases that
would be acceptable. Any other case would have to be approved by me. Class participation and
attendance are significant components of the course and of students' grades.