Marc Spindelman


This Article elaborates and defends Washington v. Glucksberg’s original meaning both on its own terms and against accounts of Glucksberg that depict it as having announced and followed a strict test of history and tradition as its basic approach to Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights.

The nominal occasion for the present return to Glucksberg and its original meaning is the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Dobbs famously insists that Glucksberg supplies it with the authoritative grounds in the Court’s Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process jurisprudence for its own history-and-tradition-based approach to Roe v. Wade and constitutional abortion rights. As Dobbs figures it, Glucksberg signs the constitutional warrant that Dobbs enforces by overturning Roe.

Proceeding in stages, the Article traces Dobbs’ reliance on Glucksberg before pivoting to a detailed account of Glucksberg’s original meaning, which engages and surmounts Dobbs’ undefended tally of Glucksberg. Having shown Dobbs’ reading of Glucksberg cannot be squared with Glucksberg’s text and its meaning—as cross-checked against other Supreme Court decisions, as well as new sources found in the Supreme Court archives—the work explains Dobbs is also deficient in not providing an independent, full-blown justification, beyond Glucksberg’s invocation, for its basic, if contoured, constitutional interpretive method of decision. In context, Dobbs’ failure to offer this kind of public accounting, consistent with constitutional and rule-of-law demands, means that Dobbs stands exposed as lawless at its foundations. Dobbs is thus primed for challenge on these grounds, the very terms of legality that Dobbs deploys as it eliminates Roe and constitutional abortion rights.