The Supreme Court in the Intimate Lives of Americans: Birth, Sex, Marriage, Childrearing, and Death

The Supreme Court in the Intimate Lives of Americans: Birth, Sex, Marriage, Childrearing, and Death

The Supreme Court in the Intimate Lives of Americans: Birth, Sex, Marriage, Childrearing, and Death

The Supreme Court in the Intimate Lives of Americans: Birth, Sex, Marriage, Childrearing, and Death

Synopsis

Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2003

Personal rights, such as the right to procreate or not and the right to die generate endless debate. This book maps out the legal, political, and ethical issues swirling around personal rights. Howard Ball shows how the Supreme Court has grappled with the right to reproduce and to abort, and takes on the issue of auto-euthanasia and assisted suicide, from Karen Ann Quinlan through Kevorkian and just recently to the Florida case of the woman who was paralyzed by a gunshot from her mother and who had the plug pulled on herself.

For the last half of the twentieth century, the justices of the Supreme Court have had to wrestle with new and difficult life and death questions for them as well as for doctors and their patients, medical ethicists, sociologists, medical practitioners, clergy, philosophers, law makers, and judges. The Supreme Court in the Intimate Lives of Americans offers a look at these issues as they emerged and examines the manner in which the men and women of the U. S. Supreme Court addressed them.

Excerpt

Storks do not, as Max Lerner observed many decades ago, deliver constitutional cases and the decisions that follow. Nor do they “just 'happen,' as one might think if one were to look only at the cases decided by the Supreme Court as they appear in constitutional law casebooks and are discussed in academic commentary.”

First of all, the U.S. Supreme Court decides which cases it wishes to hear on the merits. The Justices have total discretion in creating the Court's docket. Four Justices must vote to grant certiorari, called the “vote of four,” in a particular case in order for it to be given plenary review.

There are legal, social, and political reasons that particular constitutional cases are brought to the U.S. Supreme Court at particular times in America's history. In the past four decades, litigation in defense of intimate personal, sexual associations against intrusive state actions came to the courts at a time when America was in the throes of a number of “revolutions.”

The years between 1955 and the early 1970s were cacophonous ones. The nation saw and experienced on the evening news the emergence of the civil rights revolution, the anti-Vietnam War movement, the women's rights movement, the sexual revolution, and the gay liberation movement. Radicalized men and women, young and not so young, involved in one or more of these revolutions, confronted what seemed to them to be serious government intrusions into their personal lives.

Their personal liberties, they eventually argued in court, were protected from disturbing state actions by the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. The Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause protected them from invasive actions by agents of the national government. They brought these legal arguments into America's courtrooms, directly challenging the legitimacy of government to proscribe their actions. There were, of course, the watershed civil rights cases heard and decided by the U.S. Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, beginning with Brown v . . .

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