Document Type


Publication Date



Missouri Law Review





First Page



The amicus briefs filed in landmark abortion cases before the U.S. Supreme Court serve as a barometer revealing how various constituencies talk about abortion, women, fetuses, physicians, rights, and harms over time. This article conducts an interdisciplinary legal-linguistic study of the amicus briefs that were filed in the milestone abortion cases of Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. As the first large-scale study of all amicus briefs submitted in these key cases, this article identifies the roles of amicus briefs, analyzes their rhetorical strategies, and describes how their authors engage with the Court. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, the study reveals how the discursive construction of the pregnant person, fetus, physician, and abortion as a right have evolved over fifty years and shows why these shifts matter. In so doing, this study offers historical perspectives into evolving arguments in abortion litigation, contemporaneous insights into the status of polarized abortion politics, and future implications for amicus activity and abortion advocacy.



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