Balancing A Mothers Rights
By Anthony J. Mountjoy | Sun, 10 Jul 2016 08:00:00 EST
Balancing a mother's right to privacy, control over her person and her health, and the State's right to protect the life of its citizens, the 1973 US Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade made it mandatory that women be allowed to get an abortion (ultimately until a fetus was deemed to be viable outside of the womb).
Although Roe v. Wade gave women across the United States the right to get an abortion, it did nothing to guarantee access to abortion services. And this, in part, is exactly how anti-abortion advocates have tried to infringe on the rights and freedoms of others. In the 1990s, for instance, the State of Nebraska attempted to ban a specific method of abortion (intact dilation and extraction) while still permitting abortions. (The ban was eventually overturned on the grounds that the safest method of abortion should be used.)
More recently, the State of Texas placed such onerous restrictions on clinics providing abortion services that, while abortions were still legal, no clinic was actually able to operate. The Supreme Court found that these kinds of restrictions were unconstitutional, and once again, preserved individuals' rights from the restrictions of others.
The Texas case (Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt) is instructive and shows just how far some people are willing to go to impose their views on others. The restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas were made under the guise of helping to ensure that women getting abortions were safe. After all, abortions are surgical procedures, so it only makes sense that abortion clinics be held to the same standards as hospital operating rooms, right? I mean why would we allow anyone (especially these frail women who can't make any decisions for themselves) to have surgery anywhere other than a hospital? (Maybe because we allow all kinds of other "surgical" procedures to be performed in clinics that aren't as "safe" as hospitals.)
A Single Rule Of Law For All Is A Critical Piece Of The Pluralist Ideal
The Supreme Court's ruling on this case is important for another reason as well. It shows that while we can have all kinds of rights and assume that we'll continue to have our rights because they're protected, those protections are meaningless if we're prevented from engaging in our rights. Women in Texas had the right to an abortion and were free to have one if they wanted. But because no one was able to provide abortion services, women were effectively denied their right to an abortion. And it's the same with any of our other rights, regardless of our sex[ual orientation], our race, or our culture.
It would have been one thing if no one in Texas wanted to provide abortion services. The government shouldn't be able to force someone to provide goods or services that they don't want in order to satisfy someone else's rights—that's just as bad as infringing on someone's rights by making access illegal. But there were many people in Texas who wanted to provide abortions—a perfectly legal service. One of the great things about living in countries that guarantee citizens' rights is that those citizens are free to choose whether or not they want to benefit from those rights for themselves, without someone else telling what they can or can't do. If you don't think that abortion (or homosexuality, or the right to bear arms, or…) is right, that's your prerogative, and you don't have to have an abortion. But your belief doesn't allow you to force others to believe what you do either. The Supreme Court realized this and took a stance to protect our liberties. So this isn't just a victory for women—it's a victory for all of us.
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