Professor Carol Sanger, the Barbara Aronstein Black Professor of Law at the Columbia Law School, will speak at the John W. Fisher II Lecture on Law and Medicine on the policy that several states now require that before a woman can consent to an abortion, she must first undergo an ultrasound examination and be offered the image of her fetus.

The lecture, “Abortion and the Visual Construction of Loss,” will be held 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 30 in the Marlyn E. Lugar Courtroom at the WVU Law Center. A reception will follow the lecture. This event will be webcast at

According to Professor Sanger “Mandatory ultrasound intrudes upon that protected area of decision making in several respects. First, simply by virtue of having an ultrasound, a pregnant woman is promoted into the category of mother and it is against this conscripted status that she must proceed. Second, unlike other compulsory forms of abortion disclosure, the statutes require the woman to use her body to produce the very information intended to dissuade her from pursuing an abortion. The resulting fetal image is intended as a self-evident statement about the meaning of human life.”

Sanger adds, “But characterizing the fetus as a child, as most ultrasound statutes do, is a political description, not a scientific one. It confuses medically informed consent with what I identify as morally informed consent, that realm of personal considerations that are a woman’s alone to determine. Imbued with indelible social meaning, the mandatory ultrasound requirement replaces consent with coercion – not about the ultimate decision, but about how a woman chooses to get there.”

Sanger’s lecture will explore a set of questions within the framework of mandatory ultrasound statutes: Do these laws fit within the traditional framework of informed consent? What is a pregnant woman supposed to feel and to think when she looks at an ultrasound image? Is there any evidence of what pregnant women do feel and think with regard to the image of an embryo or fetus under these circumstances? Is there a difference between medically informed consent and morally informed consent?

Professor Sanger received a B.A. from Wellesley, and her J.D., from the University of Michigan. She worked in a Commercial law practice in San Francisco and has previously taught at the University of Oregon and at Santa Clara University Law School. She has been a Visiting scholar for the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford Law School; and a Visiting Professor at Stanford Law School and Columbia Law School. Professor Sanger joined the faculty at the Columbia University School of Law in 1996.

She is a member of the executive board of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. She was awarded the Columbia University Presidential Teaching Prize in 2001; and named a Fellow in the Program on Law and Public Affairs at Princeton for 2003-04. Sanger was awarded the Willis Reese Teaching Prize by graduating class of 2007. Sanger was also named a Plumer Fellow at St. Anne’s College at Oxford in the fall of 2008.

Her teaching areas include Contracts, Family Law, and courses focusing on reproduction, the legal profession, and law and gender. Recent scholarship focuses on the regulation of maternal conduct, the regulation of abortion, surrogacy, and always, law’s relation to culture. Professor Sanger was Editor, Cases and Materials on Contracts (7th ed., 2008) (with the late E.A. Farnsworth, and Professors Young, Cohen, and Brooks).

John W. Fisher II Lecture in Law and Medicine is made possible through the generosity of Thomas S. Clark, M.D., and Jean Clark, The Clark Family Lecture Series funds lectures in 10 fields of study throughout WVU. This lecture is also part of a series presented in cooperation with the West Virginia Law Review focusing on healthcare. In the coming months the Law Review will sponsor additional lectures and panel discussions exploring topics related to health care reform and other health issues.



CONTACT: Brian Caudill, College of Law