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Abortion and the Privacy Amendment

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Abortion and the Privacy Amendment

A U.S. citizen's "right to privacy" was first discussed in an 1890 Harvard Law Review article in which two Boston lawyers, Louis Brandeis and Samuel Warren, defined it as "the right to be let alone." Since then, the right to privacy has provided the basis for a stream of revolutionary and controversial constitutional interpretations by courts across the United States, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Although decisions have come down in favor of a right to privacy, they are largely based on a broad and disputed interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment. With the plethora of privacy issues that confront courts and policymakers in the current information age, the time for an amendment specifying the inalienable right to privacy is quickly approaching.

Despite all the social, medical and religious undertones in the abortion debate, the Roe v. Wade opinion, written by Justice Harry Blackmun, has stood for twenty-four years on the basis that the right to choose an abortion is part of a woman's "right to personal privacy," a right that Blackmun stated is "founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action."

However, some contest that the Fourteenth Amendment does not strongly identify an inalienable right to privacy as a constitutional right. Justice Rehnquist, in the dissenting 1973 opinion, wrote, "the Court necessarily has had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently completely un-known to the drafters of the Amendment." For this rea-son, some scholars, as well as members of the current Court, consider Roe v. Wade a fragile decision that ...

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...s is a person.

This would not be an abortion amendment. Instead, it would protect citizens from intrusions into all parts of their lives. Technology and computers have opened people's file cabinets and family photo albums, and the information revolution has just begun to reinvent the world. The privacy amendment could protect celebrities from an over-zealous press and individual citizens from governmental gene records or medical record banks. It could allow the courts to decide what information can be released for the public good, and it could allow the future issues of privacy to be solved with respect to personal rights. Without an amendment, the United States could become increasingly dependent on a questionable interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, leaving citizens standing naked under the beam of a roaming technology spotlight.
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