Is a woman's ability to get an abortion a constitutionally protected right?
Where is the common ground for people of different views on the issue of reproductive freedom?
April 8, 2006
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons," a phrase right out of the 4th Amendment, seems pretty straightforward to me. But beyond that constitutional right, a woman's right to decide what happens to her body is a fundamental human right.
Roe v. Wade is a remarkable document. It looks at that fundamental right in terms of the developing fetus, and clearly states that a pregnant woman starts to share with the "state" the right to say what happens to the growing fetus as the fetus itself matures toward viability - the ability to be separated from the pregnant woman, by whatever means, and live to tell about it. It is at that point of viability that the government gains a legitimate interest in, and the right to intercede in some cases, in a pregnant woman's decision on whether or not to continue a pregnancy. I think that is a valid and appropriate position for our government to take.
What is also in Roe v. Wade, to its credit, is a straight-forward statement that the court decision deliberately excludes theology, the issue of when life begins. To me, that is at the crux of this issue. The push to criminalize abortion is a religious drive, by people whose religious beliefs do not allow them to see abortion in any secular context. So I see the abortion debate not just in terms of Constitutional rights, or even fundamental human rights, but also in terms of religious freedom.
A woman has the fundamental human right to make reproductive decisions, including the decision about whether or not to continue a given pregnancy. And she has the right to make that decision based on her own religious beliefs, only constrained in the United States by the "viability" factor in the Roe v. Wade court decision. And based on our Constitution's First Amendment rights, she has the right to make that very personal and religious decision without coercion by state or federal laws promulgated on the religious beliefs of others, beliefs to which she may not subscribe.
My position is that Roe v. Wade IS the common ground we are looking for.