Roe v. Wade changes throughout history


Creative Commons Photo by Dan Keck

Political signage line an overhead bridge in Columbus, Ohio. Many other bridges like this one on I-70 hold the same view of political signs on abortion.

Sophia Arndt, Photography Editor-in-Chief and Copy Editor

In 1973, history was made in the United States by nine Supreme Court justices when they ruled that the controversial medical procedure of abortion falls under a woman’s constitutional Right to Privacy. Ripples of the ruling are felt today, as states compete to limit or further this now polarizing issue. Women’s rights and religion all permeate the long and twisting history of Roe vs. Wade

The Case 

Interestingly enough, the criminalization of abortion procedures began as a business technique. Before the twentieth century, abortion was common. Many who provided the medical procedure advertised their practices in local papers, taking away potential customers for practicing doctors. This perceived slight against medical professionals, which caused a huge push for the criminalization of such procedures.

Roe v. Wade began as a simple ruling from the state of Texas, prohibiting all abortions in exclusion to life-saving abortions. This law was contested by Norma McCorvey, more commonly known as Jane Roe, who was seeking an abortion for an unwanted pregnancy. Heading the case were Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who sought to overturn the new Texas law. Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County, defended the Texas law to the Supreme Court. 

This case was taken to the Supreme Court on Jan. 22, 1973. A 7-to-2 decision amongst Justices ruled abortions fell under the Ninth Amendment, the Right to Privacy. States were now allowed to rule individually on issues like Roe v. Wade, opening the door for many states to legalize and regulate abortion procedures.

Roe v. Wade essentially required all states to offer some legalized form of abortion for pregnant women. Those offerings can look very different and have different timelines state to state though,” explained Ryan miller U.S. History teacher. 

The Reactions

This ruling polarized the nation, with many fiercely defending their position. This ruling quickly became infamous as one of the most debated issues of all time. These two factions became known as Pro-Choice and Pro-Life. 

“My body, my choice,” said senior Eliza Weston. “I don’t know better words to describe that as a 17 year old. No way would I want to have a child right now… same for every other woman making their own personal decision. I am not ready to have a kid. I am not financially stable to have a kid, and I am not mentally prepared to have a kid. I do not want to have a kid. That’s all that matters.”

Senior Brea Davis believes Roe v. Wade was a pivotal moment in woman’s history globally. It reassured women everywhere it “is your right and that it is your decision to be in charge of your own body.”

These factions can still be seen prominently in the judiciary system. It can be seen in the cases that have passed through the Supreme Court in an attempt to neutralize the power of Roe v. Wade. 

Miller explained that the legality of abortion under the constitution, as seen recently in some southern states in the Heartbeat Bills, is still refused by some areas.

When the highest court in the land offers a ruling, a functioning republic has to accept the ruling in the moment if it hopes to continue.”

— Ryan Miller

One of these cases was Casey v. Planned Parenthood, in which the Justices reiterated their ruling in Roe v. Wade. Many other cases have come and gone, such as Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, Doe v. Bolton, and Gonzales v. Carhart, all of which the Supreme Court upheld their ruling from 1973. It can be seen in our present times, in the newly introduced Heartbeat Bills from Texas. 

“The issue of abortion continues to be a polarizing issue now as it was then, but the ruling was largely accepted because it had to be. When the highest court in the land offers a ruling, a functioning republic has to accept the ruling in the moment if it hopes to continue,” Miller said.

Through the past 60 years, Roe v. Wade has seen many legislative measures to modify its original ruling. Abortion is a topic that continues to divide the nation, but the Supreme Court has stood by its ruling from 1973.