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Roe v. Wade

Citation. 22 Ill.410 U.S. 959, 93 S. Ct. 1409, 35 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1973)
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Brief Fact Summary.

A single pregnant woman challenged a Texas law prohibiting her from having an abortion.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The right to privacy encompasses a woman’s right to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy by abortion.


A Texas statute criminalized abortions except for situations when abortion was necessary to save the life of the mother. The Appellant, Roe (Appellant), challenged the Texas statute. The Appellant argued that the statute violated her fundamental right to privacy. The District Court held that the Appellee failed to meet his burden of demonstrating that the Texas statute’s “infringement upon Roe’s rights was necessary to support a compelling state interest, and that, although the defendant presented ‘several compelling justifications for state presence in the area of abortions,’ the statutes outstripped these justifications and swept ‘far beyond any areas of compelling state interest.’”


Whether the fundamental right to privacy includes a woman’s right to decide whether to have an abortion.


Justice Harry Blackmun (J. Blackmun). Yes. The fundamental right to privacy includes a woman’s right to decide whether to have an abortion. “The statute makes no distinction between abortions performed early in pregnancy and those performed later, and it limits to a single reason, “saving” the mother’s life, the legal justification for the procedure. The statute, therefore, cannot survive the constitutional attack made upon it here.”
The Texas criminal abortion law violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).
Abortions are protected as a fundamental right to privacy when (1) “the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman’s attending physician” during the first trimester; (2) “the State, in promoting its interest in health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health during the second trimester; and (3) “the State, in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life, may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother during the third trimester.”


The dissenting opinions are as follows:
Justice William Rehnquist (J. Rehnquist). This case only requires a “mere rationality” test rather than the test for strict scrutiny. Basically, the Court, in its three part rule for abortions results in “judicial legislation.”
Justice Byron White (J. White). The Supreme Court of the United States’ opinion is not supported by the Constitution and cases such as this should be “left with the people.”
Concurrence. The concurring opinions are as follows:
Justice Warren Burger (J. Burger). “[T]he dissenting views discount the reality that the vast majority of physicians observe the standards of their profession, and act only on the basis of carefully deliberated medical judgments relating life and health.”
Justice William Douglas (J. Douglas). The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution has been upheld to protect “freedom of choice” in many other areas of life including “marriage, divorce, procreation, contraception, and the education and upbringing of children.”


This case extends the constitutional right to privacy to abortion cases.

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