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Few cases generate as much political controversy, especially more than four decades after being handed down, as Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
Single and pregnant, Norma McCorvey sought an abortion. Texas law permitted abortions only if needed to save the life of the mother. McCorvey filed suit anonymously under the name of Roe against the county district attorney, Henry Wade, who was responsible for enforcing the Texas law.
McCorvey claimed that the abortion ban was unconstitutional and sought to block its enforcement. Although the district court agreed that the law ran afoul of the Constitution, it nevertheless refused to grant the injunction.
McCorvey appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A staunchly divided Court held for Roe. Writing for the Court, Justice Blackmun concluded that Roe’s ability to procure an abortion was protected by the “zone of privacy” implied by the Constitution. Blackmun utilized a term-based approach to balance the right of a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy against the interest of a state in safeguarding the potential life of the fetus.
The framework outlined in Roe has continued to evolve with subsequent precedent, but Roe remains one of the most significant Supreme Court opinions on abortion, women’s rights, and the right to privacy implicit in the Constitution.