On January 22nd, 1973, the United States Supreme Court made a landmark decision on the issue of abortion. In the case of Roe vs Wade, the Court ruled that the right to privacy should be extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. The case ignited the abortion debate, cementing the two opposing arguments that are still debated today; pro-life vs pro-choice.
The “Roe” in the case was in fact a pseudonym for Norma McCorvey, a single mother from Dallas, Texas, who wanted to terminate her third pregnancy. Under Texas law at the time, abortion was banned except in the cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life. James Hallford, a doctor, filed a complaint alongside Jane Roe, arguing that under the law’s unclear provisions it was difficult to determine whether a patient was eligible for an abortion under the law.
The case went to the Supreme Court, where it was ruled seven to two to overturn the law. The same day, a separate decision was made that allowed states the right to restrict abortion access for later term pregnancies.
40 years after these decisions, the debate still rages on. Despite various initiatives in the US that attempt to restrict women’s reproductive rights, a recent poll has found that for the first time, most Americans believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
Roe vs Wade is about far more than just abortion: it is seen as a landmark in the history of women’s rights. Abortion is tied up inextricably with reproductive rights as a whole, and these rights are an extremely important part of any woman’s life. The ability to decide when and how many children to have (if any) allows women greater opportunities including better education and the ability to found a strong career and gain financial independence.
The 40th anniversary of Roe vs Wade was marked by both pro-choice and pro-life activists, with the National Organization for Women issuing a statement reaffirming their commitment to supporting abortion rights, and Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback presenting an argument at a Capitol Rally to support the “extinguishment of abortion rights in the United States.” Neither side has any intention of backing down; it may be that in another 40 years time, Roe vs Wade will be just as hotly-debated as it is today.
Girl Museum Inc.