Part of the ANU College of Law Visitors Seminar Series series
The Patterns and Purposes of Anti-Abortion Legal Experimentalism
From Anthony Comstock’s 1873 ‘chamber of horrors’ to the US Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, anti-abortion activists have long centred ‘legal experimentalism’ within their practices. In this context, legal experimentalism can be understood as processes and practices of imagining, devising, testing, refining, and (over-time) establishing novel arguments, legal structures, and regulatory constructions in the attempt to construct a maximally-restrictive framework for access to and provision of abortion care. This paper draws on archival and interdisciplinary work to seek to understand the patterns and purposes of anti-abortion legal experimentalism, exploring how it was key to the construction of a legal approach to abortion regulation that has become reified in the anti-abortion imaginary. The paper traces this tactic’s enduring significance in national and international law reform, and seeks to understand it as part of broad and often transnational anti-progressive movements framed by discourses of rights.