Abortion Essay Research Paper ROE V WADE

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Abortion Essay, Research Paper ROE V. WADE AND THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.”1 U.S. Supreme Court Justices O’Conner, Kennedy and Souter Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey Abortion in the United States Before Roe When Roe v. Wade was decided in January 1973, abortion except to save a woman’s life was banned in nearly two-thirds of the states.2 Laws in most of the remaining states contained only a few additional exceptions.3 It is estimated that each year 1.2 million women resorted to illegal

abortion,4 despite the known hazards “of frightening trips to dangerous locations in strange parts of town; of whiskey as an anesthetic; of ‘doctors’ who were often marginal or unlicensed practitioners, sometimes alcoholic, sometimes sexually abusive; unsanitary conditions; incompetent treatment; infection; hemorrhage; disfiguration; and death.”4 The Constitutional Development of the Right to Privacy During the half century leading up to Roe, the Supreme Court decided a series of significant cases in which it recognized the existence of a constitutionally protected right to privacy that keeps fundamentally important and deeply personal decisions concerning “bodily integrity, identity and destiny” largely beyond the reach of government interference.6 Citing this

concern for autonomy and privacy, the Court struck down laws severely curtailing the role of parents in education, mandating sterilization, and prohibiting marriages between individuals of different races.7 Important aspects of the right to privacy were established in Griswold v. Connecticut8, decided in 1965, and in Eisenstadt v. Baird, decided in 1972.9 In these cases, the Supreme Court held that state laws that criminalized or hindered the use of contraception violated the right to privacy. Having recognized in these cases “the right of the individual to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child,”10 the Court held in Roe that the right to privacy encompasses the right to

choose whether to end a pregnancy.11 The Court has reaffirmed this holding on multiple occasions throughout the past 25 years,12 noting in 1992 that “[t]he soundness of this . . . analysis is apparent from a consideration of the alternative.”13 Without a privacy right that encompasses the right to choose, the Constitution would permit the state to override not only a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy, but also her choice to carry the pregnancy to term.14 The Roe Compromise Although Roe invalidated restrictive abortion laws that disregarded women’s right to privacy, the Court recognized a state’s valid interest in potential life.15 That is, the Court rejected arguments that the right to choose is absolute and always outweighs the state’s interest in imposing

limitations.16 Instead, the Court issued a carefully crafted decision that brought the state’s interest and the woman’s right to choose into balance. The Court held that a woman has the right to choose abortion until fetal viability, but that the state’s interest generally outweighs the woman’s right after that point.17 Accordingly, after viability — the time at which it first becomes realistically possible for fetal life to be maintained outside the woman’s body — the state may ban any abortion not necessary to preserve a woman’s life or health.18 25 Years of Roe: A Better Life for Women By invalidating laws that forced women to resort to back-alley abortion, Roe was directly responsible for saving women’s lives. It is estimated that as many as 5000 women died