Monday, July 13, 2009

Was Roe v. Wade a constitutionally sound decision?

The Senate hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor began today. Lurking in the background of every Supreme Court confirmation hearing is the question of whether the Court's Roe v. Wade ruling was properly decided, or whether it should be overturned. Roe (and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton) effectively legalized abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy.

Here's what a few notable commentators have said about the decision. Keep this in mind when pro-choice senators speak as if Roe is sacred.

The late, eminent legal scholar John Hart Ely, who supported legal abortion: Roe "is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be."

Harvard law professor Archibald Cox: "Neither historian, nor layman, nor lawyer will be persuaded that all the prescriptions of [Roe] are part of the Constitution."

Dissenting Justice William Rehnquist: "To reach its result, the Court necessarily has had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently completely unknown to the drafters of the Amendment."

Edward Lazarus, former clerk to Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe: "As a matter of constitutional interpretation and judicial method, Roe borders on the indefensible. … Justice Blackmun's opinion provides essentially no reasoning in support of its holding. And in the … years since Roe's announcement, no one has produced a convincing defense of Roe on its own terms."