For me, the annual Book Review issue is a time for reflection. It provides an opportunity to take stock of scholarly trends, reassess conventional wisdom, and gather new insights to apply to the practice of law. The reviews contained in this year’s issue address a wide range of subjects, including the history of public defenders, the use of bigotry rhetoric in conflicts over marriage and civil rights law, the role of cost-benefit analysis in federal policymaking, and racial inequities in tax policy. This impressive commentary on an astute and varied collection of books about the law will inspire many of us to pause and consider larger questions about our own work: Where do things stand? How did we get here? What comes next?
My career has largely focused on reproductive rights. It is an area of the law that is perpetually at a crossroads and therefore always ripe for reflection. These rights, long recognized and deeply valued by a majority of Americans, are continually under attack and always—it would seem—on the brink of elimination. Almost from the day Roe v. Wade was decided, critics began calling for it to be overruled, and commentators began predicting its downfall. Although it has weathered the storm for nearly fifty years, those critics and commentators remain undeterred, still forecasting Roe’s imminent demise. And who knows? Perhaps this charged moment in our nation’s history, which seems increasingly like the dystopian future that prescient novelists warned of long ago, will see a disruption in constitutional protection for reproductive rights. Or perhaps the rights that have been central to the liberty and equality of women and gender-expansive people for half a century will continue to endure.
In this Foreword, I would like to reflect on two aspects of reproductive rights law in particular. First, there is a seeming duality in the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence. On the surface, it embodies a longstanding commitment to safeguarding the right to abortion. But just below the surface, the caselaw reflects a deep tension between this commitment and the Court’s recognition that certain members of our society—some motivated by “unprincipled emotional reactions” and others motivated by “principles worthy of profound respect”—will never accept that the Constitution grants the authority to make decisions about the outcome of a pregnancy to the individual who is pregnant rather than to the government. Second, the abortion right has proven surprisingly durable despite powerful efforts to subvert it. It seems that the vital relationship of this right to core constitutional values like liberty, equality, and freedom of belief, and the critical role that it plays in the ability of women and all people with the capacity for pregnancy to participate fully and equally in society, make it extremely difficult to cast aside, rhetorical denunciations notwithstanding.
The Never-Ending Struggle for Reproductive Rights,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol120/iss6/2