63 N.C. L. Rev. 375 (1984-1985)
Some Thoughts on Autonomy and Equality in Relation to Roe v. Wade

handle is hein.journals/nclr63 and id is 397 raw text is: ESSAY
SOME THOUGHTS ON AUTONOMY AND
EQUALITY IN RELATION TO
ROE V WADE
RUTH BADER GINSBURGt
The 1973 United States Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade
sparked a legal and political controversy that continues to this day.
Judge Ginsburg suggests that the Roe opinion would have been more
acceptable f it had not gone beyond a ruling on the extreme statute
involved in the case. She agrees with commentary maintaining that the
Court should have adverted specfcally to sex equality considerations.
Such an approach might have muted the criticism of the Roe decision.
The breadth and detail of the Roe opinion ironically may have stimu-
lated, rather than discouraged, antiabortion measures, particularly with
respect to public funding of abortion.
These remarks contrast two related areas of constitutional adjudication:
gender-based classification and reproductive autonomy. In both areas, the
Burger Court, in contrast to the Warren Court, has been uncommonly active.
The two areas are intimately related in this practical sense: the law's response
to questions subsumed under these headings bears pervasively on the situation
of women in society. Inevitably, the shape of the law on gender-based classifi-
cation and reproductive autonomy indicates and influences the opportunity
women will have to participate as men's full partners in the nation's social,
political, and economic life.'
Doctrine in the two areas, however, has evolved in discrete compart-
ments. The High Court has analyzed classification by gender under an equal
t This Essay was delivered as the William T. Joyner Lecture on Constitutional Law at the
University of North Carolina School of Law on April 6, 1984.
t United States Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit. The author acknowledges with appreciation the assistance of her 1983-1984 law clerk,
Michael Klarman, in the composition of this Essay.
1. See Karst, Foreword- Equal Citizenshop Under the Fourteenth Amendment, 91 HARV. L.
REV. 1, 53-59 (1977). In composing this presentation, I have been stimulated, particularly, by the
more encompassing and trenchant work of Professor Sylvia Law of New York University Law
School, Law, Rethinking Sex and the Constitution, 132 U. PA. L. REv. 955 (1984), and Professor
Wendy Williams of Georgetown University Law Center, W. Williams, Equality Riddle: Preg-
nancy and the Equal Treatment/Special Treatment Debate (Mar. 1984) (unpublished manu-
script); W. Williams, Pregnancy: Special Treatment vs. Equal Treatment (Mar. 7, 1982)
(unpublished manuscript); W. Williams, The Equality Crisis: Some Reflections on Culture, Courts
and Feminism (1982) (unpublished manuscript). Iowe both of them special appreciation for shar-
ing their draft manuscripts and ideas with me. For the vulnerabilities readers lind in this discus-
sion of tense issues, however, I bear sole responsibility.

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