Course Description

For almost 50 years since the momentous decision of the United States Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade (1973), a woman's right to choose an abortion for at least some period of her pregnancy has been the law of the land – indeed, a fundamental right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. This all changed on June 24, 2022 with the 6-3 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which overturned Roe, abolished a constitutional right to abortion at any point, and returned the issue to the individual states.

What was the Constitutional basis for the holding in Roe and what caused the Court to reject it in Dobbs? To answer this question requires a review of the Constitutional "right to privacy" whose origins lie in a 1965 decision called Griswold v. Connecticut. In that case, the Court grounded the privacy right in the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the "liberty" interests protected thereby. Roe relied on Griswold in extending the right to privacy to include a woman's right to choose abortion. Dobbs rejected and reversed that extension and that right -- without completely disavowing a privacy right grounded in the Due Process clause. However, the reasoning in Dobbs deeply undercuts the privacy right and clearly endangers the right to gay marriage, established in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). Indeed, Justice Thomas' concurrence in Dobbs calls explicitly for revisiting both the right to gay marriage and the right to privacy more generally.

In this three-session course led by Basic Program instructor Richard Hoskins, we will seek to understand these twists and turns by undertaking a deep reading of the three leading cases (Griswold, Roe, and Dobbs), along with a summary consideration of two others. No book purchase is required; the instructor will provide selected excerpts of the decisions prior to the first class.

Course Outline

Sept. 6. Griswold v. Connecticut (1965); substantive due process, summary consideration of Loving v. Virginia (1967) (interracial marriage). Please read these before the first class.

Sep. 13. Roe v. Wade (1973)(slightly modified in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992)).

Sept. 20. Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization (2022); summary consideration of Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) (gay marriage).


Online registration deadline: Thursday, August 25 pm CT

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