1973 January 22

A Constitutional Right to an Abortion: “Roe v. Wade”


In Roe v. Wade, decided on this day, the Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 that women had a constitutional right to abortion based on the right to privacy, established in the Griswold v. Connecticut decision (June 7, 1965), and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court established a trimester framework, with the interests of the government in regulating abortion rising in the second and third trimesters.The decision was undoubtedly the most controversial Supreme Court decision in the post-World War II era.

The Roe decision spurred the emergence of a powerful anti-abortion movement that transformed American politics. As states passed laws seeking to limit abortion, the Court ruled on a number of important abortion cases over the next forty years. See especially Planned Parenthood v. Casey, decided on June 29, 1992, in which the Court upheld the basic holding in Roe.

Justice Blackmun for the Court: “We, therefore, conclude that the right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision, but that this right is not unqualified, and must be considered against important state interests in regulation.”

Read the full decision for yourself: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1971/1971_70_18

Read: N. E. H. Hull and Peter Charles Hoffer, The Abortion Rights Controversy in American History (2010)

Read about abortion in America before Roe: Linda Greenhouse and Riva Siegel, Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling (2010)

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