chapter  21
21 Pages

The Case That Aroused Great Passions

Roe v. Wade (1973)
WithMelvin I. Urofsky

Despite efforts by state legislatures to get around the holding and by conservative presidents to appoint justices willing to overrule Roe v. Wade, it remains on the books, shorthand for other issues involved in the culture wars, particularly feminism’s demand for equal rights for women. If a woman took steps to end a pregnancy before quickening, neither church nor society considered it a sin or a crime. In 1828 Illinois, Missouri, and New York made all abortions illegal, even in the early stages of pregnancy, in order to protect women from incompetent abortion providers. Moreover, some of the state courts had begun declaring that, based on Griswold, a constitutional right to privacy existed that included a woman’s option to have an abortion. Roe v. Wade would thus be a class action suit as well as an individual case, speaking for all women denied access to legal abortion in situations where the state had no compelling reason to deny it.