In 1973, the United States Supreme Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to abortion in Roe v. Wade. This landmark decision legalized abortion across the country, but divided public opinion and has since come under attack.
The case was filed in 1971 by Norma McCorvey, a 22-year-old woman living in Texas who was unmarried and asking for the termination of her unwanted pregnancy.
Due to state laws prohibiting abortions unless the mother’s life was in danger, she was unable to undergo the procedure in a safe and legal environment.
McCorvey therefore sued Henry Wade, the Dallas County District Attorney, in 1970. The case went to the Supreme Court, as part of the Roe vs. Wade case, to protect McCorvey’s privacy.
Supreme Court decision
The Supreme Court made the landmark 7-2 decision that a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions, including choosing to have an abortion, is protected by the 14th Amendment.
In particular, that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment provides for a fundamental “right to privacy” that protects a woman’s freedom to choose whether or not to have an abortion.
… and no state should deprive a person of his or her life, liberty or property without due legal process
The landmark ruling saw abortions decriminalized in 46 states, but under certain specific conditions that states could decide on. For example, states could decide whether abortions were allowed only during the first and second trimester, but not the third (usually beyond 28 weeks).
Among pro-choice activists, the move was hailed as a victory that would mean fewer women would fall seriously – or even fatally – ill as a result of abortions performed by unqualified or unauthorized practitioners. In addition, freedom of choice was seen as an important step in the struggle for women’s equality in the country. Victims of rape or incest might end their pregnancy and not feel pressured into becoming mothers.
However, pro-lifers have argued that it amounts to murder and that every life, no matter how it is designed, is precious. Although the ruling was never overturned, anti-abortionists have pushed hundreds of state laws since then to narrow the scope of the ruling.
One of them was the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act signed by President George W. Bush in 2003, which banned a procedure used to perform second trimester abortions.
McCorvey lived a quiet life until the 1980s when she turned out to be Jane Roe
Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe)
Following the decision, McCorvey lived a quiet life until the 1980s, when she was revealed to be Jane Roe. McCorvey became a prominent pro-abortion voice in American discourse, even working at a women’s clinic where abortions were performed.
However, she made an unlikely U-turn in 1995, becoming a born-again Christian and began to travel the country to denounce the process.
In 2003, she filed a motion to quash her original 1973 decision with the U.S. District Court in Dallas. The petition went through the courts until it was finally dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2005.
McCorvey died in an assisted living facility in Texas in February 2017, aged 69.
“The Heartbeat Bill”
Several governors have signed legislation banning abortion if a doctor can detect a so-called “fetal heartbeat,” as part of a concerted effort to restrict abortion rights in states across the country.
Under the ban, doctors will be prosecuted for flouting the rules.
Advocates of the right to abortion see “heart rate bills” as virtual bans because “fetal heartbeats” can be detected as early as six weeks, when women may not know they are pregnant.
Anti-abortion activists have stepped up their efforts since Donald Trump was elected president and appointed two conservative justices to the United States Supreme Court, hoping they can convince the right-wing court to reconsider Roe v. Wade.
Georgia, Ohio, Missouri and Louisiana recently passed “heart rate laws,” and Alabama passed an even more restrictive version in May, amounting to a near-total ban on abortion from the start. design. Other states have similar legislation pending.
Similar laws have also been passed in Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Iowa and Kentucky, although they have been barred by the courts from coming into effect as legal challenges have been brought against they.