Washington, DC, USA, May 5, 2022: people protest the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade and the right to abortion

Stemming Supreme Court Rights Reversals

By James G. Hodge, Jr.

Based on the May 2022 leak of an initial draft, most believe the Supreme Court will carry through some rescission of abortion rights later this month through its final opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Already, concerns have arisen over other freedoms the Court may seriously reconsider down the road, including rights to gay marriage, intimacy, contraception, and informational privacy.

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Black and white photograph of the front of the Supreme Court. Pro-abortion protestors stand holding signs, one of which reads "I stand with Whole Woman's Health"

A Brief History of Abortion Jurisprudence in the United States

By James R. Jolin

POLITICO’s leak of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization suggests that U.S. abortion rights are on the verge of a fundamental shift.

If the official decision, expected this month, hews closely to the draft, the constitutional right to abortion affirmed in Roe v. Wade (1973), Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), and other seminal Supreme Court rulings will disappear.

This brief history of abortion rights and jurisprudence in the United States aims to clarify just what is at stake in this case.

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Washington, DC, USA, May 5, 2022: people protest the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade and the right to abortion

The Leaked Dobbs Opinion, Explained

By Chloe Reichel

On May 2, 2022, Politico published a leaked draft of the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which showed the Supreme Court’s intent to overturn the right to abortion as decided in Roe v. Wade.

In response to the leak, the Petrie-Flom Center hosted a discussion with legal historian and Daniel P.S. Paul Visiting Professor of Constitutional Law Mary Ziegler and Petrie-Flom Center Faculty Director, James A. Attwood and Leslie Williams Professor of Law, and Deputy Dean I. Glenn Cohen.

Together, Cohen and Ziegler explained the background of the case, the contents of the draft opinion, and its potential implications not just for abortion access, but also for other constitutionally-protected rights, and for access to reproductive technologies, such as in-vitro fertilization.

The highlights of the conversation have been edited and condensed below.

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Empty hospital bed.

Native Reproductive Justice: Practices and Policies from Relinquishment to Family Preservation

By Lauren van Schilfgaarde

Adoption can be, and frequently is, a celebrated extension of kinship ties within Native communities. But we cannot ignore the historical context of adoption as a tool to empty tribal communities and delete tribal cultures. Nor can we ignore the historical context of the simultaneous deprivation and weaponization of reproductive health care, both of which deny Native women reproductive self-determination. 

It is these contexts in which anti-abortion proponents seek to ameliorate the further denial of health care through increased adoption. The proposal is eerily familiar. 

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woman with iv in her hand in hospital. Labor and delivery preparation. Intravenious therapy infusion. shallow depth of field. selective focus

A Birthmother Reflects: The Perpetuation of Adoption Myths

By Angie Swanson-Kyriaco

During opening remarks for Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on December 1, 2021, Justice Amy Coney Barrett stated that the “obligations of motherhood that flow from pregnancy” and the “burden” of parenting are eliminated through adoption.

It is no surprise that a conservative, anti-abortion, adoptive parent would have an over-simplified opinion about adoption, expectant parents, and birth parents. In her remarks, Justice Coney Barrett demonstrated a common lack of understanding about the complexities of adoption, and a blithe unawareness about adoption ethics and the need for adoption reform.

As someone who worked for over a decade in the field of reproductive health and rights, and now as the executive director of one of the only nonprofit organizations in the country that exclusively serves first/birth mothers who have relinquished infants for adoption, I know both how detrimental the lack of access to abortion can be, and how significant the lifelong impact of an adoption can prove.

And, as a first/birthmother, I have a deep personal understanding of the significant trauma of placing my own child for adoption, and the lifelong grief and ambiguous loss that follows relinquishment. 

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Nurse weighs baby in the nursery of the Cairns General Hospital at the FSA (Farm Security Administration) farm workers' community. Eleven Mile Corner, Arizona.

The Racialized History of Adoption Practice

By Rickie Solinger

The racial and gender coercions at the heart of adoption clarify the violence inherent in Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s wish to revitalize adoption in America as a substitute for abortion.  

The mass practice of adoption, which started in the U.S. in the post-World War II era, pressed white unwed mothers to surrender their babies to a four-faceted cause: preserving the face of white chastity in the era of emergent feminism; bolstering the fraying institutions of white male authority; reinscribing the hegemony of the white family (as this institution, itself, began to weaken); and crucially, underscoring the difference between Black and white.

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Lexington, Kentucky / United States - 06 28 2020: Fire Station 22 in Lexington, Kentucky in the early morning idle hours.

Safe Haven Laws and Anti-Abortion Politics

By Laury Oaks

During the Supreme Court oral arguments for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, Justice Amy Coney Barrett acknowledged that previous cases addressing abortion rights relied on a consideration of the burden of parenting and forced motherhood. For Justice Coney Barrett, this consideration was a non sequitur: “Why don’t safe haven laws take care of that problem?”

The so-called “safe haven” laws to which Justice Coney Barrett was referring were passed in every state from 1999 to 2009, to designate places where or people to whom an unharmed baby may be legally and anonymously relinquished and then adopted. A Florida safe haven advocacy group argues, “Safe Haven babies are given a chance for a future. A Safe Haven baby might become the President of the United States, a Supreme Court Justice, a scientist finding a cure for cancer or most important, a great mom or dad to their children.”

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WASHINGTON D.C., USA - SEPTEMBER 27, 2020: A Protestor carries a sign that says "Our Vote, Our Voice, Our Choice," at a protest against the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

The False Choice: Adoptee Voices in the Fight for Reproductive Freedom 

By Michele Merritt

As legal scholars have predicted since the current composition of the United States Supreme Court became apparent, abortion restrictions are increasing; if Roe v. Wade is overturned with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision this coming June, over half of the states in the country will likely ban abortion entirely

During the Dobbs oral arguments, Justice Amy Coney Barrett suggested that adoption is a viable alternative to abortion. Her defense of overturning Roe, in other words, amounted to a belief that it’s not a violation of women’s rights to increasingly restrict access to abortion because adoption is always an option. 

But adoption is not a viable alternative to abortion. This is why several adoptees and I founded Adoptees for Choice, a coalition of adoptees speaking into the reproductive rights debate and rejecting the appropriation of our lived experiences without our consent. 

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Judge's gavel, handcuffs and scales on grey background, flat lay with space for text. Criminal law concept.

The Reproductive Violence of Family Policing & Separation

By Dorothy E. Roberts

In the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization oral arguments, Justice Amy Coney Barrett presented parental relinquishment as an alternative to abortion access. In the leaked Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs, which overturned Roe v. Wade, Justice Alito referred to this idea approvingly.

We asked Professor Dorothy E. Roberts, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights at the University of Pennsylvania, to highlight some of the problems with that claim. 

Drawing on her recently published book, Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families – and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World (Basic Books, 2022), Roberts explains in the conversation below how the child welfare system uses family separation (or the threat thereof) as a means of policing Black families (as well as Native families, other non-white families, and poor families). This, she adds, is a result of the state’s failure to invest in families in fundamental ways, and is a clear manifestation of reproductive violence.

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