How to teach Roe?
emaltz at CRAB.RUTGERS.EDU
Mon Mar 15 08:50:03 PST 1999
At 10:33 AM 3/13/99 +0000, you wrote:
>U. Minnesota has had to dip down to its 7th-string Con Law person for
>next year: I will be teaching the "full" Con Law course for the
>first time. I'm already looking over books, musing about
>organization etc. Ours will be a one-semester (first year, second
>semester) 4 hour a week survey course, largely omitting First
>Amendment (to be covered in an upper level).
>If it's not an overdone topic already, I'd love to hear from people
>(on list or off) about how to go about teaching Roe v. Wade (and
>abortion law generally) -- what they do, what they avoid, etc. I've
>never taught the case, but have strong views on it. (Interestingly,
>I've found no book that reflects very well at all what I think are
>the most relevant points to be made.)
>Here are some of my musings:
>1. Perhaps the most effective way to teach Roe is simply not to
>include it in the syllabus at all. (!?)
>2. It strikes me as strange -- goofy, "make believe" -- to teach the
>abortion line of cases as serious "doctrine" (you know: trimesters,
>levels of scrutiny, parental notice, spousal notice, judicial bypass,
>waiting periods, etc.). Unless one assumes that very many of our
>students will be practicing "abortion law" litigators, this strikes
>me as not a very good use of time. The Roe line strikes me as a
>series of *results*, not a very good vehicle for serious discussion
>of legal process.
>3. Casey is a fascinating opinion, of course, and strikes me as an
>interesting study of judicial and political process.
>4. Is there a way of teaching the issues presented by the Roe line
>of cases by teaching *some other* line of cases or issues, but
>without attempting thereby to stack the deck unfairly (one way or the
>5. Given that students have strong emotions about the case, how do
>other teachers approach the case? "Gingerly" seems somehow inappropriate.
>Withholding the prof's own views doesn't seem quite right. But it
>does seem to me that one should not make students feel so
>uncomfortable or angry that teaching value is lost.
>This is just to launch others' reactions. I am genuinely interested
>in hearing what other teachers -- from a wide variety of perspectives
>-- do with the abortion cases.
>Michael Stokes Paulsen
>University of Minnesota Law School
My only strong feeling is that given the references to Pierce, Meyer, et.
al. in Roe (and Griswold) students should also be exposed to Buck v. Bell
(not done in the casebook that I use, which I would not particularly
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