Carol Sanger

Barbara Aronstein Black Professor of Law

Carol Sanger

Barbara Aronstein Black Professor of Law

Carol Sanger is the Barbara Aronstein Black Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. She teaches courses on contracts, family law, and others focusing on reproduction, the legal profession, and law and gender.

Her recent scholarship, including her book, About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in the 21st Century, is centered on the regulation of abortion, the regulation of maternal conduct, surrogacy, and the law's relation to culture. In addition to her numerous law journal publications, Sanger has edited Cases and Materials on Contracts, (with Garvin, Cohen, and Brooks), 2013 (8th edition).

Before joining the Law School faculty in 1996, Sanger taught at the University of Oregon from 1979 to 1981 and the Santa Clara University Law School from 1985 to 1994. Additionally, she served as a visiting scholar at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford University from 1990 to 1991; visiting professor at Stanford Law School from 1991 to 1992; visiting professor at Columbia from 1994 to 1996; and a commercial law practitioner in San Francisco from 1976 to 1979.

During her tenure at Columbia, Sanger has spent several semesters as a Visiting Fellow and Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Oxford, as well as one year as a fellow in the Program on Law and Public Affairs at Princeton University from 2003 to 2004. Sanger received the Columbia University Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2001, and the 2007 Law School graduating class awarded Sanger its Willis L.M. Reese Teaching Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

In 2011, the Center for Reproductive Rights honored her with an Innovations in Scholarship Award, and, in 2013, she received the Green Bag Award for Exemplary Legal Writing for the article, “‘The Birth of Death’: Stillborn Birth Certificates and the Problem for Law,” 100 California Law Review 269, 2012.

Sanger has a J.D. from the University of Michigan and a B.A. from Wellesley College.

  • J.D., University of Michigan, 1976
  • B.A., Wellesley College, 1970
Areas of Expertise
  • Contracts
  • Family law
  • Abortion law
  • Cases and Materials on Contracts, (with Cohen, Brooks, and Garvin), 2019, (9th edition)
  • About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in 21st Century America, Harvard University Press, 2017
  • “Contracting for Motherhood: Post-adoption Visitation Agreements,” Bodies and Borders: Negotiating Motherhood in the 21st Century, Columbia University Press, 2016
  • Cases and Materials on Contracts, (with Cohen, Brooks, and Garvin), 2013, (8th edition)
  • “Acquiring Children Contractually: Relational Contracts at Work at Home,” Stewart Macaulay and Contract Scholarship (Jean Braucher, John Kidwell and William C Whitford, eds.), Hart Publishing, 2013
  • “Bargaining for Motherhood: Postadoption Visitation Agreements,” Hofstra Law Review 41:2, 2013
  • “About Abortion: The Complications of the Category,” Arizona Law Review 54:4, 2013
  • “‘The Birth of Death’: Stillborn Birth Certificates and the Problem for Law,” 100 California Law Review 269, 2012
  • “Integrating Humanities into Family Law and the Problem with Truths Universally Acknowledged,” 3 California Law Review Circuit, 2012
  • “Decisional Dignity: Teenage Abortion, Bypass Hearings, and the Misuse of Law,” 18 Columbia Journal of Gender and Law 409, 2009
  • “Seeing and Believing: Mandatory Ultrasound and the Path to a Protected Choice,” 56 UCLA Law Review 351, 2008
  • “Developing Markets in Baby-Making: In the Matter of Baby M,” 29 Harvard J. Law & Gender, 2007
  • Family Law Stories, Foundation Press, 2007
  • Gender and Rights, (with Deborah Rhode, eds.), The International Library of Essays in Law and Legal Theory, Second Series (Ashgate/Dartmouth), 2005

View an extended list of Carol Sanger's publications

Download Full C.V.
In the News

The New Yorker — April 3, 2017
Why It's Become So Hard to Get An Abortion

In a clear and persuasive new book, “About Abortion” (Harvard), Carol Sanger, a professor of law at Columbia, explores the roots and the ramifications of this chastening regime. 


Bloomberg BusinessWeek - March 20, 2017
Beyond Roe v. Wade: Here's What Gorsuch Means for Abortion

“However—and there is a big ‘however,’” adds Carol Sanger, a professor at Columbia Law School, “the court also said, ‘We think that Roe didn’t get it right in every regard.’ And they threw out the trimester framework.’”


New York Daily News — February 24, 2017
Norma McCorvey, Donald Tr**p and American Women Today
Columbia Law School Professor Carol Sanger looks at the impact and legacy of Norma McCorvey, the real Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, who died in February.


The Intercept — February 1, 2017
Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch is a Downpayment on Tr**p's Promise to Overturn Roe v. Wade
“Roe’s basic holding is that states cannot criminalize abortion. That’s the basic holding. And so the fact that you can’t criminalize it means, necessarily, that you have a right to do it,” said Carol Sanger, a professor at Columbia Law School. “So, you have the right to choose; you can’t have that choice taken away from you.”


Newsweek — January 27, 2017
Donald Tr**p is the Most Unlikely Anti-Abortion President Ever  
Carol Sanger, a Professor at Columbia Law School 
and the author of the forthcoming, About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in the 21st Century, notes Pence's importance, saying his "participation in the March for Life signaled not only symbolic support for the pro-life movement, but actual support as well.  He endorsed the revival of the 'Culture of Life,' a hallmark of [last seen in] the George W. Bush White House."


NBC News — January 22, 2017
Roe v. Wade attorney: Tr**p is biggest threat yet to reproductive rights
While the case affirmed the basic findings in Roe, it gave states increased liberty to begin regulating abortion from the moment of conception, Carol Sanger, a law professor at Columbia University and author of "About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in the 21st Century," told NBC News. "That just opened the door to all legislators who wanted to pour out legislation," Sanger said, citing state laws such as mandatory waiting periods, ultrasounds for women seeking abortion and laws regulating fetal remains.


Vice — January 22, 2017
Get Ready for a New Chapter in the Long Legal War Over Abortion
But overturning Roe, which marks its 44th anniversary on Sunday, will not be simple. More likely, Tr**p's Supreme court will move in a pro-life direction gradually, allowing states to pass restrictive laws that make it harder for women to get abortions. In other words, we can look forward to more years of legal battles. To figure out what that battle will look like, I called up Carol Sanger, a professor at Columbia Law School and an expert in reproductive rights.


New York Magazine — January 17, 2017
Fake News, Fake Science and Why Doctors Lie About Abortion
“Whole Woman’s Health was a really joyous day,” said Carol Sanger, a legal historian and author of the upcoming book About Abortion. “In part because it meant that the state was going to have to be put to the test of having to show facts, to prove that a rule corresponded to women’s actual health needs.”…But Sanger worries that under a Tr**p administration, anti-abortion activists will find ways to work around the ruling. “We are now in this post-truth age, where you take the facts you want and that’s going to be good enough.”


Hawaii Public Radio — January 11, 2017
The Conversation: Shining a Light on Abortion: Carol Sanger
Carol Sanger is visiting professor from Columbia University teaching at the UH law school during J term. Her soon to be published book is About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in 21st Century America.


The Verge — December 13, 2016
Who owns frozen embryos?
People who oppose abortion think the fetus has a life and that women should bear the child, says Carol Sanger, a professor focusing on reproductive law at Columbia Law School. “What’s peculiar about the IVF cases is the woman is trying to have a child, so she’s on the ‘right side’ of this, and yet the law is defining the aspects of the process of IVF as basically an abortion,” Sanger adds.


BuzzFeed — December 6, 2016
The Abortion Trial Everyone Will Be Watching In Tr**p’s America
“Everybody knows about Kermit Gosnell,” said Carol Sanger, a Columbia University professor specializing in abortion law who’s been honored by the pro–abortion rights Center for Reproductive Rights...“But I think the Gosnell case is being milked for everything it could be milked on,” Sanger continued. 


Metro — November 15, 2016
Tr**p's anti-abortion pledge threatens women's rights, NY activists argue
Columbia Law professor Carol Sanger, who specializes Constitutional reproductive rights, notes that a conservative majority in the U.S. Supreme Court does not guarantee the end of Roe v. Wade. She cites a 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which a conservative majority of the court voted to maintain Roe v. Wade because “people in the previous 22 years had come to rely on the rights provided by Roe, and that there was kind of a reliance on it as legal culture," Sanger told Metro.


The Globe and Mail — November 11, 2016
'It will be devastating': Women’s rights at risk under Tr**p presidency
“It feels likes a death,” Prof. [Carol] Sanger says of the election result. She quotes the observation of one of her students: “‘We think we are just walking down the street, and everything is the way it was, but it’s not.’”


Popsugar — November 9, 2016
Are Abortion and Other Reproductive Rights in Jeopardy Under President Tr**p?
Carol Sanger, author of About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in the Twenty-First Century and professor at Columbia Law School, said the choice of Pence should worry pro-choice Americans. She notes: "Pence said during the campaign, 'Go tell your neighbors and your friends [that] for the sake of sanctity of life . . . and all of all our other God-given liberties, we must ensure the next president appointing justices to the Supreme Court is Donald Tr**p."


Law360 — July 11, 2016
Health Cases to Watch in the 2nd Half of 2016

“The catch is that ... the court really contextualized its decision, and it really looked at the facts in Texas,” Columbia Law School professor Carol Sanger said.


US News & World Report — July 7, 2016
Abortion Politics in the Age of Zika
Columbia Law School Professor Carol Sanger explores how Zika-related pregnancies reveal the costs of the U.S. legal regime when it comes to abortion.


Slate – May 20, 2016
Why Sex-Selective Abortion Bans Are Terrible for Women and Unconstitutional
Carol Sanger believes these laws unduly restrict women’s autonomy and violate the constitutional guarantee of liberty.


National Public Radio, Tell Me More - December 24, 2013
New Law Opens Birth Certificates, Sparks Questions


Lemondrop - June 21, 2010
Sole-Smith, Virginia, “50th State Passes No-Fault Divorce Bill – But is it Good for Women?”


New York Times - January 13, 2007
Buckley, Cara, A Safe Haven Laws Fail to End Discarding of Babies


Radio France (Culture) - May 8, 2006
Interview on Abortion in the United States


National Public Radio, Talk of the Nation - March 27, 2006
Fathers Fight for Paternal Rights


New York Times - March 19, 2006
Lewin, Tamar, Unwed Fathers Fight for Babies Placed for Adoption by Mothers


U.S. News & World Report - March 8, 2004
Gilgoff, Dan, Tied in Knots by Gay Marriage: The Politics of Bush’s Amendment to the Culture Wars Are Complex for Both Parties


CBS Evening News Interview - April 29, 2004
A Teenage Boy Seeks to Sever Ties with Father


New York Times - November 23, 2003
Lewin, Tamar, Ideas & Trends: Untying the Knot; For Better or Worse: Marriage’s Stormy Future


New York Times - January 13, 2002
Lewin, Tamar, The Nation: Taking After Father; A Frozen Sperm Riddle


New York Times - July 7, 2001
Lewin, Tamar, Among Nuptial Agreements, Post- Has Now Joined Pre-


New York Times - March 11, 2001
Lewin, Tamar, In Genetic Testing for Paternity, Law Often Lags Behind Science


New York Times - April 22, 2000
Glaberson, William, The Elian Gonzalez Case: The Legal Questions


New York Times - October 3, 1999
Lewin, Tamar, The Nation: Just Visiting; Defining Who Can See the Children


New York Times - November 2, 1998
Abelson, Reed, Part-Time Work for Some Adds Up to Full-Time Job


New York Times - September 20, 1998
Seglin, Jeffrey L., The Right Thing; Between Consenting Co-Workers

Introduction to American Law
Meanings of Motherhood: Legal and Historical Perspectives
Reproductive Rights and Practices
S. Abortion: Law in Context