Little Bits of History

Roe v. Wade

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 22, 2010

Norma McCorvey's book

January 22, 1973: The United States Supreme Court hands down its decision that causes decades-long debate. The case is Roe v. Wade which decided if state laws prohibiting abortion were in line with the Constitution. The Supreme Court, in a 7-2 vote, ruled that it was illegal for states to interfere with the constitutional right to privacy. Supreme Court Justices White and Rehnquist cast the two dissenting votes.

Opposition to Roe is based on the premise that the Court strayed away from the Constitution and disregarded the personhood of fetal life. Supporters say that the right to abortion assures women of equality and personal freedom which they deem of higher value than that of the unborn child.

This case establishes that under the US Constitution, abortion is a fundament right. Justice Harry Blackmun wrote the Court’s opinion on the case. Rather than adopting the Ninth Amendment rationale (rights not specifically stated are part of the “great residuum” or are rights of the people). Instead, the case was based on the Fourteenth Amendment or a right to privacy. Other cases have since modified the standard significantly.

“Jane Roe” is Norma McCorvey. She has since joined the pro-life side of the debate and filed a suit in U.S. District Court in Texas to have the case reopened, which her right as the litigant ensures. She hoped to make abortion illegal citing that she was used as a “pawn” by her lawyers and claimed evidence of emotional and other harm suffered by many women who have had abortions. Her request was denied.

“The freedom that women were supposed to have found in the Sixties largely boiled down to easy contraception and abortion; things to make life easier for men, in fact.” – Julie Burchill

“I’ve noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born.” – Ronald Reagan

“Of course abortion isn’t right.  But it is even less right to bring unwanted children into lifelong suffering and to strip women of their choice.  Making abortion illegal is not the way to prevent it.  There is a much larger picture that starts with much deeper roots.” – unknown

“With humans it’s abortion, but with chickens it’s an omelet.” – Attributed to George Carlin

Also on this day, in 1905 Russia’s Bloody Sunday took place.

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  1. […] on this day: Roe v. Wade – In 1973, the Supreme Court decided on the abortion issue, assuring all women a right to […]


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