chapter  Ten
10 Pages

The Right to Privacy and Personal Autonomy

WithCarl Wellman

One of the most difficult problems in the interpretation of the constitutional right to privacy is understanding the precise relation between privacy and autonomy. By the time of Roe v. Wade, the right to privacy seems much more like the right to make and act on private decisions. The defining core of the constitutional right to privacy is a legal claim of the individual against others, other individuals and especially the state, that they not invade any zone of privacy. The most serious threat to the individual's autonomy is the possibility that someone may penetrate the inner zone and learn his ultimate secrets, either by physical or psychological means. The right to privacy protects autonomy by rendering legal prohibitions applying to decisions and actions within recognized areas of privacy unconstitutional.