Document Type

Honors Project

Abstract

What is the constitutional basis for women’s equality? Recently, scholars have suggested that as the right to privacy has floundered against the political undoing of women's access to abortion, equal protection arguments have grown stronger. This thesis investigates the feminist utility and limits of the equality and privacy arguments. Taking liberal feminism and feminist legal theory as analytical lenses, I offer interpretations of gender discrimination, reproductive rights, and marriage equality case law. By this framework, I argue that while an equality argument is less inherently oppressive towards women than the privacy doctrine, equality doctrine has been constructed thus far to negate gender difference and entrench the feminine in the private sphere. However, the re-emergence of equality arguments in reproductive rights case law enables a robust concept of autonomy at the intersection of privacy and equality positive rights, one that would free women from the private sphere and dismantle the private/public gendering that works to limit femininity. Thus, this thesis offers advocates of reproductive rights a rhetorical and legal framework that constructs an affirmative protection of female autonomy.

 
 

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