Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court, asked only 2 questions during today’s oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson, the Mississippi abortion case that could result in of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey being overthrown or in further restrictions in abortions.
The oral arguments provided an opportunity for both sides to address what had and had not changed since Roe and Casey were decided.
Justice Barrett said the following; “So petitioner points out that in all 50 states, you can terminate parental rights by relinquishing a child after [birth], and I think the shortest period might be 48 hours if I’m remembering the data correctly. It seems to me, seen in that light — both Roe and Casey emphasize the burdens of parenting. And insofar as you and many of your amici focus on the ways in which forced parenting, forced motherhood, would hinder women’s access to the workplace, and to equal opportunities, it’s also focused on the consequences of parenting and the obligations of motherhood that flow from pregnancy — why don’t the safe haven laws take care of that problem?”
She continued: “It seems to me that it focuses the burden much more narrowly. There is without question an infringement on bodily autonomy, for which we have another context like vaccines — however, it doesn’t seem to me to follow that pregnancy and then parenthood are all part of the same burden, and so it seems to me that the choice, more focused, would be between say the ability to get an abortion at 23 weeks, or the state requiring the woman to go 15, 16 weeks more, and then terminate parental rights at the conclusion. Why didn’t you address the safe haven laws and why don’t they matter?”
Barrett also re-visited her point regarding adoption. “Actually, as I read Roe and Casey, they don’t talk very much about adoption. It’s a passing reference that means out of the obligations of parenthood.”
Mark Joseph Stern said that Barrett, by raising this option, had taken “direct aim at Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed Roe while injecting an equality principle into the right to abortion by explaining that the burdens of parenthood diminished women’s personal and professional opportunities.
Julie Rikelman, senior director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, responded to Barrett’s comments by noting that carrying a birth to term was more medically dangerous than abortion. Likewise, she noted the emotional toll of placing a child up for adoption
Teresa Collett, a pro-life leader and University of St. Thomas law professor who helped craft an amicus brief for the Dobbs case, said she was “encouraged “by Barrett’s comments.
“For good or for ill,” said Collett, “a woman can give birth and transfer responsibility for that child to the state simply by leaving the child in a safe location, like a fire station” or a hospital.
Collett was not surprised that Justice Barrett raised the topic of safe havens and adoption. “We mentioned in our brief that we have to distinguish the act of giving birth with the life-long responsibility of caring for a child,” she explained. “There is adoption, and we have long waiting lines for adoptive parents.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: CNN
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