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Reproduction and Regret


What is the legal significance of regret following a reproductive decision or outcome? In Gonzales v. Carhart, a Supreme Court majority offered one answer to this question, famously invoking the regret of some women for their past abortions as a reason to uphold a federal law criminalizing a particular abortion procedure. But Gonzales is not the first case to confront what I call "reproduction and regret," and the Court's approach in Gonzales ignores the contrasting judicial responses from these other cases. This Article supplies the missing analysis-contextualizing Gonzales's treatment of reproduction and regret by identifying and developing five additional models. These additional models come from disputes about adoption surrenders, the performance of surrogacy arrangements, support obligations arising from children born of unplanned pregnancies, the use of previously frozen embryos, and the status of sperm donors. Each model depicts a different understanding of reproduction and regret, supplementing Gonzales and the ensuing commentary on that case with a more expansive inquiry into the work courts have used regret to perform and the unarticulated assumptions or normative commitments that might explain the doctrinal and rhetorical inconsistencies. This wider lens illuminates regret's regulatory function across the range of cases.

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