By Katya Derevo
In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Roe v. Wade that the right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a person’s decision to have an abortion. It was a monumental victory for proponents of reproductive rights, paving the way for people to have an abortion early in pregnancy without having to justify their reasons to the state.
The plaintiff in the case, “Jane Roe,” was an unmarried woman who became pregnant in 1970 and wished to terminate the pregnancy. Under the law in Texas, where she lived, it was a felony to abort a fetus unless “on medical advice for the purpose of saving the life of the mother.” She filed a suit against the district attorney in her county, arguing that the abortion ban violated the guarantee of personal liberty and the right to privacy implicitly guaranteed in the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth and 14th Amendments.
There had been other significant court cases that dealt with abortion in the United States in the years leading up to Roe. One included People v. Belous in 1969, which struck down an anti-abortion law in California and placed doctors at the center of the abortion debate instead of lawmakers. Another was Doe v. Scott in 1971, which declared Illinois’ anti-abortion law unconstitutional. Cases like these helped pave the way for what would become the most important decision in the fight for reproductive rights.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade wasn’t just a win for Texas residents; it overruled all state laws that prohibited first trimester abortions.
Abortion at the time was a controversial topic and the decision made in the Roe case galvanized anti-abortion activists into extremists willing to resort to anything, including terrorism, to fight against reproductive rights. Forty-six years later, the United States is still divided on the topic of abortion. In more recent years, there has been a surge of anti-abortion legislation, aimed at restricting bodily autonomy under the guise of “protecting children,” but at its core, the goal of the anti-abortion movement is gender oppression and keeping people in a cycle of poverty. It’s never really been about protecting “life….”
In recent months, anti-abortion legislation around the United States is threatening the right to reproductive health for many. Republicans are hoping that these legislative measures will push the issue of abortion back into the Supreme Court. | Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images