Tag Archives: Supreme Court

Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113 (1973))

Photo of Norma McCorvey, a.k.a. Jane Roe.

Photo: Norma McCorvey (left) and lawyer (right) advocating

The famous Roe V. Wade case of 1973. The court decision that stuck down all state laws restricting abortion during a woman’s first trimester of pregnancy. Never once has a case been decided so much on religion, beliefs, ethics, and morality. It challenged a woman’s right to privacy and abortion laws across the United States.

At the time, two graduates of the University of Texas, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, brought on a case on behalf of Norma McCorvey (under alias as Jane Roe), a pregnant, unmarried woman arguing that the Texas law criminalizing most abortions unconstitutional. At the time, the Texas law had a restriction on all abortions other than those to save the life of the mother. The lawsuit was filed against the Dallas Country District Attorney, Henry Wade, and he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 7-2 decision, the Court ruled Texas law unconstitutional, and in violation of the 9th and 14th amendments in the Bill of Rights, those amendments protecting privacy of an individual.

And so Norma McCorvey won her case, but it was too late to go through with the abortion, for she was too far along in her pregnancy when the case was finally decided.

Up until this case, there were laws restricting abortion in almost every state and was greatly limited by law in several others. State laws limiting access during the second trimester were only upheld only when to preserve the health of the mother. Roe v. Wade is known for the legalization of abortion in the United States.

The Supreme Court found that a woman’s right to privacy deserves the highest level of protection and care, thanks to Roe v. Wade. The Court also, however, recognizes that the right to privacy is not absolute and assured and that each state has its own protection guarding maternal health.

The Roe v. Wade case may be the most famous and important reproductive rights case, and especially when studying abortion legal history. As one of the most debated cases in U.S. legal history, much criticism comes out of it. Tulane Law School Student Alex McBride suggests that, “To the political Right, critics accuse the Court in Roe of legalizing the murder of human life with flimsy constitutional justifications. To the Left, critics maintain that Roe was poorly reasoned and caused an unnecessary political backlash against abortion rights.” (McBride) To this day, many believe that this was a classic example of pure protection of an individual’s most basic human rights – that of privacy.

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Griswold v. Connecticut (381 U.S. 479 (1965))

Photo of a man protesting outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in New Haven, Connecticut.

Photo: man protesting outside of Planned Parenthood clinic in New Haven, CT

The 60s decade in the 20th century America was a time of challenging law and challenging the importance of morality. It was a time of change, protest, and hope. The Griswold v. Connecticut case of 1965 was a landmark case, challenging Connecticut’s law of informative contraception.

Estelle Griswold was the Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, who gave a young married couple advice and information on contraception. Both she and her colleague, Dr. C. Lee Buxton, were charged and found guilty as accessories to illegally providing conception and were fined $100 each. The two took the case to the Supreme Court and challenged Connecticut’s law, arguing that it goes against the law of ‘right to marital privacy.’ With a trial the grand jury’s 7-2 voted Connecticut’s law invalid; Griswold and Buxton won their case.

Justice William O. Douglass of the Supreme Court found that Connecticut’s law could not prove it absolutely necessary to restrict the married couple’s rights of privacy. The married couple’s use of contraception constitutes a fundamental right, and it was Connecticut’s job to prove to the Court that its law was absolutely necessary to overcome that right, in order to win the case – which it failed to do.

This was the first case in which the fundamental idea of privacy became the center of conversation. It was here where we see law and legalities meddling into private laws with even married couples. According to Justice John Marshall Harlan II, this is only a fundamental idea because marriage and marital privacy has always been protected in American society (Harlan).

Dr. Buxton, a medical professional and professor at Yale Medical School, and Griswold were charged and arrested for providing information. Connecticut’s law at the time prohibited contraception, and so the two were convicted as being accessories to it. This went against the constitutionally protected law of right to marital privacy, and so the case was settled – birth control, from then on, could not be denied from married couples.

The 1965 case of Griswold v. Connecticut served as a model for future cases in reproductive rights. It inspired later decisions in cases such as Eisenstadt v. Baird, Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, and several others in the United States.

“Since 1965, there has been a dramatic decline in unwanted births, the result of pregnancies that women wanted neither at the time they were conceived nor at any future time.” Thanks to the Griswold v. Connecticut case, the public began to realize the importance of privacy in reproductive rights within married couples. This justice grew outside of marital status in future cases to come.

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