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Shaky Basis for a Constitutional 'Right'
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Author: Kermit Roosevelt
Date: Jan 22, 2003
Start Page: A.15
Section: EDITORIAL
Text Word Count: 878

No opinion with such deficiencies could be expected to provide a sound basis for resolution of a hotly contested social issue, and indeed, Roe has aged poorly. The current Supreme Court has all but explicitly discarded the constitutional methodology on which it rests. The idea that unelected judges should consult their inner oracles to decide whether a particular activity unmentioned in the Constitution deserves to be elevated to the pantheon of "fundamental rights" was always problematic. Beginning in 1986, when it refused to create constitutional protection for homosexual sodomy, the court started to hint that it was out of the fundamental rights business. Most recently, refusing to recognize a right to physician-assisted suicide in 1997, the court did not even mention Roe. The era of judicially created fundamental rights is over.

The fact that there are constitutional arguments in favor of not overruling Roe doesn't mean the opinion should be celebrated, at least not as anything other than a historical artifact. Roe is an increasingly creaky anachronism, and anyone who cares about a woman's right to choose should seek a sounder constitutional basis for that right. Such arguments have been put forth frequently in the scholarly literature, and most tend to cast the abortion controversy as a question not of liberty but of equality. Unlike the fundamental rights jurisprudence that produced Roe, the right to equal protection of the laws is alive and well in the Supreme Court. This perspective offers a way to go forward.

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