“[I]t is entirely possible that the Court might have held in Dobbs that some other provision of the Constitution provided a right to access reproductive services had that issue been raised,” the judge wrote. “However, it was not raised.”
Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Federal Judge Says a Federal Constitutional Right to Abortion May Still Exist in the 13th Amendment
Politico, Federal Judge Says Constitutional Right to Abortion May Still Exist Despite Dobbs
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., suggested Monday that there may be a constitutional right to abortion baked into the 13th Amendment — an area she said went unexplored by the Supreme Court in its momentous decision last year overturning Roe v. Wade.
In a pending criminal case against several anti-abortion activists, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization concluded only that the 14th Amendment included no right to abortion but stopped short of definitively ruling out other aspects of the Constitution that might apply.
Kollar-Kotelly noted that there is some legal scholarship suggesting that the 13th Amendment — which was ratified at the end of the Civil War and sought to ban slavery and “involuntary servitude” — provides just such a right. She is asking the parties in the criminal case, which involves charges of blocking access to abortion clinics, to present arguments by mid-March.
In particular, the judge is asking them to address ”whether the scope of Dobbs is in fact confined to the Fourteenth Amendment” and “whether, if so, any other provision of the Constitution could confer a right to abortion as an original matter … such that Dobbs may or may not be the final pronouncement on the issue, leaving an open question.”
Kollar-Kotelly’s request stems from a year-old case against 10 defendants, who are charged with conspiring to block access to a Washington, D.C., abortion clinic.