Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), is a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. More on the topic:
Decided simultaneously with a companion case, Doe v. Bolton, the Court ruled 7–2 that a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion, but that right must be balanced against the state’s two legitimate interests in regulating abortions: protecting prenatal life and protecting women’s health. Arguing that these state interests became stronger over the course of a pregnancy, the Court resolved this balancing test by tying state regulation of abortion to the trimester of pregnancy.
The Court later rejected Roe’s trimester framework, while affirming Roe’s central holding that a person has a right to abortion until viability. The Roe decision defined “viable” as being “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid”, adding that viability “is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks.”
In disallowing many state and federal restrictions on abortion in the United States, Roe v. Wade prompted a national debate that continues today, about issues including whether and to what extent abortion should be legal, who should decide the legality of abortion, what methods the Supreme Court should use in constitutional adjudication, and what the role should be of religious and moral views in the political sphere. Roe v. Wade reshaped national politics, dividing much of the United States into pro-choice and pro-life camps, while activating grassroots movements on both sides.
Sarah Ragle Weddington (born February 5, 1945, in Abilene, Texas) is an American attorney, law professor, and former Texas state legislator best known for representing “Jane Roe” (real name Norma McCorvey) in the landmark Roe v. Wade case before the United States Supreme Court.
After graduating, Weddington found it difficult to find a job with a law firm. She instead joined a group of graduate students at University of Texas-Austin that was researching ways to challenge various anti-abortion statutes. After deciding that a woman should helm a lawsuit to challenge Texas’ statute, Weddington volunteered.
Soon after, a pregnant woman named Norma McCorvey visited a local attorney seeking an abortion. The attorney instead assisted McCorvey with handing over her child for adoption, and after doing so, referred McCorvey to Weddington and Linda Coffee. In March 1970, Weddington and her co-counsel filed suit against Wade, the Dallas district attorney and the person responsible for enforcing the anti-abortion statute. McCorvey became the landmark plaintiff, and was referred in the legal documents as “Jane Roe” to protect her identity.
Weddington first stated her case in front of a three-judge district court on May 1970 in Dallas. The district court agreed that the Texas abortion laws were unlawful, but the state appealed the decision, landing it before the United States Supreme Court.
Weddington appeared before the Supreme Court in 1971 and again in the fall of 1972. Her argument was based on the 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th and 14th amendments, as well as the Court’s previous decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized the sale of contraceptives based on the right of privacy. Of the experience, Weddington later stated, “There was a sense of majesty, walking up those stairs, my steps echoing on the marble. I went to the lawyers’ lounge — to go over my argument. I wanted to make a last stop before I went in — but there was no ladies’ room in the lawyer’s lounge.”