What is the 14th Amendment, and what does it have to do with Roe v. Wade?
The constitutional right to abortion has been eliminated. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court voted to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling that made most laws prohibiting abortion unconstitutional. Now, states have the authority to make abortion illegal.
As the country grapples with the decision, many are revisiting the provisions in the Constitution the court had relied upon to hand down the 1973 ruling that was just struck down. One of them is the 14th Amendment.
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What is the 14th Amendment?
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution largely expanded protections of rights for citizens at the state level. It was adopted in 1868 during the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War, aiming to protect rights of formerly enslaved people in the South who were subject to new discriminatory state laws.
What is the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause?
The first section of the amendment contains the clause popularly known as the “equal protection” clause, which requires that everyone must be equally protected and equally treated under the law.
The clause has been invoked in major Supreme Court rulings involving civil rights.
The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling found that racial segregation of public schools imposed by law by some states at the time violated the equal protection clause.
It was also invoked in a 1978 affirmative action case in which the Supreme Court found that race could be one of several criteria in higher education admissions but that the use of race as the sole basis for admissions decisions violated the equal protection clause.
The 14th Amendment’s due process clause and the constitutional 'right to privacy'
The 14th Amendment also establishes the right to due process at the state level. Due process has been used by the Supreme Court to strike down state legislation that restricts personal liberties and interests not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, such as the right to privacy.
The 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling relied on this clause when it concluded that prohibiting abortion violated a right to privacy under the Constitution by restricting a person’s ability to choose whether to have an abortion.
In the 2015 Obergefell vs. Hodges case, the Supreme Court ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage violated the due process clause.
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The use of contraceptives, interracial marriage and the right of adults to engage in consensual sexual intimacy were all found by the Supreme Court to be protected in part by the due process clause and the constitutional right to privacy.
What else does the 14th Amendment say?
The opening line in the amendment grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States.
It also counted formerly enslaved people as "whole" persons in population counts, doing away with the three-fifths compromise that counted enslaved people as three-fifths of a person, and expanded voting rights to men age 21 and over.
Its other provisions outlined rules addressing insurrections against the federal government.
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