611AB.05 Abortion: Law, Policy, Ethics

The law of abortion is in flux. With new appointments to the Court and new legislative initiatives in the states, there is a greater likelihood of significant shifts in constitutional doctrine than at any point in the last few decades. As a result, it has become particularly important for future lawyers to have an opportunity to study the issue in detail and to decide what they think.

This one-credit, ungraded year-long readings course is intended to give students the chance to discuss, in a relaxed academic setting, the difficult and important questions of ethics, policy, and law raised by the issue of abortion. The course meets on eight Wednesday evenings, roughly once a month, from 7:30 to 9:15 p.m. Sessions are held at the instructors’ home—depending on enrollment, either at our dinner table or in our living room. (You should have your dinner beforehand; we provide the coffee and dessert.)

The questions raised by abortion are both highly abstract and deeply personal. While they are the subject of intense and heartfelt commitment on both sides, this course is offered in the belief that they are also a proper subject for intellectual inquiry. We will insist that discussions be conducted in a civil and respectful manner, and that you address and listen to your fellow students, whatever their views, with an open mind. Within each unit, the assigned readings are roughly balanced as to viewpoint; they take deeply conflicting positions, and you will certainly disagree with some of them. The course is offered on a credit/no-credit basis partly to ensure that you are neither penalized nor rewarded for sharing the views of either of the instructors.

Two-page response papers are due 24 hours before each meeting. They may be uploaded to the ‘Forum’ section of the course website, so that you can read your classmates’ papers in advance. Response papers should address some issue raised in your mind by that session’s readings; they needn’t discuss every reading, and they should respond to the readings rather than summarize them. Each student is expected to participate fully in the discussions.

There is one required text, What Roe v. Wade Should Have Said (Jack M. Balkin ed., 2005). Other required readings are available online or in the coursepack. (Because the course focuses on basic principles rather than the details of current doctrine, it leaves out such decisions as Gonzales v. Carhart, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, or Azar v. Garza, as well as a number of important cases in state or circuit courts.)

Fall 2019

Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor
Course Credits
Stephen E. Sachs, Amanda Schwoerke
Sakai site: https://sakai.duke.edu/portal/site/7d00ca73-4c54-404d-b46b-36940ff1546f
Email list: law.611a.05.f19@sakai.duke.edu
Degree Requirements
Course Requirements - JD
Course Requirements - LLM
Course Requirements - Public Interest