Roe v Wade

By: Sarah Kroth |

Roe v Wade was a milestone decision concerning the women’s rights movement. The case was brought to first the Texas Supreme court by two daring feminist lawyers, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, with a desire to test women’s legal status within the law. Though Rove v Wade was the more famous case, it was also brought in tandem with a similar case called Doe v Bolton and were heard by the Supreme Court at the same time. The cases focused on women wishing to challenge Texas’ ban on abortion, and in the case of Doe v Bolton, Georgia’s anti-abortion law. Norma McCorvey, a pregnant woman who had tried all of the legal—and some illegal avenues to have an abortion—went under the alias “Jane Roe” for the case, and woman named “Mary Doe”, who already had grown children, and was seeking a therapeutic abortion for medical safety, but was denied. Norma McCorvey, who had to give up on an abortion so they could fight the case, put her child up for adoption and years later even became a right for life advocate.

The basis of the Roe v Wade argument for abortion was that the Texas law violated a woman’s rights under the first, fourth, fifth, ninth, and fourteenth amendments. They cited an earlier case, Griswold v Connecticut, which stated women had a right to contraceptives and education about contraceptives under the constitutional right to privacy. Coffee and Weddington won a partial victory in the Texas courts, but the courts refused to offer an injunction on the abortion law in time for Roe to get the abortion she had desired, therefore Coffee and Weddington, as well as the lawyers for defending the abortion law, appealed the partial decision all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court heard the arguments in 1972, giving out their decision, which Justice Thurgood Marshall had a hand in, on January 22 1973. The court ruled that women had a right to an abortion under the privacy protected by the 14th amendment’s right of due process, but qualified that they only had the right to an abortion until the fetus could viably survive outside the womb.

This decision has sparked a controversial debate about abortion and a woman’s right to choose for four decades since that decision was made. It continues to bring up whether the Court should take into account the religious moral implications of arguments, and how far privacy extends. On the other hand, the decision has upheld women’s health rights in the public spectrum.

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