Abortion presents a profound moral question, and the Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each state from regulating or prohibiting abortion. This decision overrules Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania v. Casey.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, 597 U.S. (2022)
Teaching controversial topics can be very intimidating, even for experienced teachers. However, students gravitate towards these hot topic issues because they are relevant to life outside the classroom. As teachers, we must approach these topics objectively and provide just the facts to help students comprehend and think critically about the world around them. Some argue that discussing such polarizing topics is too difficult for students to handle in the classroom, but they will face these very issues in life. Doesn’t it make sense to introduce them to these topics in a way that analyzes facts over opinions?
I’ve taught 11th grade English for eight years, and every year in my AP and on-level classes, I include a research-based argumentative essay. My first few years of teaching, I pre-selected the research topic to avoid uncomfortable conversations. Guess what? My students hated it. They were not invested because they did not have the opportunity to research something they were passionate about. It took some confidence, but eventually, I started allowing students to choose their own topics. They had to do the work of finding a dilemma and researching the history of that dilemma before writing the essay, but they enjoyed the effort of research because it was personal to them.
Every year during my research argument unit, there is at least one student who asks to write about the history of abortion legislation. For students to effectively formulate opinions regarding a controversial topic such as this, they need a foundation of identifying and critically analyzing the facts. It is easy to insert our own beliefs or opinions into conversations of such a polarizing issue, but our job is to help students identify the different perspectives before they can form their own.
Looking specifically at the history and aftermath of court cases is a good place to start when tackling controversial subjects. In studying the history of Roe v. Wade through an objective timeline of people involved, events of the trial, judgments, and following cases, students may accurately break down the events and track cause and effect relationships between various elements of the case. The history of abortion legislation is complicated and, at times, emotional.
With this Dilemma One Sheet, Roe v. Wade & Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the emotional language often associated with this issue is removed and all that’s left are the facts. It also creates space for academic conversation over the topic.
The resource begins with the history of abortion legislation, a “how did we get here?” type of outline. Did you know the legality of abortion dates back to the 19th century? If you said no, you are not alone! Understanding the foundation of an issue is crucial to understanding the persistence of the issue in contemporary society. Beyond the 1973 case itself, legislation regarding abortion rights continued in the 1990’s and a recent case decided in June of 2022. The most recent decision, overturning Roe v. Wade, demonstrates the importance of understanding these origin cases and their history, regardless of what side of the argument your students fall on.
You will find the resource here:
GUEST BLOG POST BY Casey Sigerman
Casey Sigerman has taught 11th and 12th grade English for over seven years, teaching both AP Language and Composition and AP Literature and Composition. She has a BA in English with a focus in Secondary Education from Texas State University, and an MA in English Literature with a certificate in Rhetoric and Composition from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She has two teaching certificates from the state of Texas, including an ESL certification as well as an ELAR 8-12 certification.
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