The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to curtail women’s rights and their status as free and equal citizens has far-reaching implications for constitutional interpretation, individual rights, and health care—all issues at the core of social studies, civics, government, and sex education classes. What and how the teacher talks about precedent and the right to privacy or responds to questions in health or sex education classes matters, particularly in this time of increased scrutiny of curriculum by the community.
Although Roe v. Wade was a landmark case expanding the civil liberties of women, its demise calls into question other rights that have long been understood to be protected as liberty interests under the 14th Amendment, including the right of same-sex couples to marry, interracial marriage, the use of contraceptives by unmarried partners, and the right to have sex. While the majority in Dobbs attempted to distinguish the right to an abortion as “fundamentally different” than other substantive due process rights, the sweep of the majority’s reasoning relied on the same part of the Constitution—the 14th Amendment, which protects autonomous decision-making over personal life decisions. Undoubtedly, the attacks on these other liberty interests will continue.
Educators should be careful to consult the county board of education’s curriculum guides before embarking on what may be a charged conversation. In government, educators may consider discussing the importance of state law; in history, a discussion about reproductive rights and the right to raise children. Some curricula may even permit an exploration of the policy implications of the Dobbs decision and the history of abortion as part of a social movement and the political discourse surrounding it.
If, after consultation of the curriculum and colleagues, there continue to be questions, each county board of education has a curriculum specialist to provide guidance. As always, your UniServ director may help facilitate such conversations.