Wednesday, July 6, 2022
The Oxford Human Rights Hub recently published an article by Prof. Rachel Wechsler called Dobbs and Dignity. The article addresses this fundamental human rights concept of dignity in regard to the decision Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Org. Prof. Wechsler will be joining the University of Missouri School of Law this fall.
The opening paragraph reads:
The principle of human dignity lies at the heart of human rights law. Foundational human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, recognise the dignity of human beings as a fundamental value and set out rights aimed at promoting it. The precise meaning of dignity is contested, but one commonly advanced understanding of the concept is the capacity to make “self-defining and self-governing choices.” The U.S. Supreme Court has invoked this conception of dignity in past decisions upholding Roe v Wade, the 1973 case that established a constitutional right to abortion until foetal viability. In Thornburgh v American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Court recognised that a woman’s decision regarding whether to terminate a pregnancy is “basic to [her] individual dignity and autonomy. Though partially overruling Thornburgh by permitting additional state regulation of abortion so long as it does not impose an undue burden upon a woman’s right to terminate a pre-viability pregnancy, the plurality in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v Casey reiterated that a woman’s ability to choose whether to continue her pregnancy is “central to personal dignity and autonomy”. The pairing of “autonomy” with “dignity” underscores the Court’s (former) understanding that women are capable of self-determination and interfering with this capacity will significantly and unjustifiably compromise their dignity. In permitting states to ban abortion, Dobbs undermines women’s dignity and autonomy by preventing women from controlling the course of their own reproductive lives.
You may read the entire article here.