DOI: 10.1002/bdr2.2241 ISSN:

Teratology research in the shadow of the Dobbs decision

Anne Drapkin Lyerly
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Developmental Biology
  • Toxicology
  • Embryology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology and Child Health


Following the 2022 US Supreme Court decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health Organization, numerous states have passed laws banning or severely restricting abortion. The consequences of the decision stretch beyond abortion contexts, including progress on developing a more robust evidence base for care in pregnancy. In this Robert L. Brent lecture, I explore the impact of the Dobbs decision on teratology research, arguing that it is of importance even and perhaps especially for those concerned about the moral complexities of ending a pregnancy. For as abortion restrictions threaten teratology research, they also threaten its life‐affirming aims. First, I show how teratology research and abortion are intertwined, highlighting the stories of Sherri Finkbine and Frances Kelsey, two courageous women whose lives intersected with both. Second, I describe how restrictions on abortion make teratology research more difficult and ethically complex, highlighting additional risks to research participants and staff, as well as new challenges to scientific validity and feasibility. And third, foregrounding yet another story of courage (and heartbreak), I highlight how abortion restrictions make teratology research more important than ever. Honoring Dr. Brent's legacy requires addressing—rather than avoiding—the ethical challenges of pregnancy‐related research, especially now in the post‐Dobbs era.

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