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  4. What is Roe vs Wade, ruling overturned by US Supreme Court striking abortion rights? EXPLAINED

What is Roe vs Wade, ruling overturned by US Supreme Court striking abortion rights? EXPLAINED

Can a woman choose to keep or abort her baby? The question has always been discussed in the United States. Sexual and reproductive health rights activists saw a big win back in 1973, with the Roe vs Wade ruling.

Poorva Joshi Written by: Poorva Joshi @poorvajoshi1424 Washington Updated on: June 25, 2022 12:58 IST
roe vs wade, roe vs wade ruling, roe vs wade 1973
Image Source : AP

Demonstrators protest about abortion outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. 

Highlights

  • Back in 1973, US Supreme Court had held that women can choose if they want to abort.
  • The landmark ruling was called Roe vs. Wade.
  • The decision overruled all other legal tangles around abortion across the US.

Roe vs Wade: In a historic judgement, the United States Supreme Court on Friday overturned the 1973 Roe vs Wade ruling, and granted states the right to decide if abortion is legal or not. The decision has sparked controversy and a war of words between 'pro-life' and 'pro-choice' activists in the country. President Joe Biden has himself expressed displeasure over the Supreme Court decision, calling it a "sad day" for America.

Can a woman choose to keep or abort her baby? The question has always been discussed in the United States. Sexual and reproductive health rights activists saw a big win back in 1973, with the Roe vs Wade ruling. But what is the ruling and why does it hold such significance for American women?

Roe vs Wade

Norma McCorvey, a 22-year-old woman got pregnant for the third time in 1969 and sought to get the child aborted. She was unmarried and unemployed and was seeking abortion in the state of Texas, where abortion was still not legal. Around the same time, two Texas-based attorneys, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, were dealing with several cases regarding abortion litigation in the US during the 1970s.

They decided to file a suit stating that abortions were medically necessary for women. To help their case, they needed a plaintiff to make a valid case before the court. This is when McCorvey came in and became the lead plaintiff. The lawsuit was filed in the District Court in Texas in 1970 on behalf of McCorvey, under the pseudonym 'Jane Roe'.

Henry Wade was the district attorney of Dallas County, Texas. He was essentially the one McCorvey was suing, as she asked for the abortion. In June 1970, the Court ruled in favour of Jane Roe and stated that the law against abortion in Texas violated the right to privacy but did not grant an injunction which would allow McCorvey to get an abortion.

1973 Landmark Ruling

McCorvey had already given birth by the time the 1973 landmark Roe Vs Wade ruling came through. The US Supreme Court held that women in the United States had the right to choose whether they wanted to get an abortion or not. The ruling that came in favour of Jane Roe extensively spoke against excessive government control and restrictions and upheld the individual’s right to life and liberty.

McCorvey gave her child up for adoption. The court said a woman's decision to have an abortion during the first three months of her pregnancy must be left to her and her doctor. Since this was a decision of the Supreme Court, it overruled all other legal tangles around abortion across the US. 

What does it mean, now that Roe Vs Wade is overturned?

The US Supreme Court has stripped away from women’s constitutional protections for abortion, a fundamental and deeply personal change for Americans’ lives after nearly a half-century under Roe v. Wade. It was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents. The court's judgement means that individual states can decide on the legality of abortion. The ruling came more than a month after the stunning leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicating the court was prepared to take this momentous step.

With the judgment reversed, at least 13 states have laws that allow them to ban abortion immediately or within 30 days. These laws would have exceptions if the life or health of the woman is in danger. But many do not make exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.

 

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