Abortion: The Supreme Court Decisions, 1965-2000

Abortion: The Supreme Court Decisions, 1965-2000

Abortion: The Supreme Court Decisions, 1965-2000

Abortion: The Supreme Court Decisions, 1965-2000


Shapiro has updated his 1995 edition to include the latest US Supreme Court cases on abortion. The court cases are presented in edited form for use in the undergraduate and graduate classroom in a variety of disciplines. Shapiro provides a lengthy introduction to elucidate the complexities of this controversial issue.


The United States Supreme Court is the American constitutional court of last resort. It has the final say in interpreting the constitution, and—curiously in a modern democracy—its members are not elected: they are appointed with life tenure that can be revoked only in exceptional circumstances. The Court's appropriate place in the American political order has been the subject of much debate, and this will likely continue to be so for as long as the republic endures. Critics see the Court as an anachronistic throwback to predemocratic times and are skeptical that it does much to guard human liberties. For defenders, by contrast, the Court protects democracy from itself in a variety of indispensable ways. It insulates us from the expedient passions of the moment that govern electoral politics, it guards individual rights against the excesses of majority tyranny, and it is a cornerstone of the separation of constitutional powers that is the lifeblood of modern republican government.

The Court captivates insiders and fascinates outsiders. Whereas other American public officials are generally held in low public esteem, Supreme Court Justices are often greatly revered. There is, indeed, no more distinguished achievement for a lawyer than to be named to the nation's highest judicial bench. The quality of debate on the Court also sets it apart from other American public institutions. In stark contrast to the cliché-ridden sound bites of electoral politics, argument on the Court—while often no less divisive or ideologically charged than political debate—is generally carried on at

1. Perhaps the most persistent critic of both the justification for, and effectiveness of,
judicial review is Robert Dahl. See A Preface to Democratic Theory (Chicago: Univer
sity of Chicago Press, 1956), pp. 105-12 and Democracy and Its Critics (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1989), pp. 188-92. See also Michael Walzer, “Philosophy and
democracy,” Political Theory, vol. 9, No. 3 (August 1981).

2. For a sampling of different views of the Court's appropriate role, see Alexander M.
Bickel, The Least Dangerous Branch (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962), John
Hart Ely, Democracy and Distrust: A Theory of Judicial Review (Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 1980), Michael Perry, The Constitution, the Courts, and Hu
man Rights
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), Rogers M. Smith, Liberalism
and American Constitutional Law
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1985),
Ronald Dworkin, Lam's Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986),
Bruce Ackerman, We the People: Foundations (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University
Press, 1991), and Robert A. Burt, The Constitution in Conflict (Cambridge, Mass.: Har
vard University Press, 1992).

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