SMNR: Reproductive Justice, Criminal Law, and the Carceral State

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
MON 3:55 - 5:45 pm JON 6.206

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location


Non-law students (LLM and graduate students outside of the law school) must apply for a seat in this course. To apply, please write a paragraph about why you want to take the seminar and email this to Prof. Engle ( and CC: Caroline Hahn (

Students who wish to be added to the professor-administered waitlist should write a paragraph about why you want to take the seminar and your background related to the seminar and email this to Prof. Engle ( and CC: Caroline Hahn (

The criminalization of abortion in many U.S. states following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has disrupted the presumed divide between the fields of reproductive rights and criminal law, with many in each field now attempting to familiarize themselves with the other. Reproductive justice scholars and advocates, however, have long been working at the intersection of these fields—considering the impacts of the overcriminalization and surveillance of poor communities of color on a variety of pregnancy outcomes. Specifically, they have identified multiple ways that criminal law, mass incarceration, and other institutional mechanisms such as the child welfare system have limited not only the right of many not to have children but the right to have them and to raise them in safety and with dignity. The criminalization of abortion is set to follow the same path, directly and indirectly disproportionately affecting those from overcriminalized groups.

This seminar will consider the criminalization of reproduction—historical and contemporary, local and global—largely through the lens of reproductive justice. It will do so with the aim of achieving a better understanding of the current moment so that we might formulate better responses. It will be organized around the work of leading scholars who will present their research to the university community in a public forum. Students will spend roughly two weeks considering work by each speaker as well as related scholarly materials.

Students are expected to participate actively in class discussions, write short critical responses to assigned reading by visiting scholars, and write a longer essay on a topic related to the themes that arise during the semester. Readings for the seminar will come from a variety of disciplines, including law, sociology, and public health. The seminar is open not only to law students but to non-law graduate and professional students with relevant background.

Textbooks ( * denotes required )

No materials required


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