kirkland headshot

Anna Kirkland

Kim Lane Scheppele Collegiate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, University of Michigan
Chapter Member: Michigan SSN

About Anna

Kirkland is an interdisciplinary scholar of law and politics in the contemporary United States with a focus on rights claiming, health, and discrimination. She studies how ordinary people mobilize law and rights claims to make political claims about what they deserve and what harms to them should be officially recognized. Her research has explored topics such as whether weight discrimination in the workplace should be illegal and how claims to vaccine injury should be handled. She has offered testimony to the Massachusetts legislature in their consideration of a weight-based civil rights bill and submitted an expert witness brief in the Michigan same sex marriage case, DeBoer v. Snyder (2014), as well as advised the CDC and immunization advocacy groups about the activities of the anti-vaccine movement.


In the News

Quoted by in "Dispute Over Charter Reveals Much about Power," Post Bulletin, March 22, 2018.
Quoted by Anders Kelto in "Are the Vaccine Court's Requirements Too Strict?," Morning Edition, June 3, 2015.
Quoted by Anders Kelto in "Vaccine Court Aims to Protect Patients and Vaccines," National Public Radio: All Things Considered, June 2, 2015.
Opinion: "Expand Legal Protections to Include Weight," Anna Kirkland, New York Times, November 29, 2011.


"Health Care Civil Rights: How Discrimination Law Fails Patients" (University of California Press, forthcoming).

Examines civil rights protections from discrimination in the American health care system and in health care interactions, focusing on gender identity discrimination.

"Power and Persuasion in the Vaccine Debates: An Analysis of Political Efforts and Outcomes in the States, 1998-2012" (with Denise Lillvis and Anna Frick). Milbank Quarterly 92, no. 3 (2014): 475-508.

Draws on an analysis of every vaccine-related bill introduced in all 50 states from 1998 to 2012 to argue that the anti-vaccine movement has not had a major legislative victory since 2003, though the movement mobilized effectively to block adverse legislation until 2011. Predicts the 2015 California legislation restricting philosophical exemptions to school vaccine requirements.

"Vaccine Court: The Law and Politics of Injury" (New York University Press, 2016).

Explores how activists and government actors come to know, identify, and compensate for vaccine injuries, and what recent debates over vaccine safety reveal about democratic engagement with volatile scientific questions in the contemporary United States.

"Critical Perspectives on Wellness" Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law 39, no. 5 (2014): 971-988.

Criticizes wellness programs in employment for their moralism and potential as drivers of discrimination, especially on the basis of disability, pregnancy, or weight, in the context of the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of wellness incentives and punitive measures.

"The Legitimacy of Vaccine Critics: What’s Left after Autism?" Journal of Health Policy, Politics and Law 37, no. 1 (2012): 69-97.

Analyzes the underlying ideologies, political commitments, and organizational histories of the most prominent groups advocating against vaccination and for the hypothesis that vaccines cause autism.

"Credibility Battles in the Autism Litigation" Social Studies of Science 42, no. 2 (2012): 237-261.

Describes the claims in our no-fault vaccine court that vaccine caused autism in several representative test cases, detailing exactly how the scientific basis for the claims failed.

"Fat Rights: Dilemmas of Difference and Personhood" (New York University Press, 2008).

Analyzes discrimination law by asking, what if we wanted to add weight to anti-discrimination laws? Argues that while weight discrimination is unfair, our anti-discrimination laws do not provide very robust grounds for protections because they are so individualized, difficult to use, and limited in scope.