Roe v. Wade

Roe v. Wade could be considered one of the Supreme Court's most controversal and most influential decision of all time. At a time where states across the country were fighting to pass laws banning abortions and women in those states were fighting for their right to choose, the United States Supreme Court quickly made a decision that would forever change the course of reproductive rights in America.

In 1970, Jane Roe, an anonymous name used in court to protect the identity of the plaintiff, filed a lawsuit against Henry Wade, the district attorney for Dallas County, TX [1]. She challenged the constitutionality of Texas laws that prohibited abortions, except in the rare instance where a doctor must perform on to save the woman's life [2]. Roe was joined by others including a licensed physician (Hallford) who had state abortion prosecutions pending against him and a childless married couple (the Does) where the wife attacked the laws on the basis of alleged future injury on the future possibilities of contraceptive failure, pregnancy, unpreparedness, and impairment of woman's health [3]. A three judge District Court found Roe and Hallford's claims were valid and had standing to sue, but declined the Does' complaint [4]. Before being appealed to the appeals court, the District Court declared the abortion statutes void [5]. Once in front of the Supreme Court, Hallford's standing to sue was declined, and Roe was the sole case decided [6]. 

In short, the Court was attempting to answer if the Constitution recognizes a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy by way of abortion? In a 7-2 decision the Supreme Court held that the Due Process Clause of the 14th  Amendment is a fundamental right to privacy that protects a pregnant woman's choice, however the government has legitimate interests in the fetus' life, as they have potential to become human life, which is also protected by the Constitution [7]. It was held that for the time leading up to the end of the 1st trimester, the abortion decision was to be left to the pregnant woman's physician and for the stage after the end of the first trimester the State may choose to regulare the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health [8]. For the stage after fetal viability, the State may regulate or prohibit abortions except where it is necessary for the preservation of the life or health of the mother, if they are promoting their interest of potential human life [9].

This decision changed the course of history and reversed at least 21 state laws banning abortions [10]. Nearly half a century later, in a 2020 FX documentary, it was found that Jane Roe was actually Norma McCorvey [11]. McCorvey never had the abortion, and the child was adopted.

[1] Jane Roe v. Henry Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
[2] Jane Roe v. Henry Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
[3] Jane Roe v. Henry Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
[4] Jane Roe v. Henry Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
[5] Jane Roe v. Henry Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973)
[6]JJane Roe v. Henry Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
[7] Jane Roe v. Henry Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
[8] Jane Roe v. Henry Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
[9] Jane Roe v. Henry Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
[10] Jane Roe v. Henry Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
[11] Sweeney, Nick. AKA Jane Roe. TV Documentary, Documentary. FX, 2020.
Prev Next