What is Roe vs Wade?

What is Roe vs Wade – Overview

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. This lawsuit aimed 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.

Abortion was illegal in the state of Texas in the 1970s unless it was performed to save the mother’s life. This statement suggests a redundancy by stating, ‘abortion or an abortion attempt was considered completely illegal,’ which is encompassed by the initial sentence.

The SCOTUS made two very significant declarations during Roe vs. Wade, namely:

  • The Supreme Court interpreted the Constitution to imply a fundamental ‘right to privacy’ that protects a person’s right to choose whether to have an abortion.
  • The right to an abortion is not absolute and must be balanced against the government’s interests in protecting health and potential human life.

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.
  • The state of Texas argued that a fetus should be recognized as a ‘person’ with rights under the 14th Amendment, a position not upheld by the Supreme Court.
  • 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.
  • Jane Roe argued for broad privacy rights that would protect the decision to have an abortion, though the Supreme Court did not grant an absolute right but instead set a framework balancing individual rights and state interests.

Supreme Court Decision in Roe vs Wade

What is Roe vs Wade

What is Roe vs Wade – Supreme Court Decision

The Supreme Court split the differences between the arguments presented by both parties. The Supreme Court actually recognized that the right to an abortion falls within the privacy rights implied by the Constitution.

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 did not accept the state’s arguments that Constitutional rights for the fetus begin at conception. The Constitution does not define 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 immediate public reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe vs. Wade varied, but the issue gained significant political traction in the following decades. Some view the SCOTUS decision in Roe vs. Wade as ‘judicial activism,’ characterized by decisions thought to be based more on personal or political considerations than on existing law. However, supporters of Roe state that the decision is vital for ensuring the protection of women’s rights.

See Also

What is Abortion?

Does Medicare Cover Abortions

Grants for Abortion

Does Medicare Cover Birth Control

Free Birth Control Without Insurance

Does Medicare Cover Birth Control?

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