Abortion. Birth control. Sex education in public schools. These are some of the most divisive topics in America. Collectively called “reproductive rights,” an individual’s ability to decide whether to reproduce and make independent, informed decisions regarding reproductive health is seen as fundamental, at least in the eyes of the law. But that’s not where the discussion ends. In fact, the extent to which states and the federal government can infringe upon an individual’s reproductive rights is a legal, moral, ethical, and even scientific debate that shows no signs of losing its intensity any time soon. This is the Reproductive Rights section of FindLaw's Family Law Center, providing information and resources to help you understand reproductive rights.
In this section you’ll find in-depth information on a variety of matters concerning reproduction -- including procreation, contraception, abortion, and sex education – and tips on what is or isn't legally protected. Go in depth on important issues including birth control laws, children's sex education laws and more. This section also contains links to state reproductive laws and the full text of key Supreme Court cases involving reproductive rights.
Reproductive Rights, Defined
While the Constitution is silent on the issue of reproduction specifically, the Supreme Court has in many cases described the right of reproduction as a fundamental right. In fact, the Court has found Constitutional protection for family relationships, child rearing, procreation, contraception, and, most famously, abortion in Roe v. Wade. Many of these rulings have relied on the Fourteenth Amendment’s right to privacy. Generally, these issues are viewed from a female perspective, as the Court has been mute on male reproductive rights. The reproductive rights of minors may be limited as many states require parental consent for some reproductive health procedures, abortion most of all.
Birth control is much more accessible now than ever, yet it remains a volatile issue in the American social and political spectrum, and access to birth control can be difficult in some states. The landmark 1965 U.S. Supreme Court decision Griswold v. Connecticut established that couples, and women alone, have a constitutional right to privacy regarding contraceptive use. Since then, contraceptives and their use have been protected under law, although access may vary, and courts have struggled to keep up with the latest scientific developments in contraception like “the morning after pill.” In addition, the dissemination of contraceptives in public schools remains a hot-button issue.
Speaking of hot-button issues, none may be hotter than abortion. While Roe v. Wade guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion in 1973, women, states, and courts have been battling ever since to determine just how far that right extends. Most of these conflicts have concerned a state’s ability to limit access to abortion and which, if any, additional requirements a state can place on a woman seeking an abortion. Parental and spousal notice, consent to counseling, and, in some cases, mandatory ultrasounds have all been up for debate and contested in courtrooms nationwide. This pro-life / pro-choice push and pull is ongoing, and is sure to shape abortion law in the future.
Legal Help for Reproductive Rights Issues
As noted above, the law surrounding reproductive rights varies by jurisdiction and is subject to change. Consulting with an experienced family law attorney may help you understand and protect your reproductive rights and responsibilities.