What is Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion access case?

May 3, 2022, 12:47 AM | Updated: 4:18 pm
FILE - Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe in the 1973 court case, left, and her attorney Gloria Allred hold h...

FILE - Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe in the 1973 court case, left, and her attorney Gloria Allred hold hands as they leave the Supreme Court building in Washington after sitting in while the court listened to arguments in a Missouri abortion case, April 26, 1989. A leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision suggests the country's highest court could be poised to overturn the constitutional right to abortion, allowing individual states to more heavily regulate or even ban the procedure. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

A leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision suggests the country’s highest court could be poised to overturn the constitutional right to abortion, allowing individual states to more heavily regulate or even ban the procedure.

WHAT DOES ‘ROE V. WADE’ REFER TO?

Roe v. Wade is the name of the lawsuit that led to the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion in the United States. The majority opinion found an absolute right to abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy.

WHO WERE ROE AND WADE?

Jane Roe was a pseudonym for Norma McCorvey, who was 22, unmarried, unemployed and pregnant for the third time in 1969 when she sought to have an abortion in Texas. By the time the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in her favor, McCorvey had given birth to a girl whom she placed for adoption.

Henry Wade was the district attorney of Dallas County, Texas. It was his job to enforce a state law prohibiting abortion except to save a woman’s life, so he was the person McCorvey sued when she sought the abortion.

After her death, biographer Joshua Prager said McCorvey made her living giving speeches and writing books on both sides of the abortion debate and was coached by both sides. She had conflicted feelings about each, he said, but was consistent on one point: supporting abortion through the first trimester.

WHAT DID THE COURT DECIDE IN 1973?

The plaintiff alleged that Texas law was unconstitutionally vague and violated her constitutionally protected right to personal privacy. The question before the U.S. Supreme Court was: Does the Constitution recognize a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy by abortion?

Justice Harry Blackmun delivered the opinion for the 7-2 majority, finding that it did indeed — although that protection had to be balanced against the government’s interests in protecting women’s health and “the potentiality of human life.” The conservative-leaning court said a woman’s decision to have an abortion during the first three months of her pregnancy must be left to her and her doctor.

WHAT WAS THE PRE-ROE LANDSCAPE IN THE U.S.?

At the time of Roe, abortion was broadly legal in just four states and allowed under limited circumstances in 16 others. Constitutional rights trump state laws, so the court’s decision nullified the bans in the remaining 30 states. But it did allow states to impose certain regulations during the second trimester to protect the woman’s health and take steps to protect fetal life in the third trimester.

HOW HAVE LATER DECISIONS ALTERED ABORTION RIGHTS IN AMERICA?

Blackmun was still on the court in 1992, when it heard Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a challenge to Pennsylvania abortion laws that included a 24-hour waiting period. The conservative-leaning court unexpectedly upheld the right to abortion –while also making it easier for states to impose regulations.

Three conservative justices — Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy and David H. Souter — co-authored the court’s main opinion in the 5-4 decision, writing: “The woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy before viability is the most central principle of Roe vs. Wade. It is a rule of law and a component of liberty we cannot renounce.´´

Neither side on the abortion issue was pleased with the ruling. Since then, conservative states have been chipping away at abortion rights with laws that have engendered many more court challenges, including a recent Texas law that bans most abortions after about six weeks.

WHAT IS THIS NEW CASE THAT’S POISED TO TOPPLE ROE?

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. It challenges Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks.

Upholding that ban would undermine both Roe and Casey, which allow states to regulate — but not ban — abortion up until the point of fetal viability, at roughly 24 weeks. The decision, per the draft, would likely result in a patchwork of abortion laws, with some states protecting abortion and others prohibiting it outright.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Former Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy answers questions after his legal...
Luis Andres Henao, The Associated Press

After Supreme Court backs Bremerton praying coach, no sweeping changes

Three months after the decision, there’s no sign that large numbers of coaches have been newly inspired to follow Joseph Kennedy’s high-profile example.
13 hours ago
(Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

GOP candidate apologizes after antisemitic post surfaces

A GOP candidate for the Washington Legislature has acknowledged that a post he put on social media in 2020 is antisemitic.
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Homicide suspect injures Topeka officer in downtown shootout

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A homicide suspect injured at least one police officer in a shootout Thursday in downtown Topeka that came after the suspect led law enforcement on a chase through Kansas’ capital city. Police said the unnamed suspect was wanted in connection with a double shooting at a south Topeka home, with one […]
13 hours ago
The exterior of the Borgata casino, left, and its Water Club hotel, right, are seen Oct. 1, 2020. O...
Associated Press

Suit: MGM paid problem gambler to not report online glitches

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A New York City man is suing an Atlantic City casino, its parent company and its online betting partner, alleging he was repeatedly disconnected while gambling online, and was given payments to prevent him from reporting the malfunctions to New Jersey gambling regulators during a nine-month span in which he […]
13 hours ago
This photo combo of images shows logos for Apple, Meta, Google and Amazon. The House on Thursday, S...
Associated Press

House approves scaled-down bill targeting Big Tech dominance

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House on Thursday approved sharply scaled-down legislation targeting the dominance of Big Tech companies by giving states greater power in antitrust cases and increasing money for federal regulators. The bipartisan measure, passed by a 242-184 vote, pales in comparison with a more ambitious package aimed at reining in Meta, Google, Amazon […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

The Newsy news network is rebranding itself as Scripps News

NEW YORK (AP) — The E.W. Scripps Co. is renaming its Newsy news network as part of a corporate restructuring designed to create a more focused national news division. Newsy, a news network seen largely online and through streaming services, will be rechristened Scripps News on Jan. 1, the company said on Thursday. Scripps has […]
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
What is Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion access case?