PHOTO BY Pinterest

Roe V. Wade: the History of Abortion in the United States


May 07, 2022

A draft of the Supreme court ruling overturning Roe v Wade was leaked nearly a day ago, which shook Americans to the core. The draft by Justice Samuel Alito was published on Politico on Monday night. If the case were to be overturned as the draft says, what would happen?

What was Roe v. Wade about?

Jane Roe was a working-class mother who was unmarried and looking to end an unwanted pregnancy. But in Texas, a law made abortion illegal except for by a doctor's orders. Jane Roe filed a lawsuit against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County, challenging that it violated her privacy, which was protected by the first, fourth, fifth, ninth, and fourteenth amendments.

The District Court agreed with Roe but refused to issue an injunction. Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) was used as a precedent, in which the court ruled that the Constitution protected the right to privacy in marital relations.

The Supreme court then ruled 7-2 that pregnant women have the right to abortion according to the 14th amendment's Due Process clause, which allowed for the right to privacy. A state law that bans abortion without looking at the stage of pregnancy violates women's rights.

A state can regulate abortions after women reach a certain point (third trimester) unless it's to save the mother. The dissenting side stated that the court should have left this decision between the people and the state legislatures to resolve, as it involved the interests of women and the interests of the state.

"CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, JD, stated that Roe v. Wade was “a landmark of what is, in the truest sense, women’s liberation.”

Overturning the case

The Supreme Court, in its 232-year history, has only overturned its own cases 233 times. The Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that could overturn Roe v.

Wade, is not final. If the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade nevertheless, it would have a huge effect on women's rights, as the power to ban abortion turns into a state right. The United States would join Poland, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, which have tightened abortion laws in recent years, as opposed to loosening them.

"More than twenty states are expected to immediately ban abortion in most cases, with half of those having “trigger laws” already on their books (meaning abortion bans that would take effect almost immediately if Roe were overturned)."

President Joe Biden’s administration has pledged to safeguard access to mail-order pills for abortions, although anti-abortion states are already attempting to restrict access to those drugs. Some women may have to travel to another state with access to legal abortion clinics to get an abortion.

"In the U.S., pregnancy-related deaths occur for many reasons, including cardiovascular conditions, infections and hemorrhage caused or worsened by being pregnant or giving birth."

What would be the effects of banning abortion?

A study estimated that the annual number of pregnancy-related deaths would increase by 21% overall, or 140 additional deaths, by the second year after a ban. The percentage would increase to 33% among non-Hispanic Black women; likely due to structural racism, biases in health care provision, and disparities in health care access, among other reasons. Many women who get abortions are poor, and because of the expected increase in interstate travel, remaining clinics would most likely have less capacity to treat the women who were able to reach them. Banning abortion will not actually ban abortion, it will just increase the amount of unsafe, illegal abortions.

"Daniel R. Mishell, Jr., MD, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, says that before abortion was legalized women would frequently try to induce abortions by using coat hangers, knitting needles, or radiator flush, or by going to unsafe “back-alley” abortionists".

In 1972 alone, there were thirty-nine deaths from illegal abortions in the United States; 68,000 deaths worldwide each year. After Roe v. Wade, the number of deaths in the US dropped to two. The risks of giving birth are much higher; a woman’s risk of dying from having an abortion is 0.6 in 100,000, while the risk of dying from giving birth is around 8.8 in 100,000, which is 14 times higher. 42% of women having abortions are below the federal poverty level. A survey found that 73% of respondents said they could not afford to have a baby, and 38% said giving birth would meddle with their education and career goals. Low-wage workers are hit the hardest when they have children, with almost a 15% pay cut due to children.

Final Thoughts

Not everyone has the privilege of having a child in their lives and taking care of them properly. Many unintended pregnancies are associated with birth defects, low birth weight, maternal depression, increased risk of child abuse, and much more; no child born should go through any of this and feel that they don't deserve to be there.

Many people oppose abortion due to religion, specifically Christian values; the Bible, although never even talks specifically about the subject of abortion, nor does it portray the killing of a fetus as equivalent to the killing of a human being. Although the Catholic and Lutheran churches oppose abortion, there have been many other churches that are pro-choice; the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations are some to be named.

"In Exodus 21:22-25, the crime of causing a woman to miscarry is treated as a property crime, whereas killing the woman is considered murder and is punished with the death penalty."

Roe v. Wade does not just touch on the topic of abortion, but it also further protects the right to freedom and privacy. Overturning the landmark case would mean women's right to freedom of speech and privacy being stripped away.

Angelina Manoj
20k+ pageviews

Angelina is a High School Senior with a profound interest in Journalism and Environmental Science. She is the founder of the Gilmore Review, a literature magazine she started for teens to express their creativity.