In the controversial case, Roe v. Wade, a pregnant woman who was given the name Jane Roe to hide her identity attempted to get an abortion but they were illegal in Texas so she sued the state for invasion of privacy. Roe’s real name is Norma McCorvey; she was an ex-carnival worker who was raped and became pregnant. In 1969, when she moved back to her home state, she was denied and abortion on grounds that her health was not threatened. She started to look for other options, such as an abortion clinic out of the country, but those were too risky. She had given up searching for a safe, clinical abortion when two lawyers contacted her about her story. These lawyers were Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington. Weddington had herself been through the search for an abortion clinic that was decent. She was lucky; she was able to live in Mexico for several weeks and could pay the high price for a safe abortion.
Weddington did not want others to go through the insecurity of an illegal abortion like she had. Coffee was a practiced lawyer who was a strong supporter of abortions. John and Mary Doe, a couple that had offered their services in a previous abortion case, approached Coffee and Weddington who quickly included them in the case. Coffee and Wellington made a perfect couple to head up the fight against the District Attorney of Texas, Henry Wade. Wade had been the District Attorney for twenty years and on March 6, 1970 he received the paper that stated Jane Roe and John and Mary Doe were suing him. He had shown many times before his firm beliefs in preserving the Texas abortion laws. Henry Wade chose one of his most capable lawyers, John Tolle, to defend him in this suit.
Coffee and Weddington went off the argument that, “A woman is guaranteed the right to an abortion by her constitutional right to privacy. No state could interfere with a woman’s decision to have an abortion which was a private matter.” (Herda, 31) They based this on the first, fourth, fifth, eighth, ninth and fourteenth amendments. The first amendment protects a person’s right to freedom of speech, which had been violated when a doctor was not aloud to talk to their patient about all forms of treatment. Coffee and Weddington stated that the fourth amendment, which protects a citizen from unreasonable search and seizure, should protect a person from being unlawfully questioned about their contraception. The Fifth Amendment creates “zones of privacy” (Axelrod, #) around citizens, which are safeguarded and should not be violated by the government. Coffee and Weddington used the eighth amendment which guards against cruel and unusual punishment, in this case placed by forcing a woman to go through the pregnancy of a child that was conceived through rape.
The lawyers thought that this was not the strongest reason but it was worthwhile to put in. The ninth amendment, another risky one, defined legal grounds for acknowledging a person’s right to privacy. The fourteenth amendment, which was the strongest case, prohibited vaguely written or confusing laws. The Texas abortion laws stated that doctors could perform legal abortions when “life threatening” conditions were involved. Since life threatening can be interpreted different ways, one being deadly and the other being ruining a life, these laws were exceedingly vague. Once these were submitted to the court in the argument, Dr. James Hallford who had been sued by Wade for performing illegal abortions requested to be in the case. This was a tremendously helpful addition for the prosecution because they also have the physician’s side.
Henry Wade who was an extreme abortionist was represented by Tolle who held the same views. Tolle had four main points to attack the prosecution with. The first was his view that “a fetus has just as much right to live as the mother” (Herda, 37). The state only prosecutes abortion performers, not those who attempt to receive or receive abortions. This second point was deterred when Dr. Hallford joined the prosecution. He replied to the vagueness issue by stating that the laws had been on the books for a century and no one had challenged it so far. Tolle’s last goal was to learn Jane Roe’s real identity because he felt that if it were publicized, that information would win the case for him. With both of the arguments stated and the representatives in place, the initial trial began.
There were several appearances in court for this case, which resulted in three rulings, the last one being in the Supreme Court. The Dallas Texas court threw out the case on the conclusion that the plaintiffs had no right to sue. Then Roe’s lawyers went to their first appeals court, which ruled on June 17, 1970 that the Does had no right to sue but Jane Roe and Dr. Hallford had a reasonable case with the right to sue.
The appellant’s and appellee’s had specific arguments when the second appeal came around. The appellant’s argued that the ninth and fourteenth amendments strongly support the right to abortion. The defense questioned Dr. Hallford’s role in the case but the prosecution came back with the comment that he was not an original filer of the suit so if he is inappropriate, it should not affect the case. Their third argument stated, “the state could not actually tell when the moment of death actually occurred – during an abortion or beforehand. She (Weddington) concluded that, just as there could be no presumption of life without proof, neither could there be a presumption of death without proof.” (Herda, 65) The appellee’s argument was not as straight foreword.
They argued that since no one is pregnant anymore, the prosecution’s case doesn’t apply anymore. The second dispute was that a woman who was not going to be prosecuted shouldn’t have the right to sue. They also argued that, “since the three-judge Fifth Circuit Court had failed to grant injunctive relief, in its findings, it should not have granted declaratory relief.” (Herda, 66) The final argument stated that the state of Texas made no difference between growth states of a fetus. With all of these arguments, the Supreme Court justices met during the week of December 16, 1971 to decide whether Roe v Wade had enough merit to continue. Justice Blackmun wrote up the court’s opinion, which gave the case a chance to reargue on October 10, 1972.
The case was retried in the Supreme Court then the justices deliberated. Blackmun was to revise the courts opinion after getting input from other justices. He broke a pregnancy into trimesters to please Burger who shot down the first statement. The decision was not going anywhere so Stewart issued and ultimatum to Burger stating that he has to vote one way or the other or they would make the decision without him. Burger would not have missed voting for a landmark cases so he decided to vote with the majority. On January 22, 1972 Henry Balckmun read the court’s opinion stating,
We forthwith acknowledge our awareness of the sensitive and emotional nature of the abortion controversy, of the vigorous opposing views, even among physicians, and of the deep and seemingly absolute convictions that the subject inspires. One’s philosophy, one’s experiences, one’s exposure to the raw edges of human experience, one’s religious training, one’s attitudes toward life and family and their values, and the moral standards one establishes and seeks to observe, are all likely to influence and to color one’s thinking and conclusions about abortion. (Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973))
The final verdict threw the Does out of the case because the case was not based on pregnancy; it was on abortion. It rejected Dr. James Hallford’s suit because they did not want to interfere with the state affairs, which were already in place between Hallford and the state of Texas. This only left Jane Roe’s decision. The right of privacy, based on the fourteenth and ninth amendments, was broad enough to cover a woman’s rights to decide the outcome of her pregnancy.
The court then introduced the “potential life” protection, which would be used to tell stated exactly what they could and could not limit. In the first trimester (three months) the state cannot interfere with the decision at all; in the second trimester the state can intervene only to protect a woman’s health; and in the third trimester the state can intervene to protect the fetus. This was a groundbreaking decision that changed the lives of many people. Some citizens classified themselves as pro-choice (pro-abortion) and others as pro-life (anti-abortion).
A new line was divided among the country. Just like slavery some hundred years go, abortion had its battles. The anti-abortionists had goals to again gain control of the abortion laws. They were going to do this by getting the fetus declared a legal person and giving it the same rights as a person. They tried to enforce the state laws as much as the national laws would let them. Lastly, they attempted to cut off all federal funding to any abortion related establishment.
At the same time, pro-abortionists attempted to fully control the abortion decision. They tried to attain a more moderate trimester schedule that would take power away from the state laws. They also tried to get as much federal funding as possible to help make abortions accessible and safe.
As the abortion controversy spread through the nation, many people had many opinions on it. Pro-choicers’ celebrated while the Roman Catholic Church was outraged. John Cardinal Kroll, a member of the National Catholic Conference, replied to the verdict stating that it was the, “greatest slaughter of innocent life in the history of mankind.” (Herda, 85) With all of the anti-abortion stances, the fight for abortion would only worse after the trial. They had been given the right, now all they had to do was keep it.
Several anti-abortion cases were brought to court following the Roe v Wade decision. The Missouri bill, stating there should be no federal funding for abortions, was upheld on July 3, 1989. In June of 1990, Hodgson v Minnesota ruled that a pregnant minor must inform both parents in order to obtain an abortion. In Planned Parenthood v Casey, the Pennsylvanian abortion laws were upheld to further limit the accessibility of abortions. The abortion laws are being chipped away and soon, it will be near impossible to receive an abortion due to all the restrictions. Right now, President Bush has implemented several anti-abortion regulations. One example is from January 2003
George W. Bush plans to increase spending on abstinence-only programs by $60 million this year (2003). To add insult to injury, one third of American high schools cannot teach about contraception in order to accept federal sex-education funds. WHAT IT MEANS. . . Hold the condoms, please. Years of sex education curriculum are thrown out the window. (no sex education, no sex, no abortion = Bush family policy) (Cheers & Cringes, Ms. Magazine, #)
With the attitudes toward abortion so varied, it is near impossible to find a middle ground that will please the majority of the people. Norma McCorvey was no different from the many women today who do not want their life to be decided by the government, except she was able to change the laws to give woman a choice.
The Roe v Wade Supreme Court case was a controversial one with many effects on life today.
A. Who were they?
3. Lawyers for Roe
B. What were the circumstances?
II. Prosecution- Roe’s case presented
A. 1st amendment
B. 4th amendment
C. 5th amendment
D. 9th amendment
E. 14th amendment
III. Defense- Wade’s case
A. Wade’s opinion
B. Tolle’s Opinion
1. Fetus life
2. Roe sued but she can’t be prosecuted
IV. Outcome of the trial
A. First ruling- June 17, 1970
1. Doe’s thrown out
2. Roe and Dr. Hallford continue
B. Second ruling- December 13, 1971
1. Appellant’s argument
2. Appellee’s argument
C. Third ruling- started October 10, 1972, decided January 22, 1973
1. Threw out Doe
2. Threw out Dr. Hallford
3. Jane Roe upheld
V. Effects now
A. Anti-abortion goals
1. Declaration of fetus as a legal person
2. State laws to restrict abortion as much as possible
3. Cut off funding for abortion
B. Pro-abortion goals-
1. Get more lenient trimester schedule
2. Increase public funding
C. Rulings on abortion since Roe v. Wade
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Blackmun, J, Blackmun, J.- Opinion of the Court, http://members.aol.com/abtrbng/410b1.htm, March 16, 2004, Google, Internet.
Cheers & Cringes, Ms. Magazine, Winter 2003/2004, Liberty Media for Women, LLC, Arlington, VA.
Goldman, Jerry, A Case of Privacy, http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/1998/roe.wade/stories/privacy, March 16, 2004, Google, Internet.
Herda, D.J., Roe V Wade, The Abortion Question, Enslow Publishers Inc., 1994, Springfield, NJ.
Roe v Wade, District Attorney of Dallas County, http://www.wrf.com/publications/ppt/privacy/cases/roe.asp, March 5, 2004, Google, Internet.
Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), http://members.aol.com/abtrbng/401us113.htm, March 16, 2004, Google, Internet.
Roe versus Wade, http://users.telerama.com/~jdehullu/abortion/abroe.htm,
February 23, 2004, Google, Internet.
Twist, Clint, Take Ten Years- 1970’s, Raintree Steck-Vaughn Publishers, 1994, Austin, TX.
World Book Encyclopedia Q-R, “Roe Versus Wade”, World Book, Inc., 1998, Chicago, IL.