Great Debates in History: Roe v. Wade, how a case on abortion shaped our political landscape

by Erik Fogel | Nov 2, 2017 8:00:00 AM |

Roe v. Wade


On October 11, 1972, oral arguments began in what was to become one of the most important legal debates in the history of America. Jane Roe, a pregnant woman from Texas who wanted to obtain an abortion, brought the case alleging that it was unconstitutional for abortion to be illegal. While the case was decided in January of 1973, the arguments are continually brought up in legal cases, in the media, and by politicians, and are still extremely relevant in current election cycle debates.

Sarah Weddington, who was 26 when she argued the case on behalf of Roe before the Supreme Court, stated that a woman had a right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, and therefore abortion should not be illegal. She stated that the decision to be made was not a moral one about whether an abortion was a good or right choice;

"We are here to advocate that the decision as to whether or not a particular woman will continue to carry or will terminate a pregnancy is a decision that should be made by that individual. That, in fact, she has a constitutional right to make that decision for herself."

When the decision was finally made nearly four months later, the court decided in Roe’s favor, confirming the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment. In his majority opinion, Justice Blackmun wrote that;

“The right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision, but this right is not unqualified and must be considered against important state interests in regulation.”

Roe v. Wade confirmed that a woman had a right to privacy protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, and therefore had an absolute right to decide on whether to have an abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy. In later trimesters, the state’s interests became involved and restrictions could be put on when an abortion was legal.

Justice White was one of two justices who dissented, and he wrote that the Court;

"values the convenience of the pregnant mother more than the continued existence and development of the life or potential life that she carries."

It is arguable that this case led to the sharp polarization of views on abortion among the general public, and it is still debated today. If you are interested in becoming involved in debating the most important topics in society today, contact us or check out other great debates in history at their blog.







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