Roe v. Wade Fast Facts
CNN — Here’s a look at the US Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade.
Facts: January 22, 1973 – The US Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, affirms the legality of a woman’s right to have an abortion under the Fourteenth amendment to the Constitution.
1971 – The case is filed by Norma McCorvey, known in court documents as Jane ROE against Henry WADE, the district attorney of Dallas County from 1951 to 1987, who enforced a Texas law that prohibited abortion, except to save a woman’s life.
The Case: The Constitutional Question: Does the Constitution embrace the right of a woman to obtain an abortion, nullifying the Texas prohibition?
The ruling allows for legal abortions during the entire pregnancy, but set up conditions to allow states to regulate abortion during the second and third trimesters.
The Decision: The Court held that a woman’s right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy (recognized in Griswold v. Connecticut) protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision gave a woman a right to abortion during the entirety of the pregnancy and defined different levels of state interest for regulating abortion in the second and third trimesters.
The ruling affected laws in 46 states.
Legal Timeline: 1971 – The Supreme Court agrees to hear the case filed by Norma McCorvey, known in court documents as Jane ROE, against Henry WADE, the district attorney of Dallas County from 1951 to 1987, who enforced a Texas law that prohibited abortion, except to save a woman’s life. The Texas law had been declared unconstitutional in an earlier federal district court case (United States v. Vuitch, 1971). Wade ignored the decision and both sides appealed.
December 13, 1971 – The case is argued before the US Supreme Court.
October 11, 1972 – The case is argued before the US Supreme Court.
January 22, 1973 – The US Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, affirms the legality of a woman’s right to have an abortion under the Fourteenth amendment to the Constitution.
June 17, 2003 – Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) files a motion with the US District Court in Dallas to have the case overturned and asks the court to consider new evidence that abortion hurts women. Included are 1,000 affidavits from women who say they regret their abortions.
September 14, 2004 – A three-judge panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans dismisses a motion from the original plaintiff in Roe v. Wade to have the case overturned, a court clerk tells CNN. McCorvey’s motion claimed she had new information that would affect the 1973 case.
The Players: Norma McCorvey, who was known as Jane Roe, was a Texas resident who sought to obtain an abortion. Texas law prohibited abortions except to save the pregnant mother’s life. McCorvey was pregnant when she became the lead plaintiff in the case. She gave up the baby for adoption.
Norma McCorvey has since come forward and changed sides on the abortion debate. In 1997, McCorvey started Roe No More, a pro-life outreach organization that was dissolved in 2008. McCorvey died on February 18, 2017.
Henry Wade – District Attorney of Dallas County from 1951 to 1987. Norma McCorvey sued him because he enforced a law that prohibited abortion, except to save a woman’s life. He died on March 1, 2001.
Sarah Weddington – Lawyer for Norma McCorvey.
Linda Coffee – Lawyer for Norma McCorvey.
Jay Floyd – Argued the cause for Texas in the first argument.
Robert C. Flowers – Argued the cause for Texas in the second argument.
Supreme Court Justice Opinions: Majority: Harry A. Blackmun (for The Court), William J. Brennan, Lewis F. Powell Jr., Thurgood Marshall
Concurring: Warren Burger, William Orville Douglas, Potter Stewart
Dissenting: William H. Rehnquist, Byron White