Roe v. Wade

Roe v. Wade was in many ways the most controversial decision enacted by the Supreme Court,

and no other court decision has been more bitterly attacked. The right of privacy is the main issue upon

which the Roe decision was based. Roe v. Wade came before the court together with a companion case,

Doe v. Bolton. In both cases, pregnant woman sought relief against state abortion laws contending they

were unconstitutional. Roe involved a Texas statute that prohibited abortions except for the purpose of

saving the mothers life. While Doe dealt with a Georgia statute allowing an abortion only when the

woman s life was endangered, when the child would be born with a severe birth defect, or when

pregnancy had resulted from rape.

Invalidating both statutes in a 7-2 ruling, the court speaking through Justice Harry Blackmun

held that the constitutional right of privacy whether based on the concept of personal liberty in the

Fourteenth Amendment or on the reservation of rights to the people in the Ninth Amendment includes the

right of a woman to decide whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. Noting that abortions had

become safer then childbirth and holding that the word person in the constitution of the Unites States

does not include the unborn.

The court defined within each of the three stages of pregnancy, the reciprocal limits of state

power and individual freedom:

1. During the first trimester, the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical

judgment of the pregnant woman s attending physician.

2. After the first trimester, the state, in promoting its interest in the health of the mother, may, if it

chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health.

3. For the stage subsequent to viability, the state, in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human

life may, if it chooses, regulate and even proscribe abortion, except where it is necessary, in

appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.

Opponents of the Supreme court decision, arguing that a fetus is entitled as a person to

constitutional protection, attacked the decision on a variety of fronts. A nationwide campaign was

instituted to amend the constitution to prohibit or severely restrict abortion. Abortion became, rather than

simply a legal and constitutional issue, a major political and social controversy. Many states passed laws

imposing additional procedural requirements on women who sought abortions but federal court decisions

holding these new laws unconstitutional usually followed each passing of the new laws.

Related Essays on Abortion

также читайте