The Roe v. Wade landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion remains a controversial decision, but who exactly were Roe and Wade?
The lawsuit began when Texas resident Norma L. McCorvey, under the alias "Jane Roe," wanted to terminate her pregnancy, but under Texas statue, abortions were only permitted in cases when it was medically advised that the life of the mother was in danger.
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Roe, who was not married, claimed the law was unconstitutionally vague and harmed her right of privacy found in the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and 14th amendments. She requested an injunction to prevent Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade from enforcing the law.
Along with Roe, three other plaintiffs in the case were James Hallford, a doctor who faced criminal prosecution for violating the abortion statutes, and John and Mary Doe, a married, childless couple who wanted an injunctive relief from the Texas law, according to Lawnix
The case got off to a bumpy start as Roe’s attorney Sarah Weddington was unable to locate the constitutional source of her argument. Defending lawyer Jay Floyd misfired from the start, according to Oyez
By the second round, Weddington had reshaped her argument, and the new defending attorney Robert Flowers was blasted with inquiries from the justices.
The 7-2 decision written by Justice Harry Blackmun held that Texas’ law was too restrictive and that a woman’s right to have an abortion fell under the "zone of privacy," PBS reported
While the Court did not define when life begins, it argued prenatal life was not within the definition of “persons” found in the Constitution and that laws only occasionally included unborn babies.
The Court added, however, states would be able to restrict procedures to protect the mother and the potential human life, though within the first trimester of pregnancy, the right to abortion cannot be denied.
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While Roe won her case, Hallford and the Does did not. The decision made by the district court was overturned for Hallford as the Supreme Court stated the doctor did not have a substantiated threat to a federally protected right, according to Lawnix. Once the Court found the law unconstitutional, however, the Texas authorities would be unable to enforce the statutes.
The court dismissed the Does’ case because it was too speculative since Mary Doe was not pregnant.
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