Fair Notice and Criminalizing Abortions

Slocum, Brian G.,Banteka, Nadia | March 5, 2024

The principle of legality requires that individuals receive “fair notice” of conduct that is criminal. Courts enforce this fair notice requirement through various interpretive principles and practices, including the void-for- vagueness doctrine. The void-for-vagueness doctrine remains undertheorized, however, despite its centrality to the interpretation of criminal statutes. We offer a new theory of the void-for-vagueness doctrine that accounts for recent Supreme Court decisions. Specifically, we propose a scalar theory that fair notice is a matter of degree, dependent on various factors. We explore the implications of this theory for anti-abortion statutes post-Dobbs and explain why many of these statutes do not provide fair notice to either ordinary individuals or medical professionals.