A Reflection on the 40 Years Since Roe v. Wade 40 Years Later 40 Years Since "Roe v. Wade" 40 Years Later January 22, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of "Roe v. Wade". Join us in recounting the decisions leading up to the case, traveling through history as we follow this path to our contemporary moment, exploring the ways in which this decision is still as relevant as ever.
Because the decision to end a pregnancy is so personal and complex, no one can truly know the situation of another. Therefore, because we are not in her shoes, we have taken ours off as we travel this path. www.notinhershoes.org Before "Roe v. Wade" Roe v. Wade:
The Decision Initial (Anti-) Abortion Law Prior to the mid 1800s, no legislation regarding abortion was enacted. Instead, English Common Law set the precedent, which allowed abortion until "quickening," or the point at which fetal movement was perceptible, generally around the fourth month. From this point on, however, methods of abortion could be found in medical literature. From 1860 onward, the criminalization of abortion only intensified. By 1900, the procedure was illegal in nearly all states, though some did make exceptions for the life of the woman.
While some argue that these early anti-abortion laws were on the basis of keeping the procedure safe and preventing unskilled professionals from performing them, rather than on moral grounds, the evidence is weak because of the fact that the woman and the provider were still subject to prosecution. Abortion Law Reform In 1962, the American Law Institute (ALI) recommended that abortion be legal in cases of rape, incest, endangerment to the woman's life or health, or when the fetus has a severe defect. Following this recommendation, Colorado was the first to reform its anti-choice legislation, followed by seventeen other states. Based on the ALI recommendation, the 13 pink states in the map above reformed their laws. In 1970, the four red states entirely removed their anti-abortion laws, thereby declaring to provide abortions by choice. Court Cases Directly
Leading Up to
"Roe v. Wade" Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965 This case involved the prosecution of a doctor for providing a contraceptive device to a married couple. In deciding the case, the Supreme Court upheld, under the Ninth Amendment, that individual rights extend beyond those specifically stipulated in the Bill of Rights, and that the right to privacy remains within the spirit of the Bill of Rights. In doing so, married couples gained the right to receive contraception. Eisenstadt v. Baird, 1972 Building upon the decision of "Griswold v. CT," this case decided that allowing only married people to access contraception violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, thus extending the right to contraception to all people. Other Cases Related
to Abortion Law Skinner v. Oklahoma, 1942 This case decided that the forced sterilization of prisoners was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment, declaring procreation to be a fundamental human right. United States v. Vuitch, 1971 This case declared a Washington DC law prohibiting abortion except when the life of the mother was in danger to be in accordance with the constitution, and mandated that the law be extended to include psychological health as well. Doe v. Bolton, 1973 Decided alongside "Roe v. Wade," this case clearly defined the term "health of the mother" in terms of abortion law by expanding it to include, "all factors - physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age - relevant to the well-being of the patient." Roe v. Wade:
Meet the Players Henry Wade Henry Wade was born November 11, 1914 in Rockwall County, Texas. Like his brothers, Wade became an attorney, graduating from the University of Texas in 1939. That same year, he became a special agent with the FBI. In 1947, he was elected District Attorney for Rockwall County, and later went on to become the District Attorney for Dallas County in 1951, holding the post until 1987. Henry Wade represented the State of Texas, the defendant, in the Roe v. Wade case. Up until this point, Wade had never lost a case. "Jane Roe" Sarah
Weddington Born in 1945 in Abilene, Texas, the daughter of a Methodist minister, Sara Weddington was a youth leader who consistently followed her passions despite opposition. After graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor's degree in English from McCurry University, she became one of only five women to matriculate to the University of Texas for law school, in a class of 120. In 1968, Weddington traveled to Mexico to receive an illegal abortion after becoming pregnant, the same year she received her JD. After graduating, she joined a group of graduate students at the University of Texas-Austin who were researching ways to challenge various anti-abortion statutes. When the decision was made to file a lawsuit to challenge Texas's statutes, Weddington volunteered. For her, like many others, the personal was political. In 1969, Norma McCorvey was working a low-wage job and living with her father when she became pregnant for a third time. Advised by a friend to claim that she had been raped, in order to receive a legal abortion, her claims were unsuccessful because of lack of police documentation on the incident. Turning to illegal abortion similarly proved unsuccessful, as she found that the illegal clinics had already been shut down by authorities. When she approached an attorney, he told her, "Look, if you want to do an adoption, I can help you. If you want an abortion, I can't help you, but I can send you to two women lawyers (Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee)." Upon contacting them, McCorvey became "Jane Roe." McCorvey took on the alias "Jane Roe" in order to protect her identity, refraining from participating in court hearings in order to further protect this anonymity. While she still hoped to receive an abortion, she said, on the case, "Let's do it for other women." After three years of trial, their case ultimately reached the Supreme Court. In that span of time, McCorvey gave birth to the child, who was then adopted. The Court Decides... In 1973, the Supreme Court decided with a 7-2 majority that the abortion statutes in question violated an individual's right to privacy. Though not explicitly stipulated in the Constitution, the precedent was first established in "Union Pacific Railway Co. v. Botsford," in which the court ruled in favor of an individual refusing a mandatory physical examination, stating, "[n]o right is held more sacred or more carefully guarded, by the common law, than the right of every individual to the possession and control of his own person, free from all restraint or interference of others..." In the 7-2 decision, Justices Blackmun, Burger, Douglas, Brennan, Stewart, Marshall, and Powell were in favor, while Justices White and Rehnquist dissented. Through their decision, they declared that restrictions on abortion must be based on "compelling state interest," and that the state's interest in maternal health only becomes compelling after the first trimester of pregnancy. They also argued that the state's interest in fetal health is not compelling before viability, that the states must always allow abortions necessary to protect a woman's life or health, and that fetuses do not have rights as people under the Fourteenth Amendment. After the Case Sarah Weddington went on to serve in the Texas House of Representatives, in President Carter's administration, and as a Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Texas-Austin. She continues to advocate for reproductive justice, writing, "I despair when I look at who has the power today. I'm just waiting for reinforcements: the public has taken the right to abortion for granted, but I believe that the opposition will actually be what convinces the American people to fight back." Only a few days after the court issued its decision, "Jane Roe" revealed herself as Norma McCorvey. For years she continued her life as an advocate of choice. However, in 1995, she was publicly baptized, in a televised ceremony, by her friend, evangelical minister Flip Benham. Only two days after her baptism, she publicly declared her support for Operation Rescue's campaign to criminalize abortion. McCorvey now asserts that she had simply been a "pawn" for Weddington and Coffee to use in bringing their case to trial. Since then, she has been one of the biggest advocates and figureheads of the Anti-Choice movement, writing several books and establishing her own organization, "Roe No More." Since "Roe v. Wade," and especially recently, we have witnessed countless
attacks on our right to
safe and legal access to
abortion services. Henry Wade After the case, Henry Wade remained
the District Attorney for Dallas County
for another 14 years. He was not blamed
for the case loss, and remained politically popular. In 2000, Justice Center was named in his honor. Wade died on March 1, 2001 from Parkinson's disease. He was named one of the 102 most influential lawyers of the 20th Century. Sarah Weddington a
a Norma McCorvey Norma McCorvey In 2012, 43 different abortion restrictions were enacted in 19 states, including TRAP legislation, heartbeat laws, personhood amendments, and similar measures. This year marks the second-highest number of regulations in a year, second only to 2011's record 92 anti-choice provisions. Each restriction chips away at the foundation provided by "Roe v. Wade," attempting to make abortion access much harder and more dangerous to come by. As we enter the new year, anti-choice state legislators are showing no signs of letting up. Lawmakers in states like Virginia, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Texas are already gearing up to present new restrictions that would prevent public employees from using their health insurance to cover abortions, allow/require doctors to present pregnant women with biased information, or defund Planned Parenthood altogether. In New York, we are working to insure that safe and legal access to abortion is protected no matter what. The Reproductive Health Act is a measure designed to update NY abortion laws and "establish a fundamental, statutory right to privacy in making personal reproductive decisions." This bill is supported by 7/10 New Yorkers, and provides the added insurance our abortion access needs in light of the record-breaking number of anti-choice provisions we have witnessed in the past two years alone. As we reflect on the impact of "Roe v. Wade" forty years later, we honor the achievements of the women who have come before us as we work toward achieving goals of our own. We have come so far, and while we must acknowledge the realness of the mounting anti-choice force and their restrictions, we must not forget the real strength that we pose - in numbers, in knowledge, and in heart. So long as we never stop fighting, our movement will never end. "After Dallas DA’s Death, 19 Convictions Undone." MSNBC.MSN.com. National Broadcasting Conpany, 29 July 2008. Web. 8 Jan. 2013.
Foster, Julie. "The Real 'Jane Roe'" WND. WND.com, 4 Feb. 2001. Web. 03 Jan. 2013.
Gold, Rachel Benson. “Lessons from Before Roe: Will Past Be Prologue?” Guttmacher Institute. Guttmacher Institute, March 2003. Web. 1 January 2013. <http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/tgr/06/1/gr060108.html>
Haugh, Susanne. "McCorvey Repudiates Role In Abortion Case." McCorvey Repudiates Role In Abortion Case. Holy Spirit College, 06 Apr. 2000. Web. 08 Jan. 2013.
"Henry Wade, Dallas District Attorney Who Would Have Prosecuted Oswald." Henry Wade, Dallas District Attorney Who Would Have Prosecuted Oswald. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2013.
"Jane ROE, Et Al., Appellants, v. Henry WADE." LII. Cornell University Law School, n.d. Web. 02 Jan. 2013.
Janeczko, Janice. "Sarah Weddington and Roe v. Wade." The Northwestern Chronicle. N.p., 7 Dec. 2012. Web. 02 Jan. 2013.
"Key NYS Legislation | Family Planning Advocates." Family Planning Advocates Key NYS Legislation Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Jan. 2013.
McBride, Alex. "Roe v. Wade (1973)." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 02 Jan. 2013.
Morris, Regan. "Sarah Weddington." Lawcrossing.com. Web.
"Norma McCorvey." About.com Women's History. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Jan. 2013."Roe v. Wade." Roe v. Wade. Mount Holyoke, 17 Dec. 2004. Web. 08 Jan. 2013.
"Roe v. Wade." Roe v. Wade. Mount Holyoke, 17 Dec. 2004. Web. 08 Jan. 2013.
"Sarah Weddington." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Dec. 2012. Web. 08 Jan. 2013.
Saxon, Wolfgang. "Henry Wade, Prosecutor in National Spotlight, Dies at 86." The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Mar. 2001. Web. 03 Jan. 2013.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, Roe v. Wade and the Right to Privacy. The Center for Reproductive Rights, 1 June 2003. Web. 1 Jan. 2013. <http://reproductiverights.org/en/document/roe-v-wade-and-the-right-to-privacy>
UT College of Liberal Arts." Sarah Weddington”. Web. 02 Jan. 2013.
Woll, Peter. American Government: Readings and Cases. New York: HarperCollins College, 1996. Print. Sources Created by
Activist Council: Amanda Lipari
Stephanie NavarroSee the full transcript