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Table of Contents
Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision made in 1973 by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of the constitutionality of laws that criminalized or restricted access to abortions.
See the fact file below for more information on the Roe v. Wade or alternatively, you can download our 22-page Roe v. Wade worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
PRE-ROE IN THE US
- Abortion is one of the most controversial issues in United States culture and politics.
- Various anti-abortion laws have been in place in each state since at least 1900.
- When the United States first became independent, most states applied English common law to abortion.
- Abortions became illegal by statute in Britain in 1803, and the United States followed suit with various anti-abortion statutes in the 1820s that codified or expanded common law.
- In 1821, a Connecticut law targeted apothecaries who sold “poisons” to women for purposes of inducing abortion, and New York made post-quickening abortions a felony and pre-quickening abortions a misdemeanor in 1829.
- In 1967, Colorado became the first state to decriminalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, or in which pregnancy would lead to permanent physical disability of the woman.
- In 1970, Hawaii became the first state to legalize abortions on the request of the woman.
- New York repealed its 1830 law and allowed abortions up to the 24th week of pregnancy.
- In 1970, Washington held a referendum on legalizing early pregnancy abortions, becoming the first state to legalize abortion through a vote of the people.
- Prior to Roe v. Wade, 30 states prohibited abortion without exception, 16 states banned abortion except in certain special circumstances, 3 states allowed residents to obtain abortions, and New York allowed abortions generally.
- The case began in June, 1969 when “Jane Roe” – the alias of the plaintiff, Norma McCorvey – instituted federal action against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas county.
- After learning she was pregnant, Roe went to Dallas, Texas, where friends advised her to assert falsely that she had been raped in order to obtain a legal abortion.
- Her request failed because there was no police report documenting the alleged rape.
- In the case, she claimed that the Texas statutes were unconstitutionally vague and that they abridged her right of personal privacy, protected by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
- By an amendment to her complaint, Roe purported to sue “on behalf of herself and all other women” similarly situated.
- James Hubert Hallford, a licensed physician, was granted leave to intervene in Roe’s action. He alleged that he had been arrested previously for violations of the Texas abortion statutes that were pending against him.
- John and Mary Doe, a married couple, filed a companion complaint to that of Roe. Mrs. Doe alleged that her abortion was due to a “neural-chemical” disorder that would have affected her child.
- The suits thus presented the situations of the pregnant single woman, the childless couple, and the licensed practicing physician, all against Texas criminal abortion statutes.
TO THE HIGHER COURTS
- The justices delayed taking action on Roe considering the constitutionality of Columbia District statute that criminalized abortion except where the mother’s life or health was endangered.
- The appeal reached the the Supreme Court. It disagreed with Roe’s assertion of an absolute right to terminate pregnancy in any way and at any time.
- It attempted to balance a woman’s right of privacy with a state’s interest in regulating abortion.
- The Court issued its decision on January 22, 1973, with a 7-to-2 majority vote in favor of Roe.
- It recognized the right to an abortion as a fundamental right included within the guarantee of personal privacy.
- While acknowledging that the right to abortion was not unlimited, Justice Blackmun created a trimester framework to balance the fundamental right to abortion with the government’s two legitimate interests: protecting the mother’s health and protecting the “potentiality of human life.”
- Roe advocates reasoned that access to safe abortion and reproductive freedom generally are fundamental rights.
- Supporters of Roe contend that the decision has a valid constitutional foundation in the Fourteenth Amendment.
- Some opponents of abortion maintain that personhood begins at fertilization or conception, and should therefore be protected by the Constitution.
- The dissenting justices in Roe wrote that decisions about abortion “should be left with the people and to the political processes the people have devised to govern their affairs.”
ROE’S CHANGE OF HEART
- In 1995, Norma L. McCorvey revealed that she had become pro-life, and from then until her death in 2017, she was a vocal opponent of abortion.
- In February 2005, McCorvey petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 decision but it was denied, because the Supreme Court considered the matter to be moot.
Roe v. Wade Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Roe v. Wade across 22 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Roe v. Wade worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Roe v. Wade which was a landmark decision made in 1973 by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of the constitutionality of laws that criminalized or restricted access to abortions.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Roe v. Wade
- “Jane Roe”
- The Court
- World Stands
- In the Womb
- Popular Voice
- Risks and Benefits
- Visual Stand
- The Good Side
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