Just the Facts

Five Facts on Roe v. Wade

By Emma Petasis
May 21, 2019 | Blog

There has been a lot of debate about Roe v. Wade after an Alabama law was passed last week restricting women’s access to an abortion unless her life is at risk. Roe v. Wade remains federal law with abortion technically legal in all 50 states, although its availability varies widely. Here are the facts on the law. 

1. Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court on January 22, 1973.

In a 7-2 decision, Roe v. Wade affirmed a woman’s right to have an abortion under the Fourteenth amendment to the Constitution. The court held that a woman’s right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy and gave women the right to an abortion during the entirety of the pregnancy.[1]

2. Roe v. Wade was filed because of a Texas law that prohibited abortion, except to save a woman’s life. 

Norma McCorvey, known in court documents as Jane Roe, filed a motion in 1971 against Henry Wade, the district attorney who enforced a Texas law in Dallas county which banned abortion unless a woman’s life was at risk. McCorvey would later declare her opposition to abortion and attempt to overturn the decision of the courts in 2003 after two religious conversions.[2]These motions were denied. 

3. Prior to the 19th century, abortion was legal in the United States.

Up until the late 19thcentury, Abortion was legal prior “quickening” – or about four to five months into the pregnancy when a woman could begin feeling her child move. Since then the definition of when life begins has been debated.[3]

4. Repeated challenges narrowed the scope of Roe v. Wade but did not overturn it.

In 1992, the Supreme Court established that restrictions on abortion are unconstitutional if an undue burden is placed on the woman seeking the abortion. In 2003, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act prohibited the abortion procedure called intact dilation and evacuation. And in 2016, the court struck down two Texas law provisions that required abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers.

5. 64% of Americans would not like to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

In a poll conducted by Gallup in July 2018, 64% of Americans said they would like Roe v. Wade to be upheld, while 28% would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned, and the remaining 9% had no opinion.[4]





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