Canary in the Coalmine: What it Means to Lose a Constitutional Right (The 66th Henry J. Miller Lecture)

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The reversal of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision to protect the right to choose abortion, is about much more than reproductive rights. At its heart, it’s about the rise of a conservative legal movement, the transformation of Supreme Court nominations, the fundamental changes in the U.S. Republican Party, and the rise of extreme polarization. What does this decision mean for democracy or the Court’s legitimacy?

As a preeminent expert on the legal and political history of our constitutional rights, lawyer and historian Mary Ziegler, author of Dollars for Life: The Anti-Abortion Movement and the Fall of the Republican Establishment (2022) and the forthcoming Roe: the History of a National Obsession (2023), is uniquely situated to answer these questions and discuss this turbulent topic. Understanding what happened to Roe shines a light on broader issues of partisanship and the erosion of democratic norms in the United States. Ziegler’s lecture will also illuminate the dueling ideas of Roe, related to sexual violence, the role of courts in democracy, the politics of science, race and much more, exposed the inconsistencies and unsettled issues in US abortion politics.