Geoffrey Stone’s Interview on a History of American Thought on Abortion

A history of American thought on abortion: It’s not what you think

In a 6-3 majority ruling on Friday, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision giving women the right to abortion. In anticipation of the ruling last week, the Monitor interviewed Geoffrey R. Stone, author of the legal history "Sex and the Constitution."

The history of abortion in the United States is more complicated than many people realize, says Professor Stone, who teaches law at the University of Chicago. Government regulation of abortion has long been connected to the nation’s religious history, caught in the ebbs and flows of evolving cultural mores that also resulted in national prohibitions against contraception, private sexual behavior, and obscenity. [Note: this interview was conducted before the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.

What made you decide to delve into questions about sex and the Constitution and the regulatory history of abortion?

I was a law clerk for Justice [William R.] Brennan on the Supreme Court when Roe was decided [in 1973], and I was intrigued by the fact that the court during that era had not only adopted a Constitutional right to contraception and a right to abortion, but later a right of gay people to engage in sexual behavior and then a right of gay people to marry. So, I was curious how did this all come about?

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