Roe V Wade Summary

by on August 24th, 2010
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Supreme Court Decision:

Roe v. Wade

Part 1: Circumstances of the Case

Roe v. Wade was an important decision by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. The particulars of this case include, Norma McCorvey who discovered that she was pregnant with her third child in September of 1969. Her friends then advised her to falsely claim that she had been raped and therefore obtain a legal abortion because Texas law allowed abortion in the cases of rape and incest. This method failed because there was no police report and when she tried to obtain an illegal abortion the site was shut down. Assisted by attorrneys Coffee and Weddington , McCorbey then filed a suit in the US District Court in Texas under the alias of Jane Rowe. The defendant of the case was Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade, representing the state of Texas. The district court ruled in McCorvey’s favor based upon the Ninth Amendment. The case ultimately reached the US Supreme Court on appeal.

Part 2: Constitutional Issues

The constitutionality of the Texas abortion law was challenged on the grounds that it violates the Fourteenth and Ninth Amendments of the US Constitution. The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed equal protection under the law to all citizens and, in particular, required that laws be clearly written. Physicians accused of performing illegal abortions usually cited the Fourteenth Amendment in their defense, claiming that the law was not specific enough with regard to when a woman’s life might be considered threatened by pregnancy and childbirth. Roe based her argument first and foremost on the Ninth Amendment, which states: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Until 1965, this had usually been interpreted to mean that rights not specifically granted to the federal government were retained by the states. In 1965, however, Griswold v. Connecticut reached the Supreme Court and prompted a different interpretation of the amendment. Of particular importance to Coffee and Weddington was Justice William Douglas’ discussion of the Ninth Amendment in his majority opinion. Rights not specifically listed in the Constitution were retained by the people, Douglas emphasized, and one of these rights was the right to privacy. This right to privacy, Coffee and Weddington would argue, should certainly protect the right of a woman to decide whether or not to become a mother.

Part 3: Foundations of Democracy

Individual freedom is extremely relevant to the Roe v. Wade case because the argument is that the mother should have the decision to abort a pregnancy. By the states disallowing the termination of pregnancy they are interfering with a woman’s right to choose to be a mother.

Part 4: Principles of the Constitution

The Constitutional principle of federalism retains to this case because in the government’s division of powers any powers not given to the federal government shall be given to the states or the people. Roe v Wade is a case that decides whether the power shall be given to the state or the people. The Constitution also declares the right to life, pro life supporters can argue that the fetuses are not given that right that all Americans should have.

Part 5: Arguments

Pro-Life Arguments:

-Abortion is murder of an unborn child because a fetus is alive.

-The diminished decision-making capacity of minors is recognized by our county yet some states allow children to make the decision to have an abortion, to end a life, without allowing their parents to oversee the process.

-Some Americans who are morally opposed to abortion, financially support it through their tax dollars.

Pro-Choice Arguments:

-A women had the right to make decisions that involve her body. A women’s reproductive system should not be subject to government regulation.

-If abortion was outlawed, women would simply find other illegal and unsafe means of aborting pregnancies.

Part 6: Decision and Rationale

The Supreme Court ruled abortion a fundamental right under the US Constitution on January 22, 1973 with a 7-2 majority vote in favor of McCorvey It felt that the right to privacy reserves the right for a woman to decide whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The Court agreed that the constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman’s decision to have an abortion, but that must be balanced against the State’s two legitimate reasons for regulating abortion: protecting prenatal life and protecting the mother’s health. In the first trimester of pregnancy the two state’s concerns are at their weakest, so the state cannot restrict a woman’s right to an abortion in any way. In the second trimester there is an increase of these risks so the state may regulate the abortion only “in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health” In the third trimester the risks are the greatest and so the state can choose to restrict abortion as it sees fit. Associate Justices Byron R. White and William H Rehnquist wrote dissenting opinion in this case. They believed that nowhere in the Constitution is there a warrant for imposing a declaration such as this and that the people should have the decision about this case.

Part 7: Your Opinion of the Decision

I agree with the decision that a woman should have the right to obtain an abortion. There are many reasons why a mother would not want or would not feel prepared to have a baby and the decision should be theirs. Without abortion there would be many cases in which people who were unfit parents would be forced to have a kid that they do not want. I also believe that as the State’s don’t have the right to force a pregnancy they don’t have the right to disallow abortion.

Part 9: Related Cases

Planed Parenthood v Casey (1992): Justice Scalia’s dissent acknowledged that abortion rights were of great importance to women, but believed that it is not a liberty that is protected by the Constitution because it is never named. Stenberg v Cahart: During the 199s, Nebraska attempted to ban a certain second trimester procedure known as intact dilation and extraction. By a 5-4 vote the Supreme Court struck down the Nebraska ban citing a right to choose the safest method of second trimester abortion.

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