- Roe v. Wade
(1973) Decision of the Supreme Court of the United States that established a woman's right to have an abortion without undue interference from the government.A Texas law prohibiting abortions was challenged by an unmarried pregnant woman (pseudonymously named Jane Roe), and the court ruled in her favour, finding that the state had violated her right to privacy (see rights of privacy). Harry Blackmun, writing for the seven-member majority, argued that the state's legitimate concern for the protection of prenatal life increased as a pregnancy advanced. While allowing that the state might forbid abortions during a pregnancy's third trimester, he held that a woman was entitled to obtain an abortion freely, after medical consultation, during the first trimester and in an authorized clinic during the second trimester. The Roe decision, perhaps the most controversial in the Supreme Court's history, remains at the centre of the issue of abortion rights. Repeated challenges since 1973, such as Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, have narrowed the scope of Roe but have not overturned it.
* * *▪ law caselegal case, decided in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court, that held unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion to be unconstitutional. In a 7–2 vote the Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision that a Texas statute criminalizing abortion in most instances violated a woman's constitutional right of privacy, which the court found implicit in the liberty guarantee of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case began in 1970 when Jane Roe (a fictional name used to protect the identity of Norma McCorvey) instituted federal action against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas county, Texas, where Roe resided. The court disagreed with Roe's assertion of an absolute right to terminate pregnancy in any way and at any time and attempted to balance a woman's right of privacy with a state's interest in regulating abortion. The court stated that only a “compelling state interest” justifies regulations limiting “fundamental rights” such as privacy and that legislators must therefore draw statutes narrowly “to express the legitimate state interests at stake.” The court then attempted to balance the state's distinct compelling interests in the health of pregnant women and in the potential life of fetuses. It placed the point after which a state's compelling interest in the pregnant woman's health would allow it to regulate abortion “at approximately the end of the first trimester” of pregnancy. With regard to fetuses, the court located that point at “capability for meaningful life outside the mother's womb,” or viability. The court held that the Texas statute was unconstitutional because of its breadth. Repeated challenges since 1973, such as Casey (Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey) (1992), have narrowed the scope of Roe v. Wade but have yet to overturn it. In Gonzales v. Carhart (2007), the Supreme Court upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (2003), which prohibited a rarely used abortion procedure known as intact dilation and evacuation.
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