Roe v. Wade
410 U.S. 113, 93 S.Ct. 705, 35 L.Ed.2d 147 (1973)
Roe was pregnant and wanted an
abortion, but she lived in Texas where abortions were illegal.
Roe sued (Wade, the Dallas
County DA), claiming that the Texas law was an unconstitutional violation
of her right to privacy.
See Eisenstadt v. Baird (405 U.S. 438 (1972)), which said that a
person has a fundamental privacy right to decide whether to have a child
The Trial Court found for Roe,
but refused to grant an injunction. Roe appealed.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The US Supreme Court found the
Texas law to be unconstitutional.
The US Supreme Court found
that "a State criminal abortion that excepts from criminality only a
life-saving procedure on behalf of the mother, without regard to the
pregnancy stage and without recognition of the other interests involved
is violative of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment."
The Court noted that, at the
time the Constitution was written there were no laws preventing abortion.
Texas argued that the
purpose of the law was to protect the life of the unborn child, but the
Court looked to the legislative history of the law and found that it was
primarily done to protect women by restraining them from submitting to a
procedure that placed their life in danger.
Roe argued that medical
advances had made abortions much safer for the woman, so the law was no
Texas argued that the unborn
baby was a 'person' as defined by the Constitution and was thus entitled
to constitutional protections. However, the Court noted that abortion
rights were much more liberal when the Constitution was written, implying
that the Founders did not include the unborn in their definition of
The Court noted that under
the historical common-law, 'life' was considered to begin at the
quickening (the time when the baby's heart can be felt beating).
The Court found that the
right of personal privacy includes abortion decisions, but that the right
is not unqualified and must be considered against important State
interests in regulation.
The Court found that the
tipping point for State interest was when the fetus was 'viable'.
This case was an attempt of
the State to balance the privacy rights of the mother with the State's
responsibility to protect the baby.
Initially, the balance is in
favor of the mother's right to privacy, but as the pregnancy continues and the baby develops, the
balance tips in favor of the State's responsibility to protect the baby.
See Planned Parenthood
of Southeastern PA. v. Casey (505
U.S. 833 (1992)), which held that the State has an interest to protect
the unborn baby, but that interest must be balanced against the privacy
rights of the mother.
The Federal Constitution
does not explicitly have a right to privacy, but the Supreme Court found a right by combining several
See Griswold v.
Connecticut (381 U.S. 479 (1965)).