Analysis and Commentary on Reproductive Law
The Pro-Life Story of How Babies Are Made

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb responds to some of the consensus views among pro-life advocates that reflect how they understand pregnancy. Professor Colb debunks the illogical argument that a zygote is a person and explains why the view of pregnancy as merely the placement of a zygote “somewhere” (i.e., inside a woman) to grow into a person is simplistic and misogynistic.

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.

Alito, Texas Abortion and the Shadow Docket: Déjà vu All Over Again?

Amherst professor Austin Sarat and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comment on the U.S. Supreme Court’s increasing tendency to decide high-profile and far-reaching cases via its “shadow docket”—without oral argument or full briefing. Professor Sarat and Mr. Aftergut point out that recent remarks by Justice Samuel Alito reinforce the view that the Court has a partisan agenda that is increasingly out of step with the beliefs and values of the American people.

Abortion in Texas and Middle-School Bullying

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb describes how Texas’s abortion statute SB8 is similar to middle-school bullying in the way that it scares everyone into persecuting or shunning anyone who associates with a woman seeking an abortion. Professor Colb explains that by creating “untouchables,” the law compels everyone—even those who are not opposed to abortion—to avoid having anything to do with a woman who has had or is seeking to have an abortion.

Texas’s Extreme Abortion Law Threatens Girls’ Lives

University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton describes how Texas’s extreme anti-abortion law threatens the lives of female children in that state. Professor Hamilton argues that the law is effectively encouraging citizens to engage in economic trafficking of vulnerable girls, particularly girls who have been subject to sexual predators.

Some Hard Thought-Experiment Questions for Both Sides of the Abortion Debate

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and UC Davis Law professor emeritus Alan Brownstein propose several difficult questions for both sides of the abortion debate in an effort to open dialogue and stimulate productive conversation about the contentious subject. Dean Amar and Professor Brownstein underscore the value of thinking about and discussing some of the core issues about abortion rights as part of a civil dialogue about abortion.

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.

Abortion and the Adoption Option

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb responds to the anti-abortion argument that anyone who does not want to keep a baby can and should give them up for adoption. Professor Colb points out that the pain and discomfort associated with carrying a child to term are tolerable only if one wants to keep the resulting baby; if one does not want or cannot keep a child, then pregnancy is intimate and intense suffering in a way that may be intolerable for the woman.

Would Overruling Roe v. Wade Retroactively Reanimate “Zombie” Abortion Laws?

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses an often overlooked procedural aspect related to Texas’s extreme anti-abortion law that could result in “zombie” laws taking effect in every other red state. Professor Dorf argues that there are several reasons to hope that a state scheme to retroactively enforce zombie abortion laws would fail, even if the Supreme Court curtails or eliminates the abortion right itself, not the least of which is that retroactive application of zombie laws is fundamentally unfair.

Texas Plays Chess with Pro-Choice Pawns

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a blatantly unconstitutional Texas anti-abortion law that the U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to enjoin, pointing out the unusual structure of the legislation and the hypocrisy of “conservatives” who support it. Noting from the outset that the so-called heartbeat to which the legislation refers is not from an actual heart, but pulsing, undifferentiated cells, Professor Colb highlights the hypocrisy of so-called conservatives who favor insulating most civil defendants from suit while inviting nearly anyone to sue for “aiding and abetting” performance of an abortion.

New Texas Abortion Statute Raises Cutting-Edge Questions Not Just About Abortion but About the Relationship Between State and Federal Courts

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone analyze some of the issues presented by a new Texas anti-abortion statute that is to be enforced entirely by private plaintiffs. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone explore the unusual characteristics of the law and describe some approaches opponents might take—and indeed Whole Woman’s Health (WWH) has already filed a lawsuit in federal court that seems to follow an approach the authors describe.

Could the Supreme Court Erode But Not Overrule Roe v. Wade in the Mississippi Case?

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf considers whether and how the U.S. Supreme Court next term might eliminate or substantially curtail the constitutional right to abortion recognized in Roe v. Wade. Professor Dorf describes the jurisprudence after that decision and argues that a decision that upholds the Mississippi law while purporting to forestall deciding the ultimate fate of Roe would be brazenly dishonest—albeit somewhat more likely than a clear overruling of Roe.

Justice Thomas Calls Out Liberals for Distinguishing Incarceration from Pregnancy

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb responds to an observation made by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence in his concurring opinion in Jones v. Mississippi, noting an ostensible inconsistency in the language liberals use in discussing incarceration, as compared to pregnancy. Professor Colb acknowledges the face value of Justice Thomas’s point—that liberals refer to minors seeking an abortion as “women” and minors facing life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (“LWOP”) as “children”—but she points out that the difference in terminology reflects a consistent view that minors are not fully developed and should not be forced to do irreversible “adult” things like carry a pregnancy to term or serve a mandatory LWOP sentence.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: State Representative Ana-Maria Ramos Introduces Bill to Repeal Parental Consent Requirement for Birth Control

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a Texas bill that would allow teens to access birth control without parental involvement. Professor Grossman describes the current state of reproductive health laws and policies in Texas and explains why the proposed bill is so important.

Does Father Know Best When It Comes to Abortion?

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a “father knows best” bill that the Tennessee state legislature is currently considering, which would allow the father of a pregnancy to obtain an injunction against the mother’s having an abortion. Professor Colb notes that while requiring consent of the pregnancy’s father might make intuitive sense and most abortion decisions do include the father, she points out that “father knows best” (and father notification) laws disregard the interests of the embryo/fetus (by giving a father a say in whether to proceed with an abortion) and redistribute control of reproduction from women to men. Professor Colb argues that for these reasons, the Tennessee bill is even more objectionable than an outright ban on the procedure would have been.

First, Undo the Harm: Biden Administration Takes Steps to Protect Reproductive Rights

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on an executive order the Biden administration issued last week revoking the so-called Mexico City policy, which provided that foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who received U.S. international family planning assistance could not offer abortion services, even if the services were funded with non-U.S. money. Grossman hails the decision as a good start but argues that more is needed to meaningfully undo the harmful policies of the Trump administration because of its implementation of a “domestic gag rule” in addition to the global one.

Election Day 2020: A Good Day to End the GOP’s War on Women

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman describes the myriad ways the Trump administration has harmed the interests of women and expresses hope that the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election will mark the end of the GOP’s war on women. Grossman notes that if Biden and the Democrats win the White House and Congress, they will have not only the opportunity but the obligation to restore what the modern GOP has destroyed.

Reflections on Our First Two Female Supreme Court Justices

In honor of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton and former clerk to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, reflects on our country’s first two female Supreme Court Justices and their similarities and differences. Hamilton points out that a majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose abortion in at least some circumstances and the right to contraception and warns the President and the Senate to think long and hard before they replace Ginsburg on the fly with a someone who is a threat to abortion and contraception.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics U.S. Senator Ted Cruz Takes to the Internet with False Claims about Childbirth and Abortion

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman debunks a tweet by Texas Senator Ted Cruz about childbirth and abortion. Grossman describes how, contrary to Cruz’s claims, pregnancy is dangerous, Mifeprex has only minor potential side effects, and the risk of dying from childbirth is many times greater than the risk of dying from an abortion.

Impoverishing Women: Supreme Court Upholds Trump Administration’s Religious and Moral Exemptions to Contraceptive Mandate

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding the Trump administration’s religious and moral exemptions to the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Grossman provides a brief history of the conflict over the growing politicization of contraception in the United States and argues that the exemptions at issue in this case should never have been promulgated in the first place because they have no support in science or public policy.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He... more

Samuel Estreicher
Samuel Estreicher

Samuel Estreicher is the Dwight D. Opperman Professor, Director, Center for Labor and Employment... more

Leslie C. Griffin
Leslie C. Griffin

Dr. Leslie C. Griffin is the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Fels Institute of Government Professor of Practice, and Fox Family... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately... more