When It Comes to Abortion and Women's Rights, This Judge is Fighting the Man

In a state whose legislature is primarily opposed to abortion, East Central District Judge Wickham Corwin of Fargo, North Dakota, has turned the tables for the time being. Since 2011, it has been illegal for women in North Dakota to undergo an abortion if the fetus had a detectable heartbeat. Now, in accordance with popular opposition toward a state ban on abortion rights, Corwin has ruled that a separate 2011 state law banning abortion drugs is both unconstitutional and "simply wrongheaded." Provided that the law had negative consequences for both women unable to care for an unborn child, as well as Fargo's Red River Women’s Clinic, the state's only abortion facility, it seems that Corwin has acted in the best interest of those who should have the first choice.

This is a victorious moment for the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Red River Women’s Clinic, which the Center for Reproductive Rights has been representing. But was Corwin's decision really for the greater good? Was Corwin right to go against the majority vote in his state legislature and overrule this ban? Perhaps we should begin by looking at the people who will be most affected by such a law. Since we can assume that women bear the greatest impact of such legislation, we might do well to set aside the majority vote of the elite — unless, of course, most of those voting were women. After all, in a democratic society, it only seems just to prioritize the interests of those who will suffer the consequences of a vote over the interests of those who simply constitute the numerical majority in leadership.

Corwin was certainly acting on behalf of his personal judgment and sympathy for these women. It seems just that he considered the consequences of denying these women their rights, rather than worrying about upsetting the state legislature. After all, he would certainly be pleasing the majority of North Dakota's voters, given that 52% of them support pro-choice legislation. Surely, in a democratic society, heeding the people's consensus is more important than pleasing those in power. 

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Sarah Katz

I hold a B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of California Berkeley. While at UC Berkeley, I founded the Iran-Israel Student Coalition, the first student-led Iran-Israel peace initiative. I am currently pursuing a dual Masters degree in International Management (MBA) and International Policy Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. In addition to PolicyMic, I contribute to the "Times of Israel" online news blog.

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