Roe v. Wade: The Landmark Case Shaping Abortion Rights in America

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From Norma McCorvey’s Struggle to the Supreme Court Decision

In August 1969, a waitress in Texas, Norma McCorvey, wanted an abortion after an unexpected pregnancy. At that time in Texas, the laws stated that if you were pregnant as a result of rape, you could legally have an abortion. Thus, her friend advised her to lie about rape so that she could get an abortion legally. However, she failed to provide the required evidence of rape. Therefore, this idea didn’t let her get an abortion. Then, she went to an underground abortion clinic, but she found that the clinic had been shut down by the police. In 1970, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington sued Henry Wade, the attorney general of Dallas County, Texas, alleging that the state’s abortion laws violated Roe’s right to privacy. Jane Roe is an alias for McCorvey.

As a result, the District Court ruled that the abortion law violated her rights under the Ninth Amendment, but it did not seek an injunction against Texas’s anti-abortion law. They continued to appeal to the United States Supreme Court. Finally, in 1973, the Court held that a woman’s right to an abortion was protected by her right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment.

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The Supreme Court’s Three-Stage Standard and the Emphasis on Privacy Rights

This case caused society from all walks of life intense dispute. There were three points of contradiction in this case. The United States Supreme Court has recognized that women’s right to abortion is protected by the constitutional right to privacy.

In addition, with regard to restrictions on the right to abortion, the majority opinion of the Court was based on the capabilities and statistics of medical science and technology and proposed a ‘three-stage standard’ to address the balance of interests between the public interest and the right of pregnant women to privacy. During the first trimester of pregnancy, abortion is optional and is not subject to statutory restrictions. After the first trimester of pregnancy, the government may restrict abortion for the purpose of protecting the health of the pregnant woman until the fetus has the activity of the mother, but the means of restriction can only be necessary to protect the health of the pregnant woman. After the fetus has the activity of the mother, the interest of the government to protect the potential life has reached the degree of irresistible interest, so the government can ban abortion.

The majority opinion of the Court focused the judgment on in vitro survivability because, at that time, the fetus may have the capacity to survive outside the mother. Therefore, the majority opinion held that the Texas law prohibiting abortion, which did not distinguish the extent of the prohibition for the different stages of pregnancy, violated the provisions of due process of law of the 14th Amendment and was null and void.

The Enduring Impact and Legacy of Roe v. Wade in Judicial Review

In the judgment of this case, the United States Supreme Court has recognized for the first time that a woman’s right to decide whether to continue her pregnancy is protected by constitutional provisions of personal autonomy and privacy. At the same time, the Supreme Court held that state governments must balance the rights of women to privacy and the interest of protecting potential lives. Thus, for the first time, the United States Supreme Court used the Strict Scrutiny as a direction to propose a ‘three-stage standard.’

Today, the right to abortion is still an important issue. The landmark decision of the Supreme Court to legalize abortion has provoked an unprecedented response. The United States Supreme Court has exercised judicial review rights, reconciled conflicts of legal status, and safeguarded the authority of the United States Constitution. Roe v. Wade argued that the Texas law prohibiting abortion was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court eventually ruled that the ban on abortion violated amendment 9th and 14th of the Constitution, and the Texas law on abortion lapsed. Roe v. Wade, in the field of social life, promotes the application of an unconstitutional review system, indicating the maturity of the system. The Supreme Court of the United States exercised judicial review to protect the legitimate rights and freedoms of citizens.

The Supreme Court of the United States has formed the practice and theory of double standards of review in judicial review activities. The controversy over the standards of judicial review in abortion cases is a good example. Roe v. Wade made the system of review of unconstitutionality become a solid system. It was also a landmark decision issued by the United States Supreme Court.


  1. McCorvey, N., & Meisler, A. (1994). I am Roe: My life, Roe v. Wade, and freedom of choice. HarperCollins Publishers.
  2. Greenhouse, L., & Siegel, R. (2010). Before (and After) Roe v. Wade: New questions about backlash. Yale Law Journal.
  3. United States Reports, Vol. 410 (1973). Roe v. Wade. U.S. Government Printing Office.
  4. Garrow, D. J. (1998). Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade. University of California Press.
  5. Tribe, L. H. (1992). Abortion: The clash of absolutes. Norton & Company.
  6. Chemerinsky, E. (2011). Constitutional law: Principles and policies. Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.
  7. Balkin, J. M. (2011). Abortion and Original Meaning. Constitutional Commentary.

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Roe v. Wade: The Landmark Case Shaping Abortion Rights in America. (2023, Aug 27). Retrieved from

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