Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of Law and is currently serving as the Herman Phleger Visiting Professor at Stanford Law School.  She is an expert in sex discrimination law. She is the author or editor of nine books, including The Walled Garden: Law and Privacy in Modern Society (2022) (with Lawrence Friedman); Nine to Five: How Gender, Sex and Sexuality Continue to Define the American Workplace (2016); and Inside the Castle: Law and the Family in 20th Century America (2011) (with Lawrence Friedman). She writes extensively on family law, especially on state regulation of marriage and parentage.

Columns by Joanna L. Grossman
So Near and Yet So Far: Charitable Life After Death

Stanford Law visiting professor Joanna L. Grossman and professor Lawrence M. Friedman discuss the tension between donors who place restrictions on their charitable gifts and the organizations that receive those gifts, focusing on the current legal battle involving the Orlando Museum of Art’s attempt to use funds from the Margaret Young trust for purposes other than those specified by the donor. Professors Grossman and Friedman argue that while the law generally favors upholding donor intent, there are situations where courts may allow modifications to the terms of a charitable gift, especially when the original purpose becomes impractical or wasteful over time, and they suggest that donors should be cautious about being too specific in their instructions to avoid such issues.

Implementation of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: Final(ly) Regulations

Stanford Law visiting professor Joanna L. Grossman discusses the recently enacted Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and its accompanying regulations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which provide protections and reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. Professor Grossman explains key aspects of the new law and regulations, emphasizing that they will help countless workers maintain their jobs during pregnancy and childbirth while also combating stereotypes about women's labor force attachments and ultimately benefiting both employees and employers.

Arizona and Abortion: The Calendar Is Lying When It Reads the Present Times

Stanford Law visiting professor Joanna L. Grossman and student Dr. Lauren N. Haumesser discuss a recent Arizona Supreme Court ruling that upheld an 1864 law banning nearly all abortions in the state, even in cases of rape or incest, with the only exception being to save the pregnant woman’s life. Professor Grossman and Dr. Haumesser argue that resurrecting this 160-year-old law is absurd and illogical given how much society has changed since then, and that modern Arizonans deserve to have their reproductive rights governed by more recently passed laws, like a 2022 statute banning abortion after 15 weeks, rather than an obsolete law from the 19th century.

“Extrauterine Children” and Other Nonsense Wrought by the Fetal Personhood Movement

Stanford Law visiting professor Joanna L. Grossman and 3L Sarah F. Corning comment on the Alabama Supreme Court’s questionable ruling in LePage v. Center for Reproductive Medicine that frozen embryos qualify as children under the state’s wrongful death statute, effectively granting embryos full personhood status, a decision aligned with anti-abortion efforts to establish fetal personhood legally. Professor Grossman and Ms. Corning point out that this ruling reflects broader national debates and legal challenges around fetal personhood and poses significant implications for reproductive rights, fertility treatments, and the legal recognition of embryos and fetuses. They suggest that it could even lead to the restriction or closure of fertility treatment centers in Alabama and influence future court interpretations related to abortion and reproductive technologies.

Do No Harm: Texas Court Rules in Favor of Women Harmed by Abortion Ban’s Inadequate Protection for Medical Emergencies

Stanford Law visiting professor Joanna L. Grossman discusses the legal landscape surrounding abortion rights in Texas, tracing its development from the Roe v. Wade decision to recent state laws that severely limit abortion access. Professor Grossman explains how a recent lawsuit challenging the Texas law’s enforcement against physicians whose good-faith judgment determines the pregnant person has an emergent medical condition requiring abortion care demonstrates that abortion bans have changed the way obstetrical care is practiced across the board.

The Struggle Over Aretha Franklin’s Estate

Stanford Law visiting professor Joanna L. Grossman and professor Lawrence M. Friedman comment on the recent struggle over Aretha Franklin’s estate. Professors Grossman and Friedman describe the history of the law of wills, estates, and trusts, and explain why the disposition of Franklin’s estate may better reflect her intent and also aligns with the more modern approach toward understanding a person’s last will and testament.

Unhappy Wife, Unhappy Life: The Misguided Attack by Conservatives on No-Fault Divorce

In light of a recent trend of conservative voices opposing no-fault divorce laws, Stanford Law visiting professor Joanna L. Grossman and SMU Dedman School of Law professor Natalie Nanasi explain the history of fault-based divorce and no-fault divorce law in the United States. Professors Grossman and Nanasi point out that since the advent of the no-fault divorce the divorce rate is lower, the process is more efficient, and no-fault divorces provide an escape hatch for abused spouses who might otherwise have been stuck in an abusive marriage.

Bad Friday: Federal Judge Rules that 23-Year-Old FDA Approval of Abortion Drug Was Invalid

Stanford Law visiting professor Joanna L. Grossman, SMU Law professor Nathan Cortez, and SMU Law professor Seema Mohapatra critique the ruling last week by federal judge Matthew Kacsmaryk issuing a preliminary injunction to “delay” the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, one of the two drugs used in medication abortion. Professors Grossman, Cortez, and Mohapatra explore some of the deepest flaws in Judge Kacsmaryk’s opinion and the ways he manipulated law, science, and language to hew closely to the anti-abortion playbook.

The Ghost of Anthony Comstock and the Abortion Wars

Stanford Law visiting professor Joanna L. Grossman and professor Lawrence M. Friedman explain why the Comstock Act, an anti-vice law passed 150 years ago but never removed from the books, has recently become noticed again with Republicans’ renewed efforts to ban abortion nationwide. Professors Grossman and Friedman describe the law and the man behind the law, Anthony Comstock, and they argue that the so-called ghost law should remain dead.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: A Long-Awaited Victory for Pregnant Workers

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which Congress introduced for the first time in 2012 and which President Biden finally signed into law on December 29, 2022. Professor Grossman explains the gaps in pregnancy discrimination law, the need to better address the realities of pregnant workers, and the ways in which the new law will better meet their needs.

The End of a Bad Era: Congress Repeals the Defense of Marriage Act

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which practically and symbolically enshrines protection for same-sex marriage in federal law. Professor Grossman explains the shameful history of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the changes effectuated by the Respect for Marriage Act.

The Trigger Has Been Pulled: Texas’s Criminal Ban on Abortion Takes Effect

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman describes the current status of abortion rights and access in Texas in light of the “Roe trigger ban” taking effect today, August 25, 2022. Professor Grossman explains the history of abortion in Texas and highlights the inhumanity of a law that prefers to let a pregnant woman die when a safe medical procedure would have saved her life, rather than permit her to terminate a pregnancy, even a non-viable one, unless she is on the brink of death or substantial bodily impairment.

To Be or Not to Be a Mother: A Timeless Question with New Urgency

In this second of a series of columns on the Supreme Court’s decision that eliminated the constitutional right to abortion, SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and Stanford Law professor Lawrence M. Friedman describe how abortion law arose alongside the eugenics movement. As Professor Grossman and Friedman explain, early abortion restrictions were, in part, an effort to encourage the “right” people to have babies (positive eugenics), used in conjunction with negative eugenics, which involved forced sterilization of people deemed “unfit.”

The End of Roe v. Wade

In this first of a series of columns on the Supreme Court’s elimination of the constitutional right to abortion, SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman describes the history of the right to abortion and explains how the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization changes both the legal landscape and also our constitutional conception of what it means to be full members of society. Professor Grossman argues that with this ruling, the Supreme Court has returned women to the service of society, rather than allowing them the dignity of an autonomous life, and that is only the beginning.

Governor Greg Abbott’s Unconstitutional War on Trans Children (and Their Parents)

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman describes the American child welfare system and argues that Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s attempt to weaponize state child abuse law against trans children and their parents is grossly unconstitutional. Professor Grossman points out that the child welfare system gives parents broad discretion to make medical decisions for their children, and a state cannot simply decide that a particular type of medical treatment constitutes child abuse because it is politically opposed to it.

The Last Anniversary of Roe v. Wade: A Time to Reimagine Abortion Rights for All

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman describes the devastating short-term impact of eliminating federal constitutional protection for abortion which the U.S. Supreme Court seems likely to do imminently. Professor Grossman observes that even now, while constitutional protection for abortion exists, many pregnant women already face significant barriers to abortion care, reminding us that we need to work towards a future that is more protective and more equal rather than just trying to claw our way back to the bare minimum provided by Roe v. Wade.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization: The Supreme Court Is No Safe Haven for Abortion Rights

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on the abortion cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court—one challenge a restrictive Texas abortion law and another challenge to a plainly unconstitutional Mississippi law. Professor Grossman argues that safe-haven laws—which Justice Amy Coney Barrett in particular asked about during her line of questioning in oral argument—play no role in the law or policy of abortion.

Shame on Texas: Playing Ping-Pong with the Lives of Pregnant People

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman describes the unique burdens that Texas has imposed on people seeking to exercise their constitutionally protected right to an abortion, as well as those who provide abortions in that state. Professor Grossman focuses on the harmful and widespread effects of the legal limbo created by the enactment of a blatantly unconstitutional law such as Texas SB 8.

The End of Abortion Rights: Texas Law Provides Grim Glimpse of Future

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Texas’s “SB 8” law, which bans most abortions, including those protected by the federal Constitution. Professor Grossman dispels some of the myths about the law and describes some of the ways it is both different and more extreme than other anti-abortion laws.