Abortion: A Woman's Private Choice
Michele Bratcher Goodwin and Erwin Chemerinsky, Abortion: A Woman's Private Choice, 95 Tx. L. Rev. 1189 (2017).
The uncertainty about abortion rights makes it especially important to provide a strong constitutional foundation and the best possible constitutional defense for their protection. That is our purpose in this Article, because abortion rights in the United States are in serious jeopardy. Despite the fact that a legal abortion is medically safer than carrying a pregnancy to term in the United States, that right may soon be more illusory than real. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, lessons from the era preceding that landmark decision underscore the broad harms women will encounter, particularly because 49% of pregnancies in the United States are unintended. In traditionally conservative states, the rates of unintended pregnancies are even higher: 54% in Texas, 55% in Alabama and Arkansas, 60% in Louisiana, and 62% in Mississippi, among others. Yet these states also have some of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the developing world: Texas ranks worst in the developing world on maternal mortality.
The Article proceeds in three parts. First, it explains the flawed foundation for the protection of reproductive rights under the Constitution, noting that the problem began in Griswold v. Connecticut, the first case to protect reproductive freedom. Second, it seeks to reconceptualize abortion rights and underscore the value and relevance of a reproductive justice framework, including taking serious account of women’s lived lives. Finally, in Part III we discuss what it would mean for abortion to be regarded as a private choice. In this Part, we identify three implications: a) restoring strict scrutiny to examining laws regulating abortions, which would mean that the government must be neutral between childbirth and abortion; b) preventing the government from denying funding for abortions when it pays for childbirth; and c) invalidating the countless types of restrictions on abortion — often referred to as “targeted restrictions of abortion providers” — that have the purpose and effect of limiting women’s access to abortion rather than promoting safety and health. We especially focus on “informed consent” and waiting period laws and show that they are inconsistent with regarding abortion as a private choice for each woman.