Beyond Abortion: The Consequences of Overturning Roe

March 21, 2023 -
7:15am to 8:15am

Lisa Harris, MD, PhD
F. Wallace and Janet Jeffries Collegiate Professor of Reproductive
Health, and Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and
Gynecology and the Department of Women's and Gender Studies,
University of Michigan

Abstract: In the wake of the overturn of Roe v Wade, attention has appropriately centered on the consequences for people needing to end their pregnancies. Dr. Harris will focus on the impact of Roe’s overturn on people who plan to continue their pregnancies. She will show how abortion bans now mean that anyone who becomes pregnant will be newly vulnerable to increased surveillance, civil detentions, forced interventions, and criminal prosecutions. This includes people who experience a pregnancy complication, as well as those who give birth to healthy newborns. Dr. Harris will discuss that the central holding in Roe–that fetuses are not Constitutional “people”–meant that pregnant women retained their Constitutional rights throughout pregnancy. Roe, and Casey, which followed, acknowledged that the State has a legitimate interest in potential human life, but that interest could never be advanced in ways that deprived pregnant women of liberty, or jeopardized their life or health. As Dr. Harris will explore, with Roe and Casey now overturned, there are currently no Constitutionally-defined limits on how a state can advance its interest in fetal life or protection, and therefore no limits on what a state can demand of pregnant people (or the ways they can be punished) in the name of that interest. She will center the intersection of abortion bans with other systems of oppression, including racism and economic inequity. She'll review past prosecutions of pregnant women for alleged fetal harm, prosecutions in the wake of Dobbs, and then consider why this dimension of Dobbs has been so little discussed.

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Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Services Ethics Grand Rounds

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