The Impact of Roe v. Wade Among the many landmark cases of the United States Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113 (1973), still is one of the most controversial and politically significant cases in U. S. Supreme Court history, greatly affecting political elections and decisions concerning women’s rights ever since. In 1970, a woman named Norma McCorvey, who had been fired from her for being pregnant; wished to terminate the pregnancy.
But in the state of Texas abortions were illegal expect in cases were the health and/or safety of the mother were at risk. Two woman lawyers; Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who at the time were looking to overturn the restrictions on abortion laws in Texas recruited Ms. McCorvey, and filed suit under the name of Jane Roe, to represent all pregnant women. They “attacked the abortion restrictions of Texas in the federal courts on the grounds that they undermined the rights under the Fourteenth and Ninth Amendment of the U.
S Constitution (the due process and specific enumeration of powers clause, the latter of which was taken to uphold a right to privacy),” (Palmowski, 2004). By the time the case had reached the U. S Supreme Court in 1971; Norma McCovery had already had her baby and given it up for adoption, and two new justices filled the vacant seats left behind, one of which was Harry Blackmun, a conservative Republican member with a background in medical law, the case was reheard in 1972.
The Supreme Court of the United States decided on January 22, 1973 that states could regulate abortions only in certain circumstances but otherwise women did have a right to privacy and reproductive autonomy, “the court divide the pregnancy of a woman into three stages: 1) first three months, states can not interfere with a woman’s choice to abort the pregnancy; 2) second trimester (3-6 months) states could regulate abortions, but only if such regulation was reasonably related to the mother’s health; 3) third trimester (6-9 months) this when the unborn child could survive outside the womb, states may regulate absolutely and ban abortions altogether in order to protect the unborn child. At this point the unborn child is now given constitutional protection” (Fuchsburg, 2009). In short “this decision overturned all states laws restricting women’s right to an abortion in the first three months and eased those on abortions performed within six months of conception,” (Palmowski, 2004). “Before Roe v. Wade, only four states and Washington, D. C. , provided easy access to abortion. All other states limited access to some degree. Public opinion on abortion shifted, however, when an epidemic of German measles and the exposure of U. S. omen to the European tranquilizer Thalidomide resulted in a large number of babies born with serious birth defects. Because abortion access was limited, only those who could afford to travel to one of these states or to a foreign country were allowed the privilege of ending an unwanted or unhealthy pregnancy. Many pregnant women and health care professionals believed that access to safe abortions should be a right and not a privilege and challenged the right of states to restrict access to abortions by trained medical personnel. Desperate women who could not afford to travel often self-aborted or trusted themselves to back-alley abortionists. Both practices frequently led to later health problems, sterility or even death,” (Purdy, 2005). When the U.
S Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that a woman’s right to privacy included her choice to have an abortion, few predicted the decision would be the subject of such intense debate a quarter of a century later. Perhaps no other ruling since then has had a greater impact on the lives of American women and their families than Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113 (1973), according to Hontz, 1998. Twenty five years later, Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Sarah Weddington, the lead lawyer in the Roe case agree that “Without the protections of Roe, all other legal and civil rights are meaningless. If you can’t determine the fate of your body, all other rights pale. Nothing determines the course of women’s lives more than the spacing and timing of her children. “
Women now have the right to control the timing of when to reproduce, which has opened up doors in both educational and career opportunities; women have become more adequate and equal citizens. But Roe v. Wade goes far beyond abortion issues, when it comes to legal and political battles. The question on when life begins, which Roe never even touched on, remains a torn in any politician’s side. Due in part to the fact that technology is moving a lot quicker then the law can rule on issues like medical research involving embryos; cloning; behavior of pregnant woman; and the legal ownership of frozen embryos. Anti-abortion activists have been able to chip away at the right and access to an abortion for many women.
One of the biggest victories for abortion opponents came in 1992, the case of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, even though the “court upheld Roe v. Wade, it created a new standard for judging whether abortion restrictions are constitutional. The Court abandoned the “strict scrutiny” test that had said states must prove a “compelling interest” to restrict abortion. Instead, a woman must be the one to prove that a state’s restrictions place an “undue burden” on her right to choose,” (Hontz, J. 1998). Since then states have enacted and are enforcing laws placing a whole slew of restrictions on abortion, including mandatory waiting periods (12 states), parental consent for minors (30 states), and mandatory lectures on fetal development.
Ironically, one result of these restrictions has been to increase the percentage of second trimester abortions, which are less safe and more morally problematic to many, according to Hontz article. Many see the days of pre Roe coming back; illegal abortions preformed by so called doctors, young woman afraid to talk to their parents trying the old self-remedies , and unwanted babies being thrown away like common trash. But anti-abortion activists have also scored big when it comes to blocking new medical research that may lead to better contraceptives and earlier medical abortions; like RU 486, as well stem cell research for the treatments for numerous diseases. “Fetal tissue research, for instance, has led to advances in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, diabetes and leukemia.
Despite the fact that organs from the corpses of murder victims can be donated, antiabortion activists believe tissue donation from aborted fetuses encourages abortion and should therefore be prohibited,” (Hontz,1998) . As for Norma McCovrey and Sarah Weddington, 30 years later they are not on the same side fighting for the rights of women everywhere to have control over the right to have an abortion. Norma McCovery, 22 at the time of Courts decision, is now ashamed of what she had done, those she does admit she “wanted a legal choice” that she “did not want to have an illegal abortion,” (Morales, 2003). She even, 80’s and early 90’s, worked in an abortion clinic and made some appearances in support of abortion rights.
But in the mid 90’s she became a Catholic and Pro-Life supporter, she was quoted saying that she is “now right side of the movement, because (she) fighting for life not death,” (Morales, 2003). McCorvey would even like to see Roe v. Wade over turned and is fighting to see that done. Sarah Weddington, the 26 year old attorney who never contested a case, admits that her commitment to the cause was both personal; she had an illegal abortion her last year of law school, and a matter of principle. She was quoted as saying, “I always thought women should have all options, to continue the pregnancy, put up a child for adoption, keep it, have an abortion, that that should be her decision,” (Morales, 2003). Weddington as stayed true to her part, she remains abortion rights advocator. When asked about the possibility of Roe v.
Wade being over turned, “her wish would be that we would simply accept the law of Roe v. Wade, that people would quit trying to legislate against it. She wishes it could be just written in concrete and we go on and work on other issues,” (Morales, 2003). Roe v. Wade to this day remains an issue affecting all walks of life not just women’s rights; but the question on when life begins; medical research involving embryos; cloning; behavior of pregnant woman; and the legal ownership of frozen embryos. And those who were a part of the landmark case it is affecting their lives as well from changing their opinions, to continuing the fight and wish it would just be accepted so we can move on to big issues.
But as long as this remains a torn in the political torn bush this conservational topic will never fully go away nor do most see this decision being over turned. According to Marcia Greenberger, co president of the National Women’s Law Center; “The impact of Roe is hard to fully comprehend; it has obviously saved enormous numbers of lives, improved women’s health, made for stronger families. “ It’s allowed women to have healthier children, and it’s given women the practical wherewithal to pursue their dreams and aspirations without fear of pregnancy shattering those dreams. By its very philosophy, Roe underscores the equality of women. ” Cited Sources Fuchsburg, J. D. (2009). Supreme Court Cases (Summary); Roe v. Wade. Retrieved on August 3, 2009 from http://www. tourolaw. du/patch/casesummary. asp. Hontz, J. (1998). 25 Years Later: The Impact of Roe v. Wade. Retrieved on August 3, 2009 from http://www. abanet. org/irr/hr/spring98/sp98hontz. html. Morales, T. (2003). Different Paths for Roe and Attorney: McCorvey and Weddington 30 Years Later. Retrieved on August 6, 2009 from http://www. cbsnews. com/stories/2003/01/22/earlyshow/living/main537458. shtml. Palmowski, J. (2004). Roe v. Wade. A Dictionary of Contemporary World History. Retrieved on August 6, 2009 from http://www. enclyopida. com/doc/1046-RoevWade. html. Purdy, E. (2005). Roe V. Wade. Retrieved August 17, 2009, from http://www. bookrags. com/research/roe-v-wade-sjpc-04.