The Question of Privacy: A Focused Analysis on Roe v. Wade Case

EssayLaw
May 17, 2008

Roe v. Wade’s conclusion in 1973 was pivotal in the abortion debate . Before the case, abortion was only available in certain states and there were strict restrictions regarding who had access to the procedure. The 1973 decision removed many barriers that made abortion access difficult, allowing women to have more rights over their bodies. Roe v. Wade supposedly ended almost 50 years ago. However, a decision from Dobbs v. Jackson in 2022 overturned the 1973 decision. Roe v. Wade improved women’s access to abortion and provided other benefits, but the recent overturning of the 1973 decision may cause detrimental implications to women and their health.

The Roe v. Wade Case

Roe v. Wade was a case between Norma McCorvey, who used the pseudonym Jane Roe, and Henry Wade, the District Attorney of Dallas County, Texas. McCorvey was an unmarried pregnant woman who wanted to have an abortion in Texas. However, Texas abortion laws prevented her from terminating the pregnancy. During the time, Texas statutes stated that abortion is only legal if the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life (Roe v. Wade, 1973; Temme, 2022). Since McCorvey did not fit the requirements for getting an abortion in the state, she could not undergo a legal abortion procedure. McCorvey also claimed that she can't travel to other jurisdictions that provide legal abortions regardless of her health condition (Roe v. Wade, 1973). These claims imply that McCorvey can only access Texas health facilities, however, abortion laws prevent her from undergoing the procedure.

Roe’s Claims

McCorvey’s arguments rely on the Fourteenth Amendment, particularly a citizen’s right to privacy and liberty. McCorvey claimed that the Texas abortion laws are violating these rights since the Fourteenth Amendment gives a woman the ability to choose whether to have an abortion or not  (Roe v. Wade, 1973). The right to liberty prevents states from establishing laws that may abridge a citizen’s freedom. McCorvey’s claim implies that the Texas abortion laws are violating the right to privacy, which the Court found to have merit. This is McCorvey’s strongest argument since it has a legal foundation that indicates that a state abortion law conflicts with the constitution.

Additionally, McCorvey also argued that abortion should be an absolute right for women. This means that women should have the right and ability to choose to end a pregnancy without the involvement of other parties (Roe v. Wade, 1973; Temme, 2022). While this argument proposes that women should have absolute control over pregnancy and their bodies, there are various reasons for the non-absolute characteristic of the right to abortion. States have interests in preserving various types of life, which includes fetuses. An absolute right to abortion can lead to societal issues which can then cause more complex debates regarding the topic.

Wade’s Arguments

In response to McCorvey’s allegations against the Texas state, Wade provided three main arguments. Wade’s first argument highlighted the state’s priority to protect prenatal life (Temme, 2022). Wade argued that the abortion prohibitions in the Texas statutes exist to safeguard prenatal life. The lack of restrictions means that any pregnant woman can access abortion, which can lead to a high number of unborn children. Texas statutes ensure that women can only terminate a pregnancy when it endangers their lives. The problem with this argument is that there are other valid reasons for abortion. Some women may have poor mental health and cannot take care of a child while others may not have the financial and physical ability to handle parenthood.

Wade’s second argument uses the Fourteenth Amendment to defend a fetus’ right to life as a “person”. Wade stated that a fetus is considered a “person” which entitles it to all citizen’s rights (Roe v. Wade, 1973). This was a strong argument at the time since there was no definitive agreement regarding the status of a fetus. Various theories indicate that life begins at conception while others argue that it starts after a certain period in the pregnancy. This became a relevant topic in the case which compelled the Court to establish the definition of a fetus’ life during their final decision.

The third argument claims that the state’s interest in protecting prenatal life begins at conception. This argument exists as a support for the other two as it highlights the compelling interest of the state in the preservation of prenatal life. Wade argued that the state’s compelling interest allows it to intervene in cases where potential life is involved (Roe v. Wade, 1973). This includes the intervention in a woman’s right to choose whether to get an abortion or not. The state’s compelling interest implies the legitimacy of its role in the prohibitions, supporting the statutes that limit women’s access to abortion.

1973 Decisions

Roe v. Wade’s conclusion involved two important decisions that changed abortion laws and allowed women better access to the procedure. The first decision refers to the definition of a fetus’ life and the balancing of state interest in protecting an adult’s and fetus’ life. The Court stated that there is no absolute truth in the topic and the morality of abortion is dependent on an individual’s beliefs (Roe v. Wade, 1973). However, a review of previous cases revealed that the Court never referred to a fetus as a “person”, thus establishing them as “potential life” (Temme, 2022). The Court provided a comprehensive set of requirements regarding the state’s ability to regulate abortion depending on the stage of the pregnancy. The definition of a fetus’ life cleared which laws protect it while the pregnancy stage-related requirements allow states to protect both the life of an adult and a fetus.

The second important decision was giving women the right to control their pregnancy, which can involve abortion. The Court agreed that the right to liberty includes the right to abortion. Taking women’s right to an abortion means taking away their right to liberty, violating the constitution. Additionally, the Court acknowledged that forcing pregnancies and preventing abortion can cause physical, mental, financial, and social problems for women (Temme, 2022). This then again violates the constitution since it can abridge a woman’s right to privacy, along with other rights. With women having access to abortion, they can prevent the various problems that unwanted pregnancy can cause.

Effects of Roe v. Wade

Roe v. Wade’s most important effect is the legalization of abortion with fewer barriers. This allowed women, especially those with unwanted pregnancies, to terminate their pregnancies. Studies show that there were no significant changes in the number of abortions in the United States. The only change was that the one million annual illegal abortion rate shifted to an additional one million annual legal abortions (Temme, 2022). This shift shows that the legalization did not increase the abortion rate but simply allowed women to have access to legal and safe abortions. Following this, abortion-related deaths declined after the Roe v. Wade conclusion (Temme, 2022). Women were less likely to undergo unsafe abortions in illegal clinics since abortion has become legal in most states without strict requirements. This meant that women undergo abortions in safe environments where licensed physicians monitor their condition and ensure a safe procedure.

Implications of the 2022 Overturning of Roe v. Wade

Roe v. Wade also led the opponents of abortion to become more aggressive in their efforts. The opponents of abortion asked for stricter laws and some even filed lawsuits to oppose the Roe v. Wade decision. In June 2022, the Dobbs v. Jackson case resulted in the overturning of Roe v. Wade. This overturning will then reverse the laws and other benefits of Roe v. Wade. The reversal can have detrimental effects on women’s physical, mental, and financial health. For instance, Sidik (2022) stated that the overturning will force women to spend more and travel to get an abortion. Women will have to visit specific states or countries that have fewer abortion restrictions, leading to high expenses and even potential risks to their physical health. States and countries will also have to prepare for the influx of pregnant women wanting an abortion.

Furthermore, the overturning will force some women to undergo unsafe and illegal abortions. As mentioned earlier, Roe v. Wade led to a shift where instead of one million annual illegal abortions, statistics showed an additional one million annual legal abortions. This shows that restricting or allowing abortion does not affect the abortion rates. Instead, countries that legalize abortion have safer procedures that reduce the health risk of the procedure (Sidik, 2022). So the overturning of Roe v. Wade will not reduce the number of annual abortions and instead cause potential health risks that may increase maternal deaths and other illegal abortion-related detriments.

Conclusion

Roe. v. Wade made abortion legal and allowed women to exercise their right to liberty. The case granted women, especially those who do not want to be mothers, to have a choice in the matter and not suffer the physical, mental, and financial consequences. Roe v. Wade allowed women to have safer abortions that do not put their lives at risk. Unfortunately, the efforts of the opponents of abortion have led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. This can cause detrimental implications that may increase maternal deaths and place more burden on pregnant women who want to have abortions. Still, as Dobbs v. Jackson overturned a 50-year-old decision, future cases may have a similar effect on the overturning.

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References

Artiga, S., Hill, L., Ranju, U., & Gomez, I. (2022). What Are the Implications of the Overturning of Roe V. Wade for Racial Disparities? KFF. Available at https://www.kff.org/racial-equity-and-health-policy/issue-brief/what-are-the-implications-of-the-overturning-of-roe-v-wade-for-racial-disparities/. Accessed: August 23, 2022.

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973). Available at https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/410/113/#F4 . Accessed: August 23, 2022.

Reproductiverights.org. (n.d.). Roe v. Wade. Center for Reproductive Rights. Available at https://reproductiverights.org/roe-v-wade/. Accessed: August 23, 2022.

Oyez.org. (n.d.). Roe v. Wade. Oyez. Available at https://www.oyez.org/cases/1971/70-18. Accessed: August 23, 2022.

Sidik, S., (2022). The Effects of Overturning Roe v. Wade in Seven Simple Charts. Nature. Available at https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-02139-3. Accessed: August 23, 2022. 

Temme, L. (2022). Roe v. Wade Case Summary: What You Need to Know. FindLaw. Available at https://supreme.findlaw.com/supreme-court-insights/roe-v--wade-case-summary--what-you-need-to-know.html. Accessed: August 23, 2022.

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