While not specifically listed in the Constitution, the Supreme Court has recognized that certain reproductive rights are fundamental. But exactly what those rights are, and to whom and how far they extend, is still a matter of intense legal, moral, and political debate.
Here is where the law on reproductive rights stands now, and we're sure there are a few rights you may not have known about.
General Reproductive Rights
There are some reproductive rights that are shared by both men and women:
- The Right to Procreation: States cannot impose sterilization as a criminal penalty or to weed out potentially "unfit" parents.
- The Right to Contraception: Both married and unmarried people have a right to birth control, although states may regulate certain kinds of birth control.
- The Right to Parent: Once children are born, parents are given a great deal of latitude when making parenting decisions. There are limits however, and courts can intervene in the child's best interests.
Women's Reproductive Rights
Obviously the big one is the Right to an Abortion. But abortion rights are not absolute, and states can regulate certain aspects of abortion, like prohibiting certain types of abortions or abortions after a certain time in the pregnancy, and requiring waiting periods, parental notification, pre-procedure counseling and even ultrasounds.
Men's Reproductive Rights
Other than those listed above, the Supreme Court has yet to define specific reproductive rights for men, and even ruled that men can't avoid child support because they didn't want or expect a child. As a general rule, men must be treated equally under the law.
Reproductive Rights in School
Although many states offer sex education courses in public schools, these offerings and state laws on the matter can vary considerably. There is no overarching right to sex ed, and states are generally left to regulate the time and the curriculum for sex education classes. And they can also regulate students' access to contraceptives on school grounds.
If you have further questions about your reproductive rights, you can consult an experienced family law attorney near you.
- Browse Family Law Lawyers by Location (FindLaw Directory)
- Reproductive Rights: U.S. Supreme Court Cases (FindLaw)
- FindLaw's Newly Updated Reproductive Rights Section (FindLaw Insider)
- Roe v. Wade's 40th Anniversary: What the Court Actually Decided (FindLaw's Decided)