Saturday, November 05, 2005

Why Roe Matters to Gays

In a high school health class, my teacher asked us to write a researched opinion paper on abortion. I hadn't really given the subject much thought, but eventually I decided that while I thought abortion was most definitely a bad thing, there seemed to be good reasons for keeping it legal.

I failed the assignment. The teacher told me explicitly, "You can't sit on the fence on this issue!" I took the paper to the administration, and they ordered the teacher to give me a passing grade. At 17, however, I already knew I was gay, and I felt awkward discussing the subject of abortion because I knew it wasn't something that was going to be relevant to my life.

Over the years my understanding of the debate has become more nuanced, but my position really hasn't changed, and until recently, I still wondered what business gay people had having an opinion on the subject.

Even though I recognize that a conservative person who opposes abortion is statistically likely to also oppose gay rights, I distanced myself from people and groups who made a habit of assuming that someone opposed to abortion was also anti-gay. After all, I know gay people who are opposed to abortion; furthermore, opposition to abortion is a legitimate ethical stance, whereas opposition to homosexuality is merely prejudice.

However, the Supreme Court nomination process has helped me to understand why this is such a crucial issue for the gay community. Roe v. Wade is not really about abortion; it is about a right to privacy.

Jon Davidson, legal director at Lambda Legal, recently explained it this way to the Gay City News: “Roe is the foundation for Lawrence [v. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court ruling which overturned all sodomy laws in the U.S.]. The privacy right of what you do with your body that was the foundation of Roe is inextricably linked to Lawrence. If Roe falls, Lawrence could be in jeopardy.”

Roe, in turn, draws on 1965's Griswold v. Connecticut; you might recall that early in the doomed confirmation process of Harriet Miers, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) initially told the press that Ms. Miers had expressed her support for Griswold and believed in a Constitutional right to privacy. Shortly thereafter, however, Specter had to issue a correction that Ms. Miers had expressed no such support and he must have misunderstood.

This is why these rulings matter; the issue of abortion is a red herring. Conservative activists want these rulings overturned not so much because they care about unborn children (though I am not accusing them of insincerity, just ulterior motives), but because they stand in the way of the right wing's plans to legislate their morality for all of us.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well put. To me RvW is about privacy and the right to choose. It's neither pro- or anti-abortion, it's just protecting the individual's right to make decisions.

Courtney said...

Excellent post. Just excellent.

Andy said...

Wow, Courtney...I can't tell you how much your approval on this subject means to me -- thanks.

Esther said...

I agree that Roe is really about the right to privacy and not abortion. The way I see it, I don't care what people do in the bedroom so long as they don't kill innocents because of it. I am a conservative who does care about the unborn children. And the main problem I have with the right to privacy is that in Roe it is held as a higher value the right to life.

Esther said...

Me not type good today . . .

Nathan said...

Andy,

Good post, I hadn't thought of it that way.

Which HS teacher asked you to write an essay on abortion?! I know it was only 1992, but sheesh, what a powder keg.

obliquity said...

Insightful and well-put. I completely agree with your concise position.

Andy said...

N: I don't remember her name, she was a long-term sub. The regular teacher was on the football coaching staff or something (of course) and went on leave for knee surgery or something, as I recall, and we had her for about six weeks, I think. (Postscript for the historically curious: Nathan and Courtney and I went to high school together. Aw.)

Courtney said...

This would NOT be the same teacher who once asked me in health class, "What would you do if you were fifteen and pregnant?" To which Andy infamously replied, "Courtney wouldn't get in THAT situation!" Ah, memories.

Andy said...

Yeah. I meant it as a compliment, but it was sort of backhanded, wasn't it? Sorry. : (

p.p. said...

Well put, Andy.

little-cicero said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
little-cicero said...

Isn't the "privacy right" of the Constitution" a more blatant fabrication than the "proportional representation clause of the equal protection clause" you cited by Harriet Miers. If an actual right to privacy existed in the Bill of Rights, the argument would have grounds, but to say that government not being allowed to search your house without warrant is akin to government not being able to see that your pregnancy isn't terminated (with a warrant, of sorts) seems a bit of a stretch. If you were to go with an amendment in the Bill of Rights supporting the pro-choice or State-choice position, as a Constitutional scholar (lol) I would say you should look at the 9th and 10th amendments rather than the 4th.

Andy said...

Is that really how you think? Then FINE, LC, I hope you live in a state that formerly had anti-sodomy laws applying to both hetero- and homosexuals, and I hope the police bust in on your bedroom while your future wife is blowing you and drag you in the middle of the night to jail and then let's see what you think of a consitutional right to privacy.

Courtney said...

Ok, seems a little off topic after the heated exchange, but A, I just wanted to say about your comment about me. It was a little snarky at the time, but a) funny (especially now), and b) prescient.

Esther said...

Andy, I don't mean to be rude, but to paraphrase my second favorite tv series, I'm trying to think of a cruder way you could have put that reply to LC and I just can't. It was uncalled for even if his comment was somewhat questionable.

little-cicero said...

Thanks Esther! I'll just say that unlike the basic human rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the right to privacy, as ritcheous as it may be, was not intended by our forefathers to be absolutely unbreached (privacy is not among the big 3). That is why they deliberately said "no search and seizure without warrant" rather than "the absolute right to privacy" To take down a crime family, bust a gang on a drug transaction, stop a terrorist attack, or save the life of an innocent human being, we are allowed, within reason, to consider the richeousness of such a breach of rights. I don't know where you get the idea that I'm pro-sodomy law, but I'm not!

"Nothing brings more bondage than too much liberty" -Benjamin Franklin

Andy said...

I won't apologize. You don't have to live in a country where people want to criminalize your relationships. A right to privacy is an intrinsic, elemental part of the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It's an essential protection.

Courtney said...

what could be more intrinsic to the pursuit of happiness than getting laid?

Saucy Gillespie said...

I find a flaw in one of the points of your argument.
"…furthermore, opposition to abortion is a legitimate ethical stance, whereas opposition to homosexuality is merely prejudice."
I think this statement contradicts itself. If you could step back from this statement and look at it, maybe you can see where I am coming from.
The statement strikes me as contradictory because the doctrine of morality that anti-abortionists use to justify their stance is the Holy Bible.
Ironically, the doctrine most people use to justify a stance against the practice of homosexuality is…the Holy Bible.
I don’t mean to be totally offensive here, but do you just pick and choose things out of the Christian religion that suit you and your lifestyle?
As far as this government’s plan to “legislate their morality for all of us”…well that is just a comical statement to me. To think of the United States government as an institution that really cares about “morality” is a joke. This government merely uses religion and so-called morality as a means to keep people complacent and ignorant of issues that really affect them. You even said it yourself, “I still wondered what business gay people had having an opinion on the subject.” The Bush administration used these snowball tactics to keep themselves in power; and conservatives are going to milk this new doctrine of morality as long as it keeps bringing in the votes. Where is the morality in the Iraq War, Andy? Where is the morality in the Right Winged stance on Africa and AIDS? Do you think most government officials really care how you spend your time? The sad fact is, a lot of Christian voters do, and it eats them up inside whenever they have to think about two people of the same sex having it.
This country chooses policy that centers on the maintenance of a lifestyle for a few, at the cost to many. The sad thing is, people like you are always trying to simplify things down to this struggle of “What’s right?/What’s wrong? Religion is the opiate of the people Andy…and I think your post kind of adds strength to Marx’s statement.

Esther said...

Andy, and neither do you. It's called moving . . . But seriously, I did not ask you to apologize for your beliefs and sentiments. In fact, I did not ask you to apologize. I merely commented on the manner in which you stated your sentiments. Which, incidentally, is not a manner that inclines people to agree with you at all. It rather inclines people to be annoyed and wonder why you are not a very good listener.

You know, not to sound lecture-ish, but everyone who has beliefs holds to them very strongly. The only way to change the minds of those who you think are wrong is to give them respect for at least thinking about the issues at hand.

little-cicero said...

I don't see how debating the importance of "privacy rights" is offensive to gays specifically. Once again, it seems that your homosexuality is stirring passion in your argument. A good debate is without passion, as passion obstructs reasoning.

The country simply doen't want to "criminalize your relationships". If you and your partner went to city hall and declared yourselves married, you would not have an arrest warrant out for you. Perhaps when you applied for a government program this would occur, but the union is illegal, not the relationship.

Stephanie said...

My English class has debates over issues like this all the time; it gets pretty intense. I really enjoy your blog, but I especially liked this post. Very thought-provoking. I agree that Roe is more importantly an issue of privacy rather than abortion. If the government asserts its ability to breach one area of our private lives, what's to stop them from prying further? Kudos to you on this one :).

little-cicero said...

Good question! I know it's Andy's place to reply to this comment, but the Constitution is to stop the government from prying further via the fourth amendment. The fourth amendment does NOT concern abortion, it is very specific in its concerns for a reason. There is no general right to privacy in the US, only implications set by specific laws and rights.

p.p. said...

True that the US Const. does not specifically mention a right to privacy. However, Supreme Court has long held that the right to privacy is a basic human right, and as such is protected by virtue of the 9th Amendment. In addition, it is said that a right to privacy is inherent in many of the amendments in the Bill of Rights, such as the 3rd, 4th, and 5th.

little-cicero said...

"I would say you should look at the 9th and 10th amendments rather than the 4th." That was in my first comment on this post, and I stand by it. If you are to oppose by the Constitution a federal ban on abortion or same sex marriage, look to the 9th and 10th amendments...don't abuse the 4th for the sake of political gain. The Constitution was well written. Personally I believe Roe should be struck down, because it is not the role of the federal judiciary to concern itself with abortion. It is for the states, as is gay marriage. That's federalism, take it or leave it!