Roe v. Wade and the Fallacy of State’s Rights
America recognizes the polarization around Roe v. Wade, a battle of morality and justice that ever more encroaches on the nation as the day the Supreme Court overturns the landmark case ticks closer. Across the partisan aisle, everyone accepts the sweeping impact any change to Roe v. Wade will carry on American society.
Most Americans stick to the mainstream debate: pro-choice v. pro-life, the argument for bodily autonomy of women against the assertion of the inherent life of a fetus. Although studies demonstrate a significant majority of voters support some form of abortion, decades have proven that this polarization will remain indefinitely, at least for our lifetimes.
Beyond the questions of morality on abortion itself, however, some groups, particularly libertarians, argue that Roe v. Wade is about federalism rather than bodily autonomy. This approach circumvents the true issue of women’s rights: by arguing only for state’s rights, anti-abortion Americans can mask their views under a supposedly just and moral outlook on the foundations of government. Thus, ignoring the underlying issue of abortion enables those against abortion to make an argument that seems less partisan while simultaneously veiling their true opinions.
Under closer inspection, even that specific argument for state’s rights carries no real weight. Under Roe v. Wade, women have a right to abortion: abortion is a “right.” The balance of power between the federal and state governments should serve to protect rights. When a state becomes oppressive, the federal government’s duty is to step in and ensure all Americans of all states have the same fundamental rights. Conversely, states retain enough power to resist an oppressive federal government.
If abortion is a “right,” the federal government has a fundamental duty to protect it. The Bill of Rights, a document that both parties support, is part of the federal effort to unify the rights of Americans. Abortion is highly similar. By stating that unenumerated rights are not implied to be denied, the constitution predicted that rights it does not directly reference would become areas of contention in the future.
The government's primary purpose is to protect rights. This objective is more fundamental than any document, including the constitution, which was designed to establish a political system that could protect rights. When that political system tries to obstruct any rights of individuals, we must look back at the original purpose of government.
Government will never be perfect, so we must strive for a pragmatic system. An idealistic view of perfectly aligning America to some historical precedent ignores the true impact of destroying Roe v. Wade. Optimally, the constitution, or at the minimum a federal law, should explicitly grant the right to abortion. The reality of partisanship in America today prevents such a reform in the short term, however, so Roe v. Wade must stand.
That said, abortion does have strong backing by the 14th amendment, an interpretation consistently upheld by the Supreme Court for decades. Only now, as conservative and radical fervor increases, does Roe v. Wade face extinction; any arguments about state’s rights serve as a veneer for an anti-abortion stance. The fallacy of state’s rights in Roe v. Wade is doubly refuted by the constitutional basis of abortion AND the true purpose of government.