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Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman's liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. The decision struck down many U.S. federal and state abortion laws. Roe fueled an ongoing abortion debate in the United States about whether, or to what extent, abortion should be legal, who should decide the legality of abortion, and what the role of moral and religious views in the political sphere should be. It also shaped debate concerning which methods the Supreme Court should use in constitutional adjudication.
The decision involved the case of Norma McCorvey—known by the legal pseudonym "Jane Roe"—who in 1969 became pregnant with her third child. McCorvey wanted an abortion but lived in Texas, where abortion was illegal except when necessary to save the mother's life. Her attorneys, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, filed a lawsuit on her behalf in U.S. federal court against her local district attorney, Henry Wade, alleging that Texas's abortion laws were unconstitutional. A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas heard the case and ruled in her favor. Texas then appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In January 1973, the Supreme Court issued a 7–2 decision in McCorvey's favor ruling that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides a "right to privacy" that protects a pregnant woman's right to choose whether to have an abortion. It also ruled that this right is not absolute and must be balanced against governments' interests in protecting women's health and prenatal life. The Court resolved this balancing test by tying state regulation of abortion to the three trimesters of pregnancy: during the first trimester, governments could not prohibit abortions at all; during the second trimester, governments could require reasonable health regulations; during the third trimester, abortions could be prohibited entirely so long as the laws contained exceptions for cases when they were necessary to save the life or health of the mother. The Court classified the right to choose to have an abortion as "fundamental", which required courts to evaluate challenged abortion laws under the "strict scrutiny" standard, the highest level of judicial review in the United States.The Court's ruling in Roe was criticized by some in the legal community, and some called the decision an example of judicial activism. The Supreme Court revisited and modified Roe's legal rulings in its 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In Casey, the Court reaffirmed Roe's holding that a woman's right to choose to have an abortion is constitutionally protected, but overruled Roe's strict scrutiny standard for reviewing abortion restrictions and abandoned Roe's trimester framework in favor of a standard based on fetal viability.On May 2, 2022, Politico obtained a leaked initial draft majority opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito indicating that the Supreme Court is prepared to overturn Roe and Casey in a pending final decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, expected to be issued by June 2022. A press release from Chief Justice John Roberts the following day confirmed the authenticity of the leaked document, but stated that the draft "does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case".
History of abortion laws in the United States
In 1821, Connecticut passed the first state statute banning abortion in the United States. In 1868, abortion by itself was not legal before quickening in 27 out of all thirty-seven states. Altogether, 30 of the thirty-seven states and six of the ten U.S. territories had codified laws which restricted abortion along with the Kingdom of Hawai'i where abortion had once been common. Every state had abortion legislation by 1900.In the United States, abortion itself was sometimes considered a common law offense before specific statutes were made against it. In all states throughout the 19th and early 20th century, pre-quickening abortions were always considered to be actions without a lawful purpose. This meant that if the mother died, the individual performing the abortion was guilty of murder. This aspect of common law regarded pre-quickening abortions as a type of inchoate felony. Negative liberty rights from common law do not apply in situations caused by consensual or voluntary behavior, which allowed for abortions of fetuses conceived in a consensual manner to be common law offences. The majority opinion for Roe v. Wade authored in Justice Harry Blackmun's name would later claim that the criminalization of abortion did not have "roots in the English common-law tradition".
One purpose for banning abortion was to preserve the life of the fetus, another was to protect the life of the mother, another was to create deterrence against future abortions, and another was avoid injuring the mother's ability to have children. Judges did not always distinguish between which purpose was more important. Rather than arresting the women having the abortions, legal officials were more likely to interrogate them to obtain evidence against the individual doing the abortions. This law enforcement strategy was a response to juries which refused to convict women prosecuted for abortion in the 19th century. In 1973, Justice Harry Blackmun's opinion stated that "the restrictive criminal abortion laws in effect in a majority of States today are of relatively recent vintage".By 1971, elective abortion on demand was effectively available in Alaska, California, Washington, D.C., Washington state, Hawaii, and New York. Some women traveled to jurisdictions where it was legal, although not all could afford to. In 1971, Shirley Wheeler was charged with manslaughter after Florida hospital staff reported her illegal abortion to the police. Wheeler was one of few women who were prosecuted by their states for abortion. She received a sentence of two years probation and as an option under her probation, chose to move back into her parents' house in North Carolina. The Playboy Foundation donated $3,500 to her defense fund and Playboy magazine denounced her prosecution. The Boston Women's Abortion Coalition raised money and held a rally where attendees listened to speakers from the Women's National Abortion Action Coalition (WONAAC). Her conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Florida.
History of the case
Sarah Weddington recruited Linda Coffee to help her with abortion litigation. Their first plaintiffs were a married couple; they joined after the woman heard Coffee give a speech. The suit would claim that the woman needed to be able to have abortions, because the woman had a neurochemical disorder and should not give birth or raise children, they didn't wa.... Discover the Wade Little popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Wade Little books.