Roe vs. Wade
On January 22nd, 1973 the U.S Supreme Court decided the case of Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113 (1973)), recognizing the inclusion of a woman’s decision to carry out or terminate a pregnancy under the constitutional right to privacy. The court sided with ‘Jane Roe’, an unmarried woman from Texas seeking a safe and legal abortion. The ruling decriminalized abortion and set a precedent for more than 30 future rulings involving access to abortion.
Although it is hard to imagine today, due to the state of abortion access in 1965, nearly one-fifth of all maternal deaths in the United States were the result of illegal and unsafe abortions. At the time of the ruling in 1973, nearly all states outlawed abortion except to save a woman’s life or in limited cases to preserve a woman’s health, or in instances of rape, incest, or fetal anomaly. The Roe decision rendered these restrictions unconstitutional, opened up access to safe, legal abortion and recognized a woman’s right to choose.
The right to make decisions about pregnancy and childbearing has enabled women to pursue educational and employment opportunities that were often unthinkable before Roe. In 1992 the Supreme Court noted that “the ability of all women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives” (Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 1992).
However, over the last three and a half decades, opponents of Roe have urged state and federal lawmakers to pass various restrictions on abortion ranging from bans on funding to mandatory waiting periods.
On April 18th, 2007 changes in the composition of the Supreme Court led to a five-to-four decision to uphold the first federal ban on abortion in Gonzales v. Carhart (550 U.S__(2007, April 18) and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc (550 U.S__(2007, April 18)). The legislation, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, does not contain an exception for a woman’s health, and restricts certain second-trimester abortion procedures that doctors and major medical organizations, believe are sometimes the safest and best to protect women’s health.
Planned Parenthood believes that women and their doctors, not politicians, should make decisions about their reproductive health and will continue to monitor legislation and fight for safe and legal abortion for all women.