The Question of Privacy: A Focused Addendum to Roe v. Wade

May 17, 2008

As a landmark case, the Roe v. Wade ruling built the foundation upon which the continuing debate between pro-life and pro-choice stands in the United States. While it ruled in favor of Jane Roe, and thus pro-choice, it also roused the proponents of pro-life to action, all revolving around the concept of the right to privacy, endowed upon each and every individual over themselves. Its significance as a landmark case, however, may soon be undermined by the current political climate of America. President Donald Trump is a stern pro-life advocate who seeks to place pro-life officials into the government. Underlying this is the concern over whether Roe v. Wade, as a historic precedent on abortion, would be overturned in favor of pro-life interest. It is vital, therefore, to revisit and reevaluate the significance of Roe v. Wade in the light of the right to privacy to demonstrate that the overturning of the ruling will prove to be a detriment to US constitutionality.

Seminal to the discussion is an elucidation of the essence of the Roe v. Wade decision. The point of contention in Roe v. Wade is stemmed in the right to privacy according to the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. In sum, all of the mentioned amendments have a common emphasis on the protection of the individual, with due process as the citizen’s primary means of defending himself from unjust and unconstitutional action. More finely, what is being drawn from the amendments is the keen attention to the right to privacy. This right alone serves as the guardian of the individual against outside interests, especially those of the government. It is precisely this that serves as the backbone of Jane Roe’s grievance against the current abortion laws in Texas. As a citizen, Roe is entitled to acting upon her own body what she wills, but the state regulations on abortion infringe upon that right as abortion is reduced solely to a means of saving the mother’s life and not as a medical procedure within the woman’s own volition.

The decision was timely. Along with the similarly concluded Doe v. Bolton case, Roe v. Wade paved the way to a revolution of the right to freedom of choice and, most importantly, the right to privacy. 1973 birthed a binary wave on abortion that persists until today: pro-life and pro-choice. Aside from being views on abortion however, both offer their own respective notions on the conception of human life in the midst of political strata. Pro-life speaks against abortion, and so it seeks to permeate a culture that calls for the regulation, if not total prohibition, of abortion. Pro-choice speaks for abortion, and thus it attempts to raise abortion from a taboo act to a behavioral norm. The ultimate realization of their goals lies in constitutionality, as what is legislated will slowly work its way into the minds and hearts of the citizens.

In this fashion, Roe v. Wade initiated a sociocultural breakthrough with abortion as the foundation. Questions were raised as to what limit the right of privacy may be enacted. As it ensures the “equal protection of all laws” to citizens, the ruling seems to provide a definitive answer, but it is not one that everyone accepted. Nevertheless, it led to a nationwide catharsis on the occurrences revolving US legislation and society. Of interest is this pattern: at the advent of a novel behavior, draconian regulations were put into place. They were strict out of a perceived guarantee that society, with its current traditional norms, would not fall apart somewhat. A sociocultural breakthrough takes place, after which the government attempts to alleviate current significant laws and society divides itself over what is the proper means of regulating the new act. Such was the case with the rise of the LGBTQ+ movement that was both slowly accepted and abhorred throughout the course of US history. And it, too, is entrenched in the individual’s right to privacy. 

In other words, Abortion and Roe v. Wade opened the horizon of possibilities that the right to privacy may be interpreted. What individual act or lifestyle that is now considered taboo may become a norm in the future. In the field of law, the case strictly serves as a precedent to similar cases on abortion. More than that, however, it is a quintessential model of the unpredictable, dynamic flow of sociocultural evolution and the flexibility of legislation to accommodate novelty.

Come the present, however, such flexibility falls into the risk of annihilation. With President Donald Trump seeking to elect pro-life advocates into office, the Planned Parenthood organization is also actively anticipating any case that may serve as grounds to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling. Should success be found in this, the debate over abortion may cease for the wrong reasons. Landmark cases are shining examples of gaping holes in the Law, with many serving as stare decisis which decisively concludes any similar case in the future. Such constitutes the scale of the Roe v. Wade ruling, and it is one that may be discarded along with future discursive prospects and the horizon of interpretations on the right to privacy. At the most extreme, the right to privacy abandoned and the individual no longer has control over himself beyond what the government, and the government alone, allows. The Roe v. Wade case, therefore, is monumental today as it was before. Grounded on a novel act of abortion, it serves as a gateway for various legislative and sociocultural breakthroughs. Its significance, ultimately, must be always be remembered so that discourse still serves viable in a world of divisiveness.

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