Abortion: A Syllabus A low-key reading group on a controversial topic.
This past year, my wife Amanda Schwoerke and I co-taught a reading group on "Abortion: Law, Policy, Ethics." We taught the course primarily to learn the subject ourselves. Abortion may be central to Supreme Court politics, but it's outside our academic specialties, and usually too sensitive a topic for the faculty lounge. So, except with family or close friends, we hadn't had many serious conversations about the ethics of abortion since college.
Law schools generally cover abortion in one of two ways. First, everyone has a few awkward and uncomfortable days on the topic in an introductory Con Law class, where the only people willing to talk about it are those who already have strong views. Neither of us were inclined to discuss the issue much in our own 1L class (where we happened to sit next to each other, something I remind my students whenever they fill out the seating charts). Second, there may be upper-level classes on Reproductive Rights, which often tend—at least from the syllabi we reviewed—to focus on policy and implementation rather than first principles.
This is a problem. Abortion poses important and difficult ethical questions, which lawyers (and others!) should be ready to think through seriously. And with the Court's membership changing, it's not enough to just assume the existing doctrinal framework. So we decided to put together our own course—and, below, to share our syllabus and some advice.