Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), is a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. More on the topic: https://www.amazon.com/gp/search?ie=UTF8&tag=mg03-20&linkCode=ur2&linkId=7e1f3f3b49a4eebefe522570108d2cf9&camp=1789&creative=9325&index=books&keywords=roe%20wade
Decided simultaneously with a companion case, Doe v. Bolton, the Court ruled 7–2 that a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion, but that right must be balanced against the state’s two legitimate interests in regulating abortions: protecting prenatal life and protecting women’s health. Arguing that these state interests became stronger over the course of a pregnancy, the Court resolved this balancing test by tying state regulation of abortion to the trimester of pregnancy.
The Court later rejected Roe’s trimester framework, while affirming Roe’s central holding that a person has a right to abortion until viability. The Roe decision defined “viable” as being “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid”, adding that viability “is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks.”
In disallowing many state and federal restrictions on abortion in the United States, Roe v. Wade prompted a national debate that continues today, about issues including whether and to what extent abortion should be legal, who should decide the legality of abortion, what methods the Supreme Court should use in constitutional adjudication, and what the role should be of religious and moral views in the political sphere. Roe v. Wade reshaped national politics, dividing much of the United States into pro-choice and pro-life camps, while activating grassroots movements on both sides.
According to the Court, “the restrictive criminal abortion laws in effect in a majority of States today are of relatively recent vintage.” In 1821, Connecticut passed the first state statute criminalizing abortion. Every state had abortion legislation by 1900. In the United States, abortion was sometimes considered a common law crime, though Justice Blackmun would conclude that the criminalization of abortion did not have “roots in the English common-law tradition.”
Prior history of the case
In June 1969, Norma L. McCorvey discovered she was pregnant with her third child. She returned to Dallas, Texas, where friends advised her to assert falsely that she had been raped in order to obtain a legal abortion (with the understanding that Texas law allowed abortion in cases of rape and incest). However, this scheme failed because there was no police report documenting the alleged rape. She attempted to obtain an illegal abortion, but found the unauthorized site had been closed down by the police. Eventually, she was referred to attorneys Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington. (McCorvey would give birth before the case was decided.)
In 1970, Coffee and Weddington filed suit in a U.S. District Court in Texas on behalf of McCorvey (under the alias Jane Roe). The defendant in the case was Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade, representing the State of Texas. McCorvey was no longer claiming her pregnancy was the result of rape, and later acknowledged that she had lied about having been raped. “Rape” is not mentioned in the judicial opinions in this case.
The district court ruled in McCorvey’s favor on the legal merits of her case, and declined to grant an injunction against the enforcement of the laws barring abortion. The district court’s decision was based upon the 9th Amendment, and the court relied upon a concurring opinion by Justice Arthur Goldberg in the 1965 Supreme Court case of Griswold v. Connecticut, finding in the decision for a right to privacy.
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