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Must Privacy and Sexual Equality Conflict?: A Philosophical Examination of Some Legal Evidence

Abstract : Are rights to privacy consistent with sexual equality? In a brief, but influential, article Catherine MacKinnon trenchantly laid out feminist criticisms of the right to privacy. In “Privacy v. Equality: Beyond Roe v. Wade” she linked familiar objections to the right to privacy and connected them to the fate of abortion rights in the U.S.A. (MacKinnon, 1983, 93-102). For many feminists, the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) had suggested that, notwithstanding a dubious past, legal rights to privacy might serve feminist objectives, and prove consistent with sexual equality. By arguing that Roe’s privacy justification of abortion rights was directly responsible for the weakness and vulnerability of abortion rights in America, MacKinnon took aim at feminist hopes for the right to privacy at their strongest point. Maintaining that Roe’s privacy justification of abortion is intimately, and not contingently, related to the Supreme Court’s subsequent decision in Harris v. McRae, (1980) MacKinnon concluded that privacy rights cannot be reconciled with the freedom and equality of women, and so can have no place in a democracy.In Harris, the Supreme Court held that the State need not provide Medicaid coverage for abortions that are necessary to preserve the health, but not the life, of a pregnant woman, effectively depriving poor women of almost all state aid for abortions.2 Moreover, the Court’s subsequent decision in Bowers v . Hardwick (1986) appeared to confirm the truth of MacKinnon’s observation – though this case concerned gay rights, rather than abortion rights, and occurred several years after MacKinnon’s condemnation of Harris. [First paragraph]
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Annabelle Lever. Must Privacy and Sexual Equality Conflict?: A Philosophical Examination of Some Legal Evidence. Social research: an international quarterly of social science, 2000, 67 (4), pp.1137 - 1171. ⟨hal-02506482⟩

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