On this day in history, January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court issues its landmark Roe v. Wade decision

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On this day in history, January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, claiming that the unnecessary and restrictive state regulation of abortion was unconstitutional, according to Britannica.

Abortion is perhaps one of the most controversial issues in today’s society.

An abortion is the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus, according to Merriam-Webster.

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The trial started three years earlier with a “Jane Roe” – a woman later revealed to be Norma McCorvey.

A waitress, McCorvey from Texas, became pregnant in 1969 and wanted an abortion.

Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” in the 1973 Roe v. Wade lawsuit, is shown sitting at her desk with a sign reading “I Am Subject To Bursts Of Enthusiasm.” She was 22 and pregnant for the third time in 1969 when she fought for abortion rights. She never had that abortion.
(Getty Images)

At the time, however, abortions were banned in Texas except in cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother’s life.

McCorvey was a native of Dallas County.

She believed she had the right to terminate her pregnancy without government restrictions, according to Britannica’s report on the matter.

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She reportedly claimed she could not afford to travel to a jurisdiction outside of Texas to obtain a legal abortion under safe conditions.

Dallas County, Texas, District Attorney Henry Wade claimed the state should be able to regulate when abortions are allowed.

Dallas County, Texas, District Attorney Henry Wade claimed the state should be able to regulate when abortions are allowed.
(Getty Images)

So she sought federal action against Henry Wade, a prosecutor in Dallas County, Texas, who claimed that the existing ruling banning abortion violated her constitutional rights.

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The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas found McCorvey’s argument valid and agreed that the ruling violated her right to privacy.

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But after the state appealed, McCorvey’s case made its way to the Supreme Court in 1970, according to Britannica.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled 7 to 2 in her favor, agreeing in its landmark decision that state laws banning abortion were unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court, presided over by Chief Justice Warren Burger (center, bottom row) and consisting of William O. Douglas, William J. Brennan Jr., Potter Stewart, Byron White, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, Lewis F. Powell Jr.  and William Rehnquist, issued their landmark Roe v. Wade decision.  The court ruled that the overly restrictive state regulation of abortion was unconstitutional — and that the constitution protected a woman's choice of abortion without undue government restrictions.

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court, presided over by Chief Justice Warren Burger (center, bottom row) and consisting of William O. Douglas, William J. Brennan Jr., Potter Stewart, Byron White, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, Lewis F. Powell Jr. and William Rehnquist, issued their landmark Roe v. Wade decision. The court ruled that the overly restrictive state regulation of abortion was unconstitutional — and that the constitution protected a woman’s choice of abortion without undue government restrictions.
(TBEN via Getty Images)

In a majority opinion written by Judge Harry A. Blackmun, “the Court found that a series of Texas statutes criminalizing abortion violated in most cases a woman’s constitutional right to privacy,” according to Britannica, “which it found implicit in the liberty guarantee of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The 14th Amendment says that no state “shall make or enforce any law that will curtail the privileges or immunities of any citizen of the United States,” according to the U.S. Constitution.

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The advice read, in part, “Nor shall any state deprive any man of life, liberty, or property without due process of law,” as Britannica noted.

Twists and turns

In one of the most interesting twists related to the case, “Jane Roe” – Norma McCorvey – did not get the abortion she insisted after all.

She was 22, unmarried, unemployed and pregnant for the third time in 1969 when she fought for abortion rights in Texas.

“Jane Roe” became an evangelical Christian and joined the anti-abortion movement.

But by the time the Supreme Court upheld abortion rights in 1973, she had already given birth — and given her baby daughter up for adoption.

After the court ruling, McCorvey lived in silence for several years before revealing she was “Jane Roe” in the 1980s, the The Bharat Express News reported.

A portrait of Norma McCorvey ("Jane Roe" in Roe v. Wade), who converted years after the Roe v. Wade decision and joined the anti-abortion movement.  She passed away in 2017 at the age of 69.

A portrait of Norma McCorvey (“Jane Roe” in Roe v. Wade), who converted and joined the anti-abortion movement years after the Roe v. Wade decision. She passed away in 2017 at the age of 69.
(Cynthia Johnson/Getty Images)

Decades later, as the TBEN also reported, McCorvey underwent a conversion. She became an evangelical Christian and joined the anti-abortion movement.

A short time later she underwent another religious conversion and became a Roman Catholic.

“I’m 100% pro-life. I don’t believe in abortion, even in an extreme situation. If the woman got pregnant by a rapist, it’s still a child. You shouldn’t act like your own God,” said she. told the TBEN in 1998.

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McCorvey died in 2017 at the age of 69.

Roe v. Wade overturned

The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision stood for nearly 50 years — until June 24, 2022, when the Supreme Court overturned it, ultimately giving states the power to allow, restrict, or ban the practice altogether.

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“We believe that Roe and Casey should be outvoted,” Judge Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion.

“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and such a right is not implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including that on which Roe’s and Casey’s defenders now primarily rely — the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” the opinion continued.

“A culture of life is best for our culture and our families.”

Today, abortion is almost completely banned in 12 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.

However, many pro-life activists believe there is still much work to be done.

With the US Capitol in the background, pro-life protesters march towards the US Supreme Court during the March for Life, Friday, January 20, 2023, in Washington.

With the US Capitol in the background, pro-life protesters march towards the US Supreme Court during the March for Life, Friday, January 20, 2023, in Washington.
(TBEN Photo/Alex Brandon)

Noelle Garnier, director of public policy and communications at National Religious Broadcasters, headquarters in Washington, DCtold TBEN News Digital just before this year’s March for Life that “2022 was a milestone for the pro-life movement in America, but we have much, much more work to do in the year ahead.”

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Garnier said, “We and our members stand firm in proclaiming that a culture of life is best for our culture and our families, and we are proud to participate in this historic event.”

However, many others, including those in favor of choice, believe that abortion is “a basic health care need for millions of women, girls and others of childbearing potential,” as Amnesty International, headquartered in the UK, notes on its website. The group says that “an estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies worldwide end in abortion each year.”

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It also says that “access to safe and legal abortion services is far from guaranteed for those who may need abortion services.” It adds: “Regardless of whether abortion is legal or not, people still need and regularly access abortion services.”

Kyle Morris, Kelly Laco and Deirdre Reilly of TBEN News Digital contributed to the reporting.

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