Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Roe v. Wade

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), is a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. Decided simultaneously with companion case Doe v. Bolton, the Court ruled that a right to privacy under the due process clause in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution extends to a woman's decision to have an abortion, but that right must be balanced against the state's two legitimate interests for regulating abortions: protecting prenatal life and protecting the woman's health. Saying that these state interests become stronger over the course of a pregnancy, the Court resolved this balancing test by tying state regulation of abortion to the woman's current trimester of pregnancy.

The Court later rejected Roe's trimester framework, while affirming Roe's central holding that a person has a right to abortion until viability. The Roe decision defined "viable" as being "potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid," adding that viability "is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks."

In disallowing many state and federal restrictions on abortion in the United States, Roe v. Wade prompted a national debate that continues today, about issues including whether and to what extent abortion should be legal, who should decide the legality of abortion, what methods the Supreme Court should use in constitutional adjudication, and what the role should be of religious and moral views in the political sphere. Roe v. Wade reshaped national politics, dividing much of the United States into pro-choice and pro-life camps, while activating grassroots movements on both sides.

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