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July 26, 1976

The New Jurisprudence

Author Affiliations

Fordham University
From the Fordham University School of Law, New York.

JAMA. 1976;236(4):359-360. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03270040015019

IN THE Aug 18, 1975 issue of The Journal, Kenneth J. Ryan, MD, concluded a commentary on the US Supreme Court's 1973 abortion decisions, Roe vs Wade and Doe vs Bolton, with certain recommendations for action by the medical profession to "reduce the irrational hostility that the abortion issue evokes."

According to Dr Ryan, the Supreme Court underpinned its decisions with a "constitutional right to differ in our personal morality" and "an almost absolute right [of the mother] to self defense in terminating her pregnancy." Neither of these "rights" was at issue in the cases; neither was mentioned in the opinions; neither was a basis for the holdings. Indeed, they could not have been. That there exists a constitutional right to differ in our personal morality is self-evident. But there is a distinction between belief and conduct. Physicians and lawyers alike are acquainted with instances wherein practices based on personal