January 22nd 1973: Roe v. Wade
On this day in 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that women have the right to an abortion, thus legalising abortion in the United States. The case was brought to federal court by a Texas woman under the alias of Jane Roe, against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade, who represented the state. After a decision was made in the district court, the case was referred up through the court system, eventually reaching the nation’s highest court in 1970. The all-male Supreme Court, led by Warren Burger as Chief Justice, ruled 7-2 that a right to privacy under the 14th Amendment covers a woman’s right to an abortion. The majority opinion was written by Justice Harry Blackmun, with Justices Bryon White and William Rehnquist penning dissents. The Roe decision was issued the same day as a related case called Doe v. Bolton which overturned Georgia’s anti-abortion laws. Roe v. Wade was immediately controversial, sparking celebrations in the pro-choice camp and protests from anti-abortion activists. It is still a divisive issue today, with its supporters arguing the decision forms a vital part of a woman’s right over her own body, and those opposed to abortion calling for the decision’s repeal. The Court’s 1973 decision has since been challenged, and abortion rights have been gradually eroded in subsequent rulings, but the fundamental right to an abortion remains.