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Laurence J. Kotlikoff

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Women's Rights, Fetuses' Rights, and States' Rights

Posted: 03/22/2012 8:00 am

Our country has been wrestling with abortion for a very long time. On my campaign site, I point out that all of us are both pro-choice and pro-life. Pro-lifers wouldn't force two unwilling people to procreate even though doing so would produce life. In that context, pro-lifers are pro-choicers. And pro-choicers wouldn't abort a late-term fetus. In that context, pro-choicers are pro-lifers. Stated differently, even though the two sides think they are miles apart, they are actually both confronting the same problem of where to draw the line.

The Supreme Court reached its Solomonic judgment on this issue in its landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. This decision and subsequent cases are unequivocal in stipulating that a woman has a right to abort a fetus before it becomes viable. The issue of when viability is reached was not set in stone by the court, but what's clearly settled is that women have the right to abort early and medium-term pregnancies, where "medium-term" remains for the courts to decide.

I view having a right as having the option to do something free of state intervention, coercion, or interference. Consequently, I find very troubling the attempts of politicians in Virginia and Pennsylvania to require women to undergo ultrasound examinations prior to exercising their lawful federal right to have an abortion. I find it outrageous that these politicians would consider forcing women to undergo invasive examinations as part of the ultrasounds.

Reaching the decision to have an abortion is one of the most personal and difficult decisions a woman ever comes to make. Women not only have a legal right to make this decision, but they have a legal right to privacy with respect to this decision. In a companion case to Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, the Supreme Court ruled that, when abortion is lawful, the right to privacy extends to the decision to have an abortion and that this right is enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

The Governors of Virginia and Pennsylvania as well as other politicians in these states feel their states have the right to invade women's privacy when it comes to exercising their legal rights to have lawful abortions. Today they feel that women should be forced to have particular tests before making their decisions. Tomorrow they may decide that women should be forced to watch particular videos, read particular articles and books, listen to particular tapes, and, who knows, meet with the Governors themselves, before exercising their rights.

The politicians would do well to respect the law of the land and the Constitution of the United States. Women have rights, fetuses have rights, and states have rights. But in the case at hand, women have the right to make their extremely difficult decision in private, based on information, including tests, that they voluntarily choose to have and consider.

 

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