The patterns and purposes of anti-abortion legal experimentalism

Date & time
1–2pm Wednesday 9 November 2022

Phillipa Weeks Staff Library, ANU College of Law, Building 7, Room 7.4.1.

Professor Fiona de Londras
College of Law Visitors Committee
6125 5375
ANU College of Law Visitor Seminar

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.


  • Professor Fiona de Londras »

    Fiona de Londras is Professor of Global Legal Studies at Birmingham Law School. Her research concerns constitutionalism, human rights, and transnationalism. She is particularly interested in the role and function of rights in contentious policy fields, inquiring into how (if at all) rights shape the making of law and policy in complex contexts of, for example, counter-terrorism, reproductive rights, government and parliamentary responses to COVID-19, and the implementation of international legal standards. Professor de Londras undertakes this through her academic scholarship, public engagement, and advisory work. Her most recent book is The Practice and Problems of Transnational Counter-Terrorism, published by Cambridge University Press in 2022.


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