Roe vs Wade: A Brief History and What Happens Next
Updated: Sep 1
Under her protected name, Jane Roe was the claimant in the ruling of Roe vs. Wade, which (when the ruling was overturned in 1973) made abortion federally protected within the United States.
Within the 14th amendment it states the crucial ‘right to privacy’ - basically meaning that people are able to do what they want with their bodies -, protecting a person who has the ability to carry a child the right to an abortion.
There is a clause within the 14th amendment that says, ‘Nor shall any state deprive anybody of life, liberty or property without due process of law.’ This means there is a legal requirement that states respect the rights that a person has. Jane Roe was pregnant with her third child when she filed a lawsuit against Henry Wade because it was illegal in Texas to have an abortion unless it was a life-saving incident. She claimed that her right to have an abortion no matter the scenario came under her right to privacy. The Texas courts took her case all the way to the Supreme Court, and in 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that people had a constitutional right to an abortion and that it came under their right to privacy. This means that this right can’t be taken away by the state. Whilst many states and people attempted to overturn the ruling (some even succeeding to bring it to the Supreme Court), it has never since 1973 been taken to the Supreme Court and had the majority of Supreme Court judges vote in favour of overturning Roe vs Wade. This is due to Donald Trump appointing three very conservative court justices - Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch - it seems like it might actually be overturned. If it gets overturned, this means the right to abortion will no longer be protected by the federal law. This would mean each state would get the power to decide how they support abortion and what the rules surrounding abortion will look like in that particular state. Currently, 23 states will immediately ban abortion if it gets overturned as it is already written into their state law.
There was a draft that came from the supreme court that was leaked about the possibility of overturning Roe vs Wade and since then the supreme court has confirmed it is a real draft. The voting whether Roe vs Wade will be overturned or not will happen in June. The vote right now is 5 people in favour and 3 people against, so it’s most likely going to be overturned.
States were already previously banning abortion by finding loopholes in the Roe vs Wade law banning certain kinds of abortions, for example: late term abortions. If the government steps up and writes in a law about abortion, it will not matter if it is overturned or not because the right to abortion will still be federally protected but so far (when this presentation is being done) it hasn’t been done yet.
Please note that: the supreme court does not create laws, they either overturn old laws or tell people how laws are to be interpreted.
So why would it be a bad thing if Roe vs Wade was overturned?
One of the consequences of overturning Roe vs Wade, is that pregnant people will face huge health risks, especially considering the fact that it’s safer to get an abortion in the US than to give birth, meaning that if the number of abortions decline, and birth rates rise, statistically there will be more deaths within the United States. One example of the health risks pregnant people could face is if the pregnant person has a pre-existing health condition, the act of giving birth could further provoke it, potentially driving the birth giver into life-threatening scenarios. In addition, overturning Roe vs Wade doesn’t ban or restrict abortions, it bans safe abortions. In fact, it’s estimated that 25 million unsafe abortions occur annualy world-wide, and 68,000 people who receive unsafe abortions die due to them, and that’s before abortion is banned or restricted in the United States.
Overturning Roe vs Wade which affects all people within the US who have the ability to give birth, but it especially affects people of colour, poor people, and people a part of the LGBTQ+ community that have the ability to give birth. This is because people who want an abortion will probably be forced to cross state lines in order to receive one; taking up time, resources, money, and the fact that 59% of people who get abortions have pre-existing children proves that there would be a requirement of child caring services - therefore the people who will have access to get abortions will be those of high-income background. And people may attempt to test the legal boundaries of the abortion ban (attempting to get access to abortion medications or procedures outside of the legal limit), meaning that people of colour and members of the LGBTQ+ communty are more likely to be targeted and surveiled in comparison to white, straight people.
Not only do abortion bans have an immediate risk on birth givers (during and directly after the pregnancy), but a study that took place over the course of five years, looking at one thousand women within the US who were denied an abortion, showing that these women were more likely to suffer from long term consequences of the denial of an abortion, some of these are: chronic anxiety, financial hardship, struggle to provide food and transport for their family, and various mental health problems. And it’s intergenerational, meaning that these women’s children are more likely to live below the federal poverty line.
Ultimately, if the Supreme Court votes in favour of overturning the ruling of Roe vs Wade, thousands of lives will be thrown into turmoil. On a bureaucratic level it will cost millions of dollars, but more importantly it will be a humanitarian crisis for many. It will result in death, poverty, and take a massive mental health toll.