Happy anniversary, kinda

22 01 2012

It’s the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. There may not be many more.

The decision has been politically attacked, and has been honeycombed by any number of succeeding Supreme Court decisions, but as of today, it still stands.

This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment‘s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment‘s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent. Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved. Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, as in this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved. All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation. . . .

Although the results are divided, most of these courts have agreed that the right of privacy, however based, is broad enough to cover the abortion decision; that the right, nonetheless, is not absolute, and is subject to some limitations; and that, at some point, the state interests as to protection of health, medical standards, and prenatal life, become dominant. We agree with this approach.

–Justice Harry Blackmun, writing for the majority.

I am, as I’ve written numerous times previously, an abortion-rights militant, to the point of opposition to any state regulation of abortion beyond that regulating the safety of medical procedures generally.

Still, I consider Roe v. Wade a victory for the rights of women, and when it is overturned or so hollowed out that it effectively collapses—something which I think will happen, likely before its 50th anniversary—I will mourn its passing.

Today, however, I celebrate it.

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