Marking the Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Decision at Yale Law School

Yale Law School will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion on January 31 with a program titled “Roe v. Wade: Thirty Years Later,” in Room 127, Yale Law School, 127 Wall Street, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The event is sponsored by Yale Law Women, a student organization, and is free and open to the public.

Roe v. Wade was the decision that struck down state laws criminalizing abortion and that recognized women’s right to privacy in deciding whether or not to bear a child. It remains a major source of controversy in American society today.

A panel discussion will be held at 10:30 a.m. titled “Practitioners’ Perspectives: Thirty Years Later, Where Are We Now?” Panelists will address the issue of where reproductive rights stand today and discuss how to overcome challenges to those rights. The speakers are all Yale Law School graduates who have litigated reproductive rights cases and advocated for abortion rights on the national, state and local levels. They are Priscilla Smith, director, domestic program, Center for Reproductive Law and Policy; Betsy Cavendish, legal director and general counsel, National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League; and Catherine Weiss, director, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

During the afternoon session, nine of the country’s most prominent constitutional scholars will hold a mock Supreme Court session, beginning at 1:30 p.m. Led by Jack Balkin, the Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale, they will rewrite Roe v. Wade using only materials available as of January 22, 1973, when the original decision was handed down.

“The panelists will present their own opinions in Roe v. Wade, explaining how they believe the opinion should have been written, given what we now know about the subsequent history of the country and the development of American constitutional law,” says Balkin. The opinions submitted on January 31 will be included in a book called “What Roe v. Wade Should Have Said,” to be published by NYU Press. Balkin previously gathered a group of constitutional scholars to rewrite the famous 1954 opinion in Brown v. Board of Education. The resulting book, “What Brown v. Board of Education Should Have Said: The Nation’s Top Legal Experts Rewrite America’s Landmark Civil Rights Decision,” also published by NYU Press, will serve as the model for the Roe exercise.

In addition to Balkin, the panel features three members of the Yale Law School faculty: Akhil Reed Amar, the Southmayd Professor of Law; Jed Rubenfeld, the Robert R. Slaughter Professor of Law; and Reva Siegel, the Nicholas de Katzenbach Professor of Law. Other participants will be Anita Allen-Castellitto, professor of law and philosophy, University of Pennsylvania; Michael Stokes Paulsen, the Briggs and Morgan Professor of Law, University of Minnesota; Jeffrey Rosen, associate professor of law, George Washington University, and legal affairs editor of The New Republic; Mark V. Tushnet, the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Constitutional Law, Georgetown University; and Robin L. West, professor of law, Georgetown University.

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