764.01 Privacy in a Post-Dobbs World: Sex, Contraception, Abortion and Surveillance

This two-credit seminar will examine the extent to which the criminalization of abortion in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), together with 21st century surveillance, compromises or eliminates the physical, decisional, and informational privacy of women and people who can become pregnant.

We will review the history of the Supreme Court’s contraception and abortion cases and carefully read Dobbs. We will learn about the historical criminalization of abortion and pregnancy outcomes in the US and related surveillance. We will then examine current state laws criminalizing abortion, defining a fetus as a person, and creating civil liability schemes, and discuss how these laws affect privacy. We will learn about the laws that protect (and fail to protect) privacy in our modern information economy and consider the ways privacy law intersects with abortion law. In this context, we will consider both commercial surveillance and surveillance by law enforcement.  Other topics will include: the privacy implications of medication abortion and the current litigation that threatens its continued availability in the US; the extent to which providers, aiders and abettors, and women who self-manage abortion may be subject to prosecution in ban states; the increasing legal conflicts between shield states and ban states; the effects of criminalization on the privacy of the physician-patient relationship and the associated disincentives for seeking reproductive health care; the implications of laws purporting to control, limit or prohibit access to or dissemination of information about abortion in ban states; and attempts to affect or restrict individuals’ movement within and between states to obtain care.

Both privacy and abortion law are rapidly changing environments in the United States, and attention to current developments in both arenas will be part of the class. We will make every effort to address and incorporate developments as they occur. Assignments will include interactive online comments and responses about the readings, a research project and presentation on the developing law in a particular state, and a writing assignment. There is no final exam.

This course is not open to students who took Law 611.45 - Readings: Privacy in a Post-Dobbs World in Fall 2022.

Fall 2023

Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor
Course Credits
Research and/or analytical paper(s), 10-15 pages
Oral presentation
Class participation
Jolynn Childers Dellinger
Canvas site: https://canvas.duke.edu/courses/9725