What is Roe vs Wade – Overview
The recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to overturn the historic Roe vs. Wade decision has set the rumor mills abuzz with speculations. Many people are left to wonder what is happening now.
Let’s dive deeper into the subject and find out how this decision will affect the normal everyday American.
Roe vs Wade – The Case
Roe vs. Wade is a lawsuit from 1973 that became popular and led to the Supreme Court making a historic ruling on abortion rights.
Jane Roe, an unmarried pregnant woman, filed a lawsuit on behalf of herself and others. The aim of this lawsuit was to challenge the Texas abortion laws. A Texas doctor also joined Roe’s lawsuit and argued that the state’s abortion laws were too ambiguous for doctors to follow. It is worth noting that the doctor was previously arrested for violating the state’s abortion laws.
In the 1970s, abortion was illegal in the state of Texas unless it was performed to save the mother’s life. At the time, abortion or an abortion attempt was considered completely illegal.
The SCOTUS made two very significant declarations during Roe vs. Wade, namely:
- The Constitution of the United States provides a fundamental “right to privacy” that protects a person’s right to choose whether to have an abortion.
- The abortion right is not absolute and must be balanced against the government’s interest in protecting the health and life of the prenatal baby.
Legal Arguments in Roe vs Wade
Both sides presented several different arguments during the Roe vs. Wade trial in the Supreme Court. Below are the main arguments offered by the defense and plaintiff sides:
Texas Defends Abortion Restriction
The state of Texas gave three main arguments in the case to defend its abortion statutes, which were:
- States are interested in safeguarding the health, maintaining medical standards, and protecting prenatal life.
- A fetus is a “person” protected under the 14th
- Protecting prenatal life from the time of conception is of compelling interest to the state.
Roe Claims Absolute Privacy Rights
Jane Roe, the plaintiff, and others involved in the case presented the following arguments in the Supreme Court during the trial:
- The state law invaded an individual’s right to “liberty,” as provided under the 14th
- The state law infringed on rights to marital, familial, and sexual privacy, which is guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.
- The right to an abortion is absolute, in which a person is entitled to terminate a pregnancy at any time, for any reason, and in any way they choose.
Supreme Court Decision in Roe vs Wade
The Supreme Court split the differences between the arguments presented by both parties. First, the Supreme Court recognized that abortion does not fall under privacy rights.
The constitutional right to privacy comes from the “Due Process Clause” of the 14th Amendment. The Due Process Clause does not specifically state that Americans have the right to privacy. Instead, the Supreme Court recognized that such a right goes back to 1891.
A year after the Roe vs. Wade case, the Supreme Court stated that “in a Constitution for a free people, there can be no doubt that the meaning of “liberty” must be broad indeed.”
In Roe vs. Wade, the SCOTUS determined that this right to privacy extends to control over pregnancy.
The judges involved in the case acknowledged that being compelled to continue a pregnancy puts a lot of risk on a woman, such as:
- Mental health
- Physical health
- Social stigma
- Financial burdens
The Supreme Court was, however, skeptical of the state’s arguments that Constitutional protection begins at conception. The Constitution does not provide a definition of a “person.” However, it mentions that its protection covers those “born or naturalized” in the United States.
After examining the other cases relating to unborn children, the Court decided that “the unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons in the whole sense.”
The SCOTUS decision in Roe vs. Wade also includes a discussion of the different views on when life begins. For instance, many in the Jewish faith believe that life begins at birth. However, the prevailing view of the Catholic faith states that life begins at conception.
On the other hand, doctors have varying views but usually tend to support the belief that life sometimes begins before birth. However, the Supreme Court found that it is not for the states to decide when life begins.
The public didn’t react significantly when the Supreme Court decided on Roe vs. Wade, but in the following decades, the topic became a significant issue in American politics. Some even view the SCOTUS decision in Roe vs.
Wade as “judicial activism,” where judges base their decisions on personal views rather than existing laws. However, supporters of Roe state that the decision is vital for ensuring the protection of women’s rights.