The Impact of Roe v. Wade
Among the many landmark cases of the United States Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), still is one of the most controversial and politically significant cases in U.S. Supreme Court history, greatly affecting political elections and decisions concerning women’s rights ever since.
In 1970, a woman named Norma McCorvey, who had been fired from her for being pregnant; wished to terminate the pregnancy. But in the state of Texas abortions were illegal expect in cases were the health and/or safety of the mother were at risk. Two woman lawyers; Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who at the time were looking to overturn the restrictions on abortion laws in Texas recruited Ms. McCorvey, and filed suit under the name of Jane Roe, to represent all pregnant women. They “attacked the abortion restrictions of Texas in the federal courts on the grounds that they undermined the rights under the Fourteenth and Ninth Amendment of the U.S Constitution (the due process and specific enumeration of powers clause, the latter of which was taken to uphold a right to privacy),” (Palmowski, 2004).
By the time the case had reached the U.S Supreme Court in 1971; Norma McCovery had already had her baby and given it up for adoption, and two new justices filled the vacant seats left behind, one of which was Harry Blackmun, a conservative Republican member with a background in medical law, the case was reheard in 1972. The Supreme Court of the United States decided on January 22, 1973 that states could regulate abortions only in certain circumstances but otherwise women did have a right to privacy and reproductive autonomy, “the court divide the pregnancy of a woman into three stages: 1) first three months, states can not interfere with a woman’s choice to abort the pregnancy; 2) second trimester (3-6 months) states could regulate abortions, but only if such regulation was reasonably related to the mother’s health; 3) third trimester (6-9 months) this when the unborn child could survive outside the womb, states may regulate absolutely and ban abortions altogether in order to protect the unborn child. At this point the unborn child is now given constitutional protection” (Fuchsburg, 2009). In short “this decision overturned all states laws restricting women’s right to an abortion in the first three months and eased those on abortions performed within six months of conception,” (Palmowski, 2004).
“Before Roe v. Wade, only four states and Washington, D.C., provided easy access to abortion. All other states limited access to some degree. Public opinion on abortion shifted, however, when an epidemic of German measles and the exposure of U.S. women to the European tranquilizer Thalidomide resulted in a large number of babies born with serious birth defects. Because abortion access was limited, only those who could afford to travel to one of these states or to a foreign country were allowed the privilege of ending an unwanted or unhealthy pregnancy. Many pregnant women and health care professionals believed that access to safe abortions should be a right and not a privilege and challenged the right of states to restrict access to abortions by trained medical personnel. Desperate women who could not afford to travel often self-aborted or trusted themselves to back-alley abortionists. Both practices frequently led to later health problems, sterility or even death,” (Purdy, 2005).
When the U.S Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that a woman's right to privacy included her choice to have an abortion, few predicted the decision would be the subject of such intense debate a quarter of a century later. Perhaps no other ruling since then has had a greater impact on the lives of American women and their families than Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), according to Hontz, 1998. Twenty five years later, Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Sarah Weddington, the lead lawyer in the Roe...
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