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PoliticsBlackmun Evolution on Abortion Rights
By amicelz
Category: Politics. Viewed 3924 times. Created September 2013.     Disclaimer.   
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No formal position on abortion before it came up in Vuitch v. United States. Blackmun said he would oppose a direct appeal to hear the case, but were it to be argued, he was "inclined to hold up the statute..." (pg. 76) that would declare an abortion law unconstitutional.
Joined part of Justice Black's opinion on Vuitch v. United States that stated the broad definition of health was too vague, and should be unconstitutional.
Voted to declare the Texas law in Roe v. Wade unconstitutional that made it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion except "for the purpose of saving the life of the mother." He also voted to strike down the Georgia law in Doe v. Bolten that permitted abortion when a woman's doctor, in addition to two other physicians examining her, concluded the pregnancy seriously threatened her life or health; when the fetus would most likely be born with severe mental or physical defects or when the pregnancy resulted from rape. Both laws were considered unconstitutional because they were vague and violated the fundamental rights of women.
Thought Roe was vague and that it lacked a proper definition of health. Didn't initially desire to delve deeper into Ninth Amendment issues. He considered the constitutional question was "the imprecision of permitting abortion only for "saving the life of the mother." What did the exception mean?" (pg. 88)
Acknowledged there were deeper issues in the case but he felt there was "no need" to discuss abortion rights in this case. He felt it was exclusively to say the statute was unconstitutionally vague. He still supports abortion but he is resisting making the case involve the issue. He wants to keep it medically related.

1976 case Planned Parenthood of Missouri v. Danforth rejected Missouri's requirement that a married woman needed the written consent of her husband to have an abortion that was not life threatening. Blackmun wrote while a "devoted and protective husband" has a say in his wife's pregnancy, "it is the woman who physically bears the child and who is the more directly and immediately affected by the pregnancy, as between the two, the balance weighs in her favor." (pg. 110) Blackmun seems to be warming up more to the idea that the abortion decision belongs to the rights of women.
Declares, "the abortion decision in all its aspects is inherently, and primarily, a medical decision, and basic responsibility for it must rest with the physician." (pg. 99) The doctor is the one who faces liability, not the woman. Therefore, the right to abortion is for physician's rights, rather than women's.
The right to privacy is moved to be included in Roe v. Wade instead of Doe v. Bolton.
In his Doe v. Bolton decision, he expresses, "The right of broad enough to encompass the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy....the right is not absolute. There is a point at which another interest is involved-- life or the potential of life." (pg. 93)
Writes in his outline that a woman has "a fundamental personal liberty" to receive medical care and "the right to action after conception." (pg. 92) There should be "No distinction between single and married." (pg. 92) There is "not a regulation of private sexual conduct... The woman is not made an accomplice to crime. The woman is free to go elsewhere... Self-induced abortion is not a crime. Fetus killing not a homicide. Fetus has no personal rights." (pg. 92)

The world views Blackmun as a major advocate for women's rights even though that was never what he intended by writing Roe. "On the one hand, he saw himself as a passive participant, almost an accidental bystander at a cataclysm...On the other hand, he would come to embrace Roe with a fierce attachment and a deep personal pride." (pg. 138)
"While Blackmun never completely resolved the contradiction inherent in his response to Roe v. Wade, the world's view that he was the creator of abortion rights in America gradually, perhaps inevitably, shaped his self-image...he saw himself from the beginning as Roe's primary defender." (pg. 138) The reactions of the country convinced him to accept the position as the woman rights superstar they all believed him to be. He couldn't do anything to change their minds about him, so he just embraced it.
When the Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists decision was issued, "the last paragraph of the majority opinion rephrased the rationale for Roe in language that was more directly centered on the woman than any of the Court's previous formulations...A woman's right to make that choice freely is fundamental. Any other result...would protect inadequately a central part of the sphere of liberty that our law guarantees equally to all." (pg.184-185) Roe v. Wade is now officially for women's rights, no longer about protecting physician's rights.