On this day in history, Jan. 22, 1973, Supreme Court issues its landmark Roe v. Wade decision
On this day in history, Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade — claiming that the unduly and restrictive state regulation of abortion was unconstitutional, according to Britannica.
Abortion is arguably one of the most controversial issues in today’s society.
An abortion is the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus, according to Merriam-Webster.
The court case began three years earlier with a “Jane Roe” — a woman later revealed to be Norma McCorvey.
A waitress, McCorvey of Texas became pregnant in 1969 — and wanted to have an abortion.
Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” in the 1973 Roe v. Wade court case, is shown sitting behind her desk with a sign displayed that says “I Am Subject To Bursts Of Enthusiasm.” She was 22 and pregnant for the third time in 1969 when she fought for the right to have an abortion. She never had that abortion.
At the time, however, abortions in Texas were outlawed — except in cases of rape, incest or to save a mother’s life.
McCorvey was a resident of Dallas County.
She believed she had the right to terminate her pregnancy without government restriction, according to Britannica’s entry about the case.
She reportedly claimed she could not afford to travel to a jurisdiction outside Texas to secure a legal abortion under safe conditions.
District Attorney Henry Wade in Dallas County, Texas, claimed the state should be able to regulate when abortions were allowed.
So she sought federal action against Henry Wade, a district attorney in Dallas County, Texas, claiming the existing ruling prohibiting abortion violated her constitutional rights.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas found McCorvey’s argument to have merit, agreeing that the ruling violated her right to privacy.
But after the state appealed, McCorvey’s case made its way to the Supreme Court in 1970, according to Britannica.
The Supreme Court ultimately ruled 7-2 in her favor — agreeing in its landmark decision that state laws prohibiting abortion were unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.
On Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court, chaired by Chief Justice Warren Burger (center, bottom row) and including William O. Douglas, William J. Brennan Jr., Potter Stewart, Byron White, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, Lewis F. Powell Jr. and William Rehnquist, issued its landmark Roe v. Wade decision. The court ruled that the unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion was unconstitutional — and that the Constitution protected a woman’s choice of an abortion without excessive government restriction.
(AFP via Getty Images)
In a majority opinion written by Justice Harry A. Blackmun, “the Court held that a set of Texas statutes criminalizing abortion in most instances violated a woman’s constitutional right of privacy,” according to Britannica, “which it found to be implicit in the liberty guarantee of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
The 14th Amendment says that no state “shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens in the United States,” according to the U.S. Constitution.
The opinion said, in part, “Nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” as Britannica noted.
Twists and turns
In one of the most interesting twists connected to the case, “Jane Roe” — Norma McCorvey — did not have the abortion she had pushed for after all.
On this day in history, Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court released its decision in Roe v. Wade. District Attorney Henry Wade of Dallas County, Texas, is shown on the left — on the right, “Jane Roe,” or Norma McCorvey.
She was 22, unmarried, unemployed and pregnant for the third time in 1969 when she fought for the right to have an abortion in Texas.
“Jane Roe” became an evangelical Christian and joined the anti-abortion movement.
But by the time the Supreme Court rendered its decision establishing abortion rights in 1973, she had already given birth — and given up her baby girl for adoption.
After the court’s ruling, McCorvey lived quietly for several years before revealing herself to be “Jane Roe” in the 1980s, the Associated Press reported.
A portrait of Norma McCorvey (“Jane Roe” in Roe v. Wade), who years after the Roe v. Wade decision underwent a conversion and joined the anti-abortion movement. She passed away at age 69 in 2017.
(Cynthia Johnson/Getty Images)
Decades later, as the AP also reported, McCorvey underwent a conversion. She became an evangelical Christian and joined the anti-abortion movement.
A short time later, she underwent another religious conversion and became a Roman Catholic.
“I’m 100% pro-life. I don’t believe in abortion even in an extreme situation. If the woman is impregnated by a rapist, it’s still a child. You’re not to act as your own God,” she told the AP in 1998.
McCorvey passed away at age 69 in 2017.
Roe v. Wade overturned
The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision stood for nearly 50 years — until June 24, 2022, when the Supreme Court overturned it, ultimately giving the states the power to allow, limit or ban the practice altogether.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion.
“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely — the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” the opinion continued.
“A culture of life is the best thing for our culture and our families.”
Today, abortion is almost totally banned in 12 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.
Many pro-life activists, however, believe there is still a great deal of work to be done.
With the U.S. Capitol in the background, pro-life demonstrators march toward the U.S. Supreme Court during the March for Life, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, in Washington.
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Noelle Garnier, director of public policy and communications at National Religious Broadcasters, headquartered in Washington, D.C., told Fox News Digital just ahead of this year’s March for Life that “2022 was a landmark year for the pro-life movement in America, but we have much, much more work to do in the coming year.”
Said Garnier, “We and our members stand firm in proclaiming that a culture of life is the best thing for our culture and our families, and we are proud to participate in this historic event.”
However, many others, including those on the pro-choice side of the issue, believe that abortion is “a basic health care need for millions of women, girls and others who can become pregnant,” as Amnesty International, headquartered in the U.K., notes on its website. The group says that “worldwide, an estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies end in an abortion every year.”
It also says that “access to safe and legal abortion services is far from guaranteed for those who may need abortion services.” It adds, “Regardless of whether abortion is legal or not, people still require and regularly access abortion services.”
Fox News Digital’s Kyle Morris, Kelly Laco and Deirdre Reilly contributed reporting.
Brittany Kasko is a lifestyle production assistant with Fox News Digital.
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.