The Yale Law Journal

Recent Media Coverage of YLJ Feature, Before (and After) Roe v. Wade: New Questions About Backlash

Julie Wang
14 Nov 2011

In her recent New Yorker article entitled Birthright, Jill Lepore cites to Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegel’s Before (and After) Roe v. Wade: New Questions About Backlash from Issue 8 of Volume 120 of The Yale Law Journal. Lepore writes:

But Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegel, both of whom teach at Yale Law School, have argued that th[e] conventional narrative [of Roe v. Wade] gets history backward. In an article published in the Yale Law Journal in June, they suggest that what happened after Roe was a consequence not of the Court’s ruling but of G.O.P. strategists’ attempt to redefine the Party—before Roe. In their account, if there’s a villain it’s not Harry Blackmun; it’s Richard Nixon.1

In their Feature essay, Greenhouse and Siegel challenge the common belief that the Supreme Court was the one to blame for the consequences of Roe v. Wade. They address “abortion conflict as an expression of politics—a conflict in which the Supreme Court was not the only or even the most important actor.”2 Greenhouse and Siegel reveal that just prior to Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign, the Democrats held a more conservative stance on abortion than did the Republicans, and that the conflict over Roe developed as the parties adjusted and realigned their respective positions. Greenhouse and Siegel conclude that “the dominance of the ‘Court-caused-it’ backlash narrative has shortchanged both legal scholars and the general public of a more complete understanding of an important chapter in America’s social, political, and legal history.” According to Greenhouse and Siegel, conflict in constitutional interpretation emerges from “sources outside as well as inside the courtroom,” a reality that the “conventional Court-centered narrative” all too often ignores.3

Jill Lepore, American Chronicles, Birthright, The New Yorker, November 14, 2011 at 44, 52, available at
Linda Greenhouse & Reva Siegel, Before (and After) Roe v. Wade: New Questions About Backlash, 120 Yale L.J. 228, 228 (2011), available at
3 Id. at 2086.