Roe v. Wade

From Citizendium
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This article is developing and not approved.
Main Article
Related Articles  [?]
Bibliography  [?]
External Links  [?]
Citable Version  [?]
This editable Main Article is under development and subject to a disclaimer.
(PD) Photo: Supreme Court of the United States
Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe v. Wade

Roe v. Wade, 441 US 113 (1973), was a United States of America Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in the United States. It was overturned in 2022, and each state was left to decide about the legality of abortion. The 1973 decision overturned most (46 of 50 states at the time had laws in contravention of the ruling) state laws outlawing abortion, as it found them to be in violation of the constitutional right to privacy that the Court found in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (1868). Justice Harry Blackmun, a Richard Nixon apointee, was the author of the majority opinion, with multiple concurrences written by other justices. Byron White and William Rehnquist dissented from the decision and wrote separate opinions. The ruling was overturned in June 2022, by a 6–3 vote, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The plaintiff, whose privacy was masked as 'Jane Roe,' was Norma L. McCorvey, a pregnant Texan woman who claimed to have become pregnant as the result of rape. There were co-plaintiffs too: a "childless married couple (the Does), the wife not being pregnant, separately attacked the laws, basing alleged injury on the future possibilities of contraceptive failure, pregnancy, unpreparedness for parenthood, and impairment of the wife's health".[1] The defendant, Henry Wade, was the District Attorney of Dallas County and represented the State of Texas. McCorvey later became a pro-life activist.

The consequences of the plaintiff's victory meant that abortion in the United States was legal until the point at which a fetus becomes viable - set in the court at a maximum of twenty-eight weeks. However, in practice, most medical professionals only performed elective abortion in the first trimester (within 12 weeks of fertilization). Later term (after 12 weeks) generally required there to be documentable health concerns for either the mother or the fetus.

Abortion-related cases that have reached the Supreme Court since Roe include Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989), Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), Stenberg v. Carhart (2000) and Gonzales v. Carhart (2003). The nominations to the Supreme Court in the presidential term of Donald Trump are widely considered to be the deciding factor in the overturning of the 1973 decision in June of 2022. Six months later, abortion had become illegal or inaccessible in roughly half of the country, because the legality of abortion is now left up to the individual states.

Eventually, about half the states are expected to prohibit abortion, some without even protections for the life of the mother or allowing it in cases of rape of incest. Several states, especially on the East and West coasts, are expected to enact laws protecting the right to abortion. In the country overall, well more than half the population, in polls, favors the right of a woman to choose whether to bear a child or not. However, the USA is a federal state, and individual states have rights against the country as a whole. Under the Constitution, the Supreme Court is the arbiter of all disputes on such matters, giving it a great deal of power. As a result, "packing" the Court with sympathetic justices is standard practice, regardless of party, and more or less long-term swings in political opinion have resulted in reversals in court judgments, effectively amendments to the Constitution, numbering more than five times the 27 official amendments ([1]).


  1. Mr Justice Blackmun's majority opinion