A Federal Abortion-Rights Statute

The Story:

Recent developments on the US Supreme Court and in the legislatures of several states have persuaded many observers that there is risk to the principle of constitutional (privacy right) protection for a woman’s right to choose whether or not to bring her pregnancy to term. The way various candidates react to those developments may play a large part in the Democratic Party’s primary contest for the presidential nod in 2020.

Background:

The landmark Supreme Court decision on abortion rights has stood now for 46 years: it is Roe v. Wade, a case decided by a 7 to 2 vote in January 1973. Justice Blackmun wrote the opinion for that majority.

Intriguingly, through the 1950s Harry Blackmun was the resident counsel of the Mayo Clinic, the famed academic medical center in Rochester, Minnesota. He was, then, a physician’s lawyer, and it is fitting that his 1973 opinion makes the case for leaving certain medical decisions within the privacy of the physician-patient consultation.

The Thing to Know:

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D – MA) has said that Congress should pass a statute giving the force of federal law to the principle of privacy as it applies to abortion. That would likely preempt any contrary state laws, thus codifying Roe.

 

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