Summary of Roe v. Wade

      Abortion is legal nationwide because of Roe v. Wade, a U.S. Supreme Court decision issued in 1973 which found the right to abortion is protected by the U.S. Constitution. Following is a summary of the decision.

Date: January 22, 1973

Cite: 410 U.S. 113

Opinions: Delivered by Justice Blackmun, joined by Chief Justice Burger and Justices Douglas, Brennan, Stewart, Marshall and Powell.  Burger, Douglas, Stewart, also authored concurring opinions. There were two dissenting opinions by Justices Rehnquist and White.  (The opinions of Burger, Douglas and White are actually found in Roe's companion case Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179.)

Holding: The Constitutional right to personal privacy, the roots of which are found in the 4th, 5th, 9th and 14th Amendments, is "broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy." The right to abortion, however, is not absolute. At some point, a "compelling state interest" in protecting the health of the woman and the potentiality of human life develops which permits the state to protect fetal life even to the point of proscribing all non-therapudic abortions. To balance the competing interests of the woman and the state, the Court set up the following timetable:

Roe has been substantially modified by subsequent cases like Webster and Casey.


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