Wendy Parmet

Recent Articles

Rehnquist's Road to Serfdom: The Ominous Message of -Rust v. Sullivan-

An Orwellian Supreme Court decision creates a false choice between social benefits and individual rights.

Americans have a profound ambivalence about interdependence and reliance on government. Our deepest national myths celebrate self-reliance, yet most of us are more collectively reliant than our mythology admits. We disguise our dependence and rationalize our ambivalence through a two-class system of social entitlement. Under this system, the virtuous self-reliant majority enjoys government benefits as a matter of earned right, while the unworthy minority, the charity cases, must endure the indignities of the dole. From time to time, a Supreme Court case provides a prism that reveals the distortions in the conventional image. Last May's decision in Rust v. Sullivan was such a case. While its text reaffirmed the myth, in the context of abortion and access to health care, its subtext reveals complex interconnections between access and rights, autonomy and dependence. The Rust opinion affirmed the legality of a Reagan-era Department of Health and Human Services regulation barring all...