Logo: Civil Discourse, An American Legacy Toolkit
A protest rally on International Women's Day, in support of women's rights.

Women’s Rights

How far have women’s rights come and how much further do we need to go? Explore seminal events, cases, and texts such as the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, Minor v. Happersett (1875), Roe v. Wade (1973), Dobbs v. Jackson (2022), and the Equal Rights Amendment. Prepare to engage in discourse around what needs to be done to secure women’s equal rights once and for all.

Podcasts & Videos

The Abortion Debate and Fundamental Rights: Women’s Rights, Part 4

  1. Watch and listen to the 60-Second Civics video below. If you'd like, you can also read along using the script that appears below the quiz. Or you can turn on the video's subtitles and read while watching the video.
  2. Take the Daily Civics Quiz. If you get the question wrong, watch the video again or read the script and try again.
Episode Description
Mark Gage: Welcome to 60-Second Civics, the daily podcast of the Center for Civic Education. I'm Mark Gage. We are joined today by special guest Lisa Tetrault, associate professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Tetrault, our American Legacy pocket constitution contains excerpts from both Roe v. Wade and Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned Roe. How does the issue of abortion relate to fundamental rights as viewed by women on both sides of the debate?

Dr. Lisa Tetrault: The idea of fundamental rights is something that's founded in the Constitution, and the Constitution is the foundation in the United States for all rights. So that Constitution constantly gets interpreted and reinterpreted. When Roe was decided, one of the arguments made by women who wanted access to abortion was that the 14th Amendment, which is really the grounding for the modern rights revolution, gave them equal protection under the laws and gave them due process.

In other words, you couldn't take away their bodily autonomy. And when they argued, the states were doing that with anti-abortion laws. So the court agreed with that idea of fundamental rights that women or just people did have a fundamental right to control their bodies. The other side of the argument would say, well, there's another life here, and they would perceive a fetal life.

And they would argue that that right always or that that life also has fundamental rights. And so what many people have been doing on the other side of the debate is trying to establish something called fetal rights, which is the idea that the fetus is also covered by the Constitution that does not exist yet in law. There has never been a...there is no concept of fetal rights in our Constitution, but many people are trying to create that idea.

And although the Supreme Court threw out the idea that women were...had a fundamental right to an abortion, the idea of fetuses having constitutional protection is still something that people on the other side of the anti-abortion debate are trying to achieve.

Mark Gage: Thank you for joining us today, Dr. Tetrault. That's all for today's podcast. 60-Second Civics, where civic education only takes a minute.

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