Aziza Ahmed: “Floating Lungs: The Law and Science of Pregnancy-Related Prosecutions”

  • Professor of Law and N. Neal Pike Scholar at the Boston University School of Law; Co-Director of the BU Law Program in Reproductive Justice
Location: UT Law School, Sheffield-Massey Room (TNH 2.111)

Abstract: Professor Aziza Ahmed’s talk interrogates the relationship between scientific expertise, evidence, and lawmaking. Largely through the example of the highly controversial forensic method known as the “floating lungs” test in the context of self-induced abortion and stillbirths, Ahmed argues that contestation around medical and epidemiological evidence shapes the regulation and criminalization of pregnancy-related outcomes. The stakes are high. Although in Dobbs, the Supreme Court ignored the role of experts and claimed to throw the question of who should decide when and how a person has an abortion to the people, tensions over science and medicine preceded the case and will continue. Abortion rights advocates, in part by attending to ways that science has been (mis)used in the criminalization of pregnant persons in the past need to examine purportedly neutral scientific and expert-based justifications in the legal regulation of the practice of medicine and medication more closely. Doing so will create new and necessary avenues for legal advocacy, including challenging when and where legal institutions legitimate misinformation about abortion or limit access to abortion based on science and evidence.

Aziza Ahmed is Professor of Law and N. Neal Pike Scholar at the Boston University School of Law and Co-Director of the BU Law Program in Reproductive Justice. Widely published in law and public health, her scholarship examines the intersection of law, politics, and science in the fields of constitutional law, criminal law, health law, and family law. She is author of Feminism’s Medicine: Law, Science, and Social Movements in the AIDS Response (forthcoming by Cambridge University Press) and coeditor of the handbook Race, Racism, and the Law (forthcoming by Edward Elgar Publishing). Professor Ahmed has previously served as visiting professor at the University of Chicago Law School, Bennett Boskey Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, visiting scholar at the Harvard Law School Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, and Law, and public affairs fellow at Princeton University. She received a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, an M.S. in Population and International Health from the Harvard School of Public Health, and a B.A. from Emory University.


Event series: Sissy Farenthold Reproductive Justice Defense Project, Sissy Farenthold Fund for Peace and Social Justice, Colloquia, Reproductive Justice, Criminal Law, and the Carceral State