Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Abortion under State Constitutions

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Abortion under State Constitutions

Article excerpt

ABORTION UNDER STATE CONSTITUTIONS by Paul Benjamin Linton Carolina Academic , 610 pages, $75

As Rodney Dangerfield might have put it state constitutions get no respect In our best law schools, these constitutions' text history, and structure are, for the most part, ignored. For most law students, exposure to state constitutional law is limited to some obligatory, perfunctory gestures in their bar-preparation courses. Although most citizens are disappointingly innocent of the federal constitution's content and import, we can still be reasonably confident that they know the charter exists. Not so with the constitutions of their own states.

All this is unfortunate. The Constitution of the United States, after all, is a blueprint for only one of the several particular governments under which we Americans live and for which we are accountable. To be sure, it is the "supreme law of the land," but generally speaking, it serves as a floor, not a ceiling. And so, state constitutions can, and do, provide protections for individual rights that the national constitution does not guarantee. For example, some state constitutions regulate searches, seizures, and interrogations by police more closely than does the Fourth Amendment; in some states, closer scrutiny is required of general laws that burden religious practice than is demanded by the First Amendment; and so on.

Now, given the Supreme Court's decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey-decisions that given the recent election, are not likely to be overruled anytime soon- it might be thought that the various state constitutions' treatments of abortion are irrelevant. …

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