To the editor:
This month marks the 16th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision recognized a woman's right to privacy, striking down state statutes prohibiting abortion.This year, reflecting upon that decision is of particular import since the U.S. Supreme Court will soon be reviewing a case which calls for the revisiting of Roe.
Our constitutional right to privacy was originally articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut. In that case, the Connecticut Legislature had passed a statute criminalizing the use of contraception, even for married individuals.
The court concluded that such intrusion by the state was "repulsive to the notions of privacy," and invalidated the Connecticut statute.
The importance of this decision cannot be overstated. The Court recognized that the Constitution protects us from government control over procreative choices. It should be noted that where the government is given this authority, the results have been devastating.
In India, for example, Indira Ghandi instituted a program of forcible sterilization to control her county's burgeoning population. In China, the government mandated that couples limit themselves to one child.
These examples are lessons to each of us. They proclaim the fragility of our precious individual autonomy.
In the 1973 Roe decision, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed its commitment to the right to privacy, granting women the decision-making authority over their own bodies. Yet in 1989, we face a possible retrenchment by the Court.
It is likely that the Court, as currently constituted, will grant states broader latitude in regulating abortion and it is feasible that the state will again be free to proscribe the procedure completely.
Utah would undoubtedly be among the first to do so. If this occurs, we as free citizens of Utah would lose substantially more than the convenience of local access to abortion services. We would relinquish to the state control over our intimacies, thereby adopting the models of India and China.
For a state legislature empowered to prohibit abortion can, with the same stroke of its pen, compel it.
Robyn E. Blumner
American Civil Liberties Union of Utah