Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly

Article Title

The Author of Roe


Radhika Rao


In her commentary, Professor Radhika Rao focuses upon Justice Blackmun's landmark opinion in Roe v. Wade, exploring the ways in which the Justice shaped and was in turn shaped by the abortion conflict. After describing Roe, she sets forth and responds to a wide range of criticisms of the decision. She then turns her attention to several other abortion and privacy cases, drawing some general insights into Justice Blackmun's jurisprudence. She highlights Justice Blackmun's concern for factual context and his compassion for the real people behind the cases he decided. Professor Rao connects these qualities with Justice Blackmun's opinion in Roe, suggesting that his empathy for the oppressed stemmed in part from his longstanding association with the abortion issue, an issue which heightened his awareness of the plight of women, particularly poor, minority, and under-aged women. Professor Rao concludes that, while Justice Blackmun defined the boundaries of abortion law in Roe, Roe also played a critical role in defining him and in driving many other areas of his jurisprudence.