The History of Roe v. Wade

Sunday, January 22, was the 50th anniversary of the landmark court decision to protect abortions, Roe v. Wade. The name comes from Norma McCorvey (who took the pseudonym “Jane Roe”) and her district attorney, Henry Wade. Abortions were illegal in Texas (where McCorvey lived) unless the mother would die. McCorvey was pregnant with her third child but wanted an abortion, so she took her case to court.

The district court ruled in her favor, so they took the case to the Supreme Court. The Justices favored her 7-2 and ruled that abortion was a “fundamental” right. Roe argued that abortions were protected by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which stated: “…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” She said that liberty included the right to individual privacy, which should protect the right to an abortion.

Roe was one of the most controversial rulings but held up over time. Other cases, namely Planned Parenthood v. Casey, continued to assert reproductive freedom. No case overturned Roe for almost 50 years until Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization did just that.

In Mississippi, the only abortion clinic in 2018 was the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. But when a law passed banning most abortions after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy, they sued State Health Officer Thomas E. Dobbs. But the Christian legal organization  Alliance Defending Freedom wanted just that. They hoped the legal battle ensuing would overturn Roe.

Lower courts had already stopped the proposed Mississippi law, as it directly contradicted Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. But the Supreme court ruled otherwise. A 6-3 majority allowed the law to pass, while a narrow 5-4 vote overturned Roe. Despite Roe being controversial, the new ruling was even more so. A poll conducted found “When Americans are given the choice between overturning Roe and leaving it as it is, between 55% and 60% choose the latter option.”

On the 50th anniversary of the original ruling, many protests and rallies occurred all over the country, and Vice President Kamala Harris personally addressed the matter in Tallahassee, Florida. President Joe Biden also issued a statement, and there was no shortage of news stories about the topic from other sources.

This map shows the current state of abortion laws:

As you can see, 27 states have not protected, hostile, and illegal laws for abortion, while 23 have protected or expanded access to abortions. For most of these states where abortion is illegal, there are no exceptions for incest or rape.

This is the current state, and a report by NPR gives 2023 updates. They talk with many activists, both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice. Florida, Virginia, and Wyoming were among the states that were being pushed for more restrictive laws, while Colorado and Michigan were among the states that would be pushed for more access to abortions.


Editor at The City Voice

Hello, my name is Luke Fann. I love to read and write myself into a fantastical realm, but I love all genres. Of course, such a task requires assistance from my parents and older brother. I've feasted on alligators and tamed beasts like alpacas (my favorite animal), but none of that compares to my greatest weapon: a pencil. I am an editor here for the City Voice, and this is my second year writing for it.

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