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Roe v. Wade: How It All Started

Updated: Jul 13


The abortion rights movement first gained momentum and national attention with a court ruling in the early 1970's that would oversee and manage the course of abortion and women's rights for decades to come in the Unites States. The case of Roe v. Wade was brought to the national conscious when "Jane Roe", whose real name was Norma McCorvey filed a federal lawsuit against Henry Wade, the district attorney for Dallas County where she resided. During this time period in the State of Texas, it was a crime to have an abortion unless the mother's life was at an extreme risk under the Texas criminal statutes. McCorvey (aka Jane Roe) was trying to safely and legally terminate her unwanted pregnancy when she was 21 years old in compliance with the federal laws of that time period, which decriminalized abortion nationwide, even though it was still illegal in some states, such as Texas. However, she could not have an abortion in the State of Texas because the abortion clinics were effectively shut down by the police under the laws of Texas. In the end, McCorvey filed a federal lawsuit against Texas, and the U.S. Supreme Court made the landmark ruling on January 22, 1973 that a woman's decision to have an abortion was a personal liberty and she could choose to have an abortion because it was protected by the Constitution of the United States. The significance of this court ruling was unprecedented because the U.S. Supreme Court reached a decision totally in line with the majority of the public opinion about abortion and its legality.

In their decision, the U.S. Supreme Court took a monumental step in changing the stigma of abortion during the twentieth century. It has come to be known as the seminal case that set the stage in altering the way that the states could regulate abortion by addressing different avenues to the existing ideas about abortion which the U.S. Supreme Court carefully address in their decision. Roe further proclaimed that restrictions to abortion access by the individual states was unconstitutional, which made it safer and more feasible for a female to receive the necessary and safe, reproductive healthcare such as having a safely administered abortion.

Looking back on the Roe decision, the countless lives of generations of women across this country would have been compromised and put in jeopardy because they would have had little to no autonomy over their own body in choosing whether to have an abortion, thereby increasing the risks of an unsafe abortion.


Sources:

“Roe v. Wade.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/event/Roe-v-Wade.


Roe v. Wade: Its History and Impact - Planned Parenthood. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/3013/9611/5870/Abortion_Roe_History.pdf.

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