(NEWS10) — Wednesday, January 22, 2020 marks 47 years since the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, affirming the Constitutional right to have an abortion with minimal government interference.
As described by The Dallas Morning News, the 1972 case involved an anonymous woman, Jane Roe, who had sought an abortion from her doctor in Dallas. Her doctor instead told her she would be required to give birth because her health was not threatened by the pregnancy.
Roe filed a suit against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Texas. After a three-judge panel ruled Texas’ anti-abortion laws to be unconstitutional, the case was quickly appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court eventually ruled in Roe’s favor in a 7-2 decision, arguing the “due process” clause of the U.S. Constitution established a “right to privacy” that protects a person’s right to receive an abortion.
The Court’s opinion argues that in previous cases the Court or individual justices have found an implicit right to privacy that applies to activities relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing and education. This right, the court argued, “is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”
The opinion also acknowledged that a person’s right to an abortion was not absolute and that the State, here meaning a federal or state government, may, “assert important interests in safeguarding health, in maintaining medical standards, and in protecting potential life.” The court based its ruling on the three trimesters of pregnancy. The first trimester ought to be left untouched by state regulation, the court said. However, after the first trimester, the state may step in to pass regulations, “to the extent that the regulation reasonably relates to the preservation and protection of maternal health.”
This ambiguity has left the door open for decades of further court cases and new state laws which have found ways to work within the confines of the Roe v. Wade decision to restrict and regulate abortion access.
The decision sparked major protests from the moment it was issued. Many groups, both for and against abortion access, hold demonstrations on January 22 each year, marking the anniversary of the ruling.
A Gallup poll taken in June 2019 found that a majority of Americans stand by the Roe v. Wade decision. 60% of those polled said the decision should remain in place, while 33% said it should be overturned and 7% said they had no opinion.
Groups on both sides of the issue marked the anniversary on Wednesday.
President Donald Trump issued a proclamation on Tuesday declaring Wednesday, January 22 as National Sanctity of Human Life Day.
“On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, our Nation proudly and strongly reaffirms our commitment to protect the precious gift of life at every stage, from conception to natural death.”President Donald Trump
Meanwhile, pro-choice group NARAL said on Wednesday, ” Without control over our own bodies, freedom means nothing. That’s why we’re working tirelessly to protect and expand fundamental reproductive freedom for every body.”