The idea of overturning Roe V. Wade after five decades has proved to be divisive as the country seems split even further between pro-life and pro-choice camps. The 1973 ruling which has protected the rights of American women to choose whether or not to have an abortion is considered a vital pillar of protection of privacy and dignity of women and also economic planning for households. It is still obvious that the ruling may be overturned because the Supreme Court hasn’t denied the leaked document. The original ruling wasn’t as hotly contested in 1973 as it is now which is interesting. Politicians and activists have extracted so many arguments from this ruling that the initial case and surrounding circumstances have been forgotten.
The supreme court had a Republican majority
Having a majority of right-wing leaning justices is one of the reasons everyone believes the supreme court may overturn Roe V. Wade. What most people don’t know is that in 1973, the court that passed Roe V. Wade was controlled by a male only republican majority bench. The first woman to sit on the US Supreme Court didn’t get her chance until September 1973, eight months after the ruling was passed. Having a republican majority should therefore not be an excuse for the court to fail at its job of interpreting the constitution and coming up with a practical ruling.
Roe was just a pseudo name
Jane Rhoe was the name used in the Supreme court ruling for the Dallas plaintiff represented by lawyer Sarah Weddington. Wade on the other side was Henry Wade, the Dallas County district attorney. The plaintiff’s name was never mentioned until Norma McCorvey came out publicly as the plaintiff in 1973 after the court ruling. She was a 22 year old woman at the time (20 when she filed the case) who was unable to get an abortion for her third pregnancy because the Texas laws that only allowed abortions if the mother’s life was in danger. She was advised by her friends to say that the pregnancy was as a result of rape or incest because there were Texas laws that allowed abortion under such circumstances.
The court couldn’t agree on “when does life begin”
When does life begin? Is the one question that both parties arguing the case couldn’t agree on. The state of Texas argued that life begins at conception and therefore the state has to protect it. Roe’s team on the other hand argued that some groups of Americans didn’t recognize a life until after the baby was born. The judges considered the fact that a fetus’ life should be protected from the period when it is deemed medically viable, meaning it can survive outside the mother’s womb. In the end, the court divided a pregnancy into three 12-week trimesters and made rulings based on the level of control a state could impose on each of the first three.
Roe V. Wade didn’t exactly make abortion legal
It is true that the ruling meant that no state in the US could place a blanket ban on abortion. In the final ruling, the judge argued that granting abortion at any stage of pregnancy would interfere with the state’s mandate to protect the right to life. The judges therefore decided that the state could not get involved in a woman’s decision to have a baby in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The rights of the state to get involved starts in the second trimester after the fetus reaches what is called a viable age. Some states took advantage of this to impose bans on abortion anywhere after the 12th week. Some states also put lots of regulations in place that meant women seeking abortion legally would be delayed from getting the procedure for as long as possible until the first 12-week window elapsed and now the state’s power came into place.
Roe didn’t have her abortion
Roe was already five months pregnant when she first sought her abortion and by the time the ruling was made in 1973, it didn’t apply to her because she had already given birth. McCorvey had given up her first two children for adoption and so she did the same with the third who was delivered before the court ruling happened. After McCorvey died in 2017, no news were heard of her “Rhoe baby” until 2021 when Shelley Lynn Thornton came out and said that she was Roe McCorvey’s Roe baby.
Anti-abortion laws were not an issue before the 1930s
Abortion was actually legal in the US in the 1700S and early 1800s and there was very little regulation on who could do it. The US doctors were losing money to informal midwives who offered abortions which led to a selfish move by the early American Medical Association to seek control over the procedure. The association was supported by the Catholic church that saw different states start to prohibit abortions. The practice was still legal as long as it was done by certified doctors until the 1930s when extreme political views saw most US states crack down hard on abortions.
Some states had already legalized abortion before the ruling
New York had the most liberal abortion laws in the US pre–Roe V. Wade allowing abortion for up to 24 weeks. You could also have an abortion past 20 weeks in Washington, Hawaii and Alaska but you needed residency. Texas didn’t actually have the strictest abortion laws at the time as many suggest because the state allowed abortion to save a mother’s life and in cases of rape and incest. California also had liberal abortion laws nearly similar to what you had in New York.
Roe later became a pro-life activist
Norma McCorvey made headlines around the US when she was baptized by an evangelical pastor in the full glare of cameras in a Texas backyard in 1992. She soon became an antiabortion activist for the controversial Operation Rescue group. She resigned from her job at a pro-abortion agency. However, before her death in 2017, Norma confessed that the evangelical groups paid her to become their voice and that her pro-life activism was just an act.
Planned parenthood V. Casey
This is the 1992 case that shook the country once more as many people thought that Roe V. Wade would be overturned. The right to abortion was at the heart of the argument once more with a major focus on exactly when the state could be allowed to interfere with a woman’s desire to have an abortion. In the end, the case did away with the trimester counts of Roe V. Wade and reduced the principle to viability meaning the woman had the right to abort as long as the fetus wasn’t viable. The age of viability changes depending on state of medical advancement and it is now believed to be between 22 and 25 weeks.
Overturning the ruling won’t mean that abortion is banned in the US
The biggest worry for many women in the US is that overturning Roe V. Wade would take women in states like Texas back to the plight of the 1930s. However, the constitutional arguments that led to Roe V. Wade in the 14th amendment still apply. Another key argument is that the constitutional rights to life apply to what the constitution defines as a “person” which only refers to persons that have already been born. Overturning Roe V. Wade would therefore only expand the scope upon which abortion will be legalized in more states.