Mary Ziegler


Beyond the question of suffrage, the Nineteenth Amendment raised the issue of what it would take for women in America to achieve equal citizenship. The meaning of both the Nineteenth Amendment and equality for women remain especially contested in broader conflicts about abortion-and of how those conflicts have changed in fundamental ways in the decades since Roe v. Wade. For some time, fetal rights were pitted against the kinds of concerns about equality for women that drove reformers to seek the vote in 1920. But by the early 1990s, the terms of the conflicts had changed, with both sides claiming to carry on the legacy of the Nineteenth Amendment. Fights over the meaning of equality for women deepened the divide over abortion. To some extent, those on opposing sides of the abortion debate have always had clashing views of motherhood, gender roles, and the kind of lives women should pursue. But as both sides claim the legacy of the Nineteenth Amendment, agreement on basic facts about abortion has become much harder to find. The more everyone in the abortion debate seemingly agrees on the importance of equality for women, the less possible it seems to find any lasting consensus on what women need to protect their right to equal treatment under the law or their reproductive health. The contested meaning of equality in the abortion context not only changed the course of the abortion conflict but also mirrored and reinforced a shift in constitutional discourse away from an exclusive focus on constitutional rights and toward intense disagreement over basic facts.