Today we equate constitutional democracy with the basic principle that every adult citizen is entitled to vote, but this was not true at the founding. At the founding voting was a privilege possessed by the few, not the many. And it was a privilege possessed by men, not women. It took seventy-five years of debate for women to secure the right to vote during which time the question of woman suffrage was referred to simply as the "woman question." The debate over woman suffrage was referred to as the woman question because the debate over woman suffrage raised fundamental questions about women's roles, nature, and place in the constitutional order. Voting is no longer the site of struggle over the woman question. Yet this society has not settled the woman question. Instead, it has continued to debate the woman question in new contexts. For the last four decades, abortion has been the site of struggles over the woman question, just as, for decades, schools were the site of struggles over the race question, or today the institution of marriage is the site of struggles over the standing of gays and lesbians. This lecture commemorates Roe's fortieth anniversary by reconstructing how the woman question became entangled in the abortion debate in the twentieth century.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Siegel, Reva B., "Abortion and the "Woman Question": Forty Years of Debate" (2012). Faculty Scholarship Series. 5002.