Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Roe v. Wade

I've long believed that the decision in Roe v. Wade was an example of judicial overreach that did very little to secure women's rights and ultimately helped to empowered the pro-life movement. Whether you agree with that position or not, I think it's pretty hard to argue that Roe was fairly decided. Aside from some of the practical issues that complicated the case -- like the fact that Jane Roe (whose real name is Norma McCorvey) now admits she committed perjury when she claimed that her pregnancy was the result of rape -- there are a number of moral and legal question which I believe the Court overlooked or oversimplified in rendering its final decision. Still, there's one thing that keeps bugging me . . .

The debate over Roe usually centers around two main arguments. Supporters of the decision maintain that there is a Constitutionally-implied right to privacy (established by the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut), which safeguards a woman's right to control her own body. Opponents, on the other hand, contend that states have a "compelling interest" in preserving potential life (at whatever stage of development), and that this interest may supersede the right of a mother to arbitrarily terminate her pregnancy.

I happen to think the notion that an implied "right to privacy" further implies a right to unlimited legal abortion within the first trimester is a bit of a logical leap. But the question that's been really been nagging at me is this: If the Supreme Court doesn't recognize an unborn child as having any compelling right to life (at least within the first trimester), how can our legal system hold abusive husbands responsible when their actions lead to miscarriage or death of the child? Why, for example, was someone like Scott Peterson charged with second degree murder in the killing his unborn child? If Laci Peterson had been earlier along in her pregnancy, would this charge have stuck?

Any thoughts?