Discussing Dobbs: Scholars on both sides of abortion debate discuss new Supreme Court ruling


On the heels of the landmark Supreme Court decision involving abortion, George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School will host a webinar on the opinions in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and their legal impact on Thursday, July 21, at 7 p.m.

Portrait of Helen Alvare
Helen Alvaré will moderate a discussion on Dobbs v. Jackson at the law school on July 21. 

The webinar, moderated by Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Helen Alvaré, will feature Kathryn (Kitty) Kolbert, a pro-choice attorney who argued on behalf of Planned Parenthood in the Casey case, which affirmed Roe’s holding about a constitutional right to legal abortion, and Erika Bachiochi, a pro-life attorney and author of numerous books and articles on pro-life feminism.

“This is a national legal conversation of great importance,” Alvaré said. “We [at Mason and the law school] are regularly part of such conversations and we pride ourselves on giving students very high-level tools for participating in all sides of a question.”

Students, faculty, staff, and the broader community are welcome to register. After the panelists speak and query each other on the Dobbs decision, its legal impact and what comes next, participants will have the opportunity to ask the panelists questions.

“There will be an opportunity to discuss not only the majority opinion, but super interesting concurrences and a dissent,” Alvaré said. “Each of them, if you’re a lawyer in this arena, is worth the price of admission.”

Headshot of Erika Bachiochi.
Pro-life attorney Erika Bachiochi is one of the event panelists. 

If attendees took one thing away from this event, what would you hope for that to be?

“Acknowledging the substantial and best arguments on both sides,” Alvaré said. “Clearly, there are good arguments on both sides of this debate or it would not have persisted—not just for 49 years, but in the years before Roe.

“We want [the panelists] to get at the best legal arguments on both sides and to convey them in a way that the audience will understand that they’re substantial, and nobody can take a position without intelligently grappling with the arguments on the other side.”

What excites you about the panelists?

“Kitty argued the Casey decision, and I watched her argue it,” Alvaré said. “Frankly, she won that case. She lost some pieces—Roe was altered. But she preserved a constitutional right to abortion, and she was the far superior advocate. She’s formidable.”

“Erika is a sophisticated and prolific legal scholar who has occupied her time writing in-depth books and academic articles,” Alvaré said. “Her most recent book concerns the feminism of Mary Wollstonecraft. Erika is marvelous at maintaining dialogue with people who could not differ more on the subject. She’s funny, she’s quick. Kitty, too. Both of them are such marvelous, positive, intelligent and fun personalities.”

What are the panelists looking forward to?

Headshot of Kathryn Kitty Kolbert
Pro-choice attorney Kathryn (Kitty) Kolbert will speak at the Antonin Scalia Law School on July 21.

“[I’m looking forward to] a thoughtful conversation about the impact of Dobbs on women’s health and autonomy and its effect on the institutional integrity of the Supreme Court,” Kolbert said.

“I’m eager to discuss how pro-choice and pro-life feminists can work together for the sake of poor women and their children,” Bachiochi added.

How does this event speak to Mason’s values?

The goal, as with all discussions at Mason, is to provide a space for a civilized and substantive discussion where both sides are being heard and discussed rationally and deeply, Alvaré said.

One of our contributions here is the effort to bring peace and civility,” Alvaré said. “We take great pride in the fact that we not only allow, but encourage and foment the full airing of both sides of an argument.”

“It’s the service we offer our students, our alums, and the community,” she said.