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Roe v. Wade Essay

Chloe Atha
Men Can’t Get Abortions: Why Roe v. Wade Is Significant and Necessary to Protect the
Life, Liberty, and Happiness of Women
One of the most controversial and seemingly unsolvable issues that plagues American
society today, centers around the ethical and societal issue of abortion. Although the court case
of Roe v. Wade (RVW) was decided almost five decades ago, it remains one the most prevalent
and clear rulings on abortion, that justly grants women the rights to their own body and the
choice to prioritize their own physical, mental, and emotional well-being over that of a fetus. Roe
v. Wade’s premise and final court decision is still a hot-button topic, where the two sides of the
argument are so fundamentally divided by their own beliefs, that there seems to be no middle
ground. Furthermore, the impact and importance of the Roe v. Wade decision is highlighted in
the pending court decisions and laws being implemented from state to state, specifically the
court case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health and the Texas Heartbeat Act. Roe v. Wade is
one of the most influential precedents of modern American society, as it tackles the ongoing
fight for equality, and the recent push from pro-life lobbyers and representatives in the
government presents a worrying insight into what the future of America divided may hold.
Although Jane Roe is a pseudonym for an anonymous woman who brought the case of
abortion to the supreme court, the name has come to represent much more to the millions of
women that are affected by the decision of Jane Roe’s case against the Texas law banning
abortion. Specifically, the lawsuit from Roe was filed against Henry Wade, the district attorney of
Dallas County, Texas, where Articles 1191-1194 and 1196 of the State's Penal Code made
getting an abortion a crime punishable by heavy fines and multiple years in jail, with the vague
exception of when the life of the mother is in imminent danger.
Before the 1970’s, many states had similar statutes heavily restricting abortion, until in
March of 1970, Jane Roe brought to the courts her argument against the anti-abortion statutes
and an injunction which would, if accepted by the courts, prevent the Texas county and others
prom enforcing anti-abortion laws. Roe, a single pregnant woman, was denied an abortion in
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her county, and lacking the funds needed to travel to a state with lighter abortion laws, was left
without any option other than to have the baby she did not want. Joining the prosecution in
Roe’s case, James Hubert Hallford, a doctor, also testified to the vague and limiting nature of
the statues that prevented him from determining whether the women seeking abortion fell within
the exception present in Article 1196. He further claimed that these uncertain claims violated the
fourteenth amendment, specifically violating the privacy of a doctor-patient relationship and his
freedom to practice medicine. The defense successfully argued to the court that the intentionally
vague language voided that law for being unconstitutional, as it disregarded the plaintiffs' right
to liberty granted in the Ninth to Fourteenth Amendments. Furthermore, the defense argued that
the law infringed on the marital, familial, and sexual privacy which are guaranteed to all citizens
under the Bill of Rights. The courts, again, agreed with this aspect of the defense's argument.
The Supreme Court, however, did not pass in their final decision a large aspect of the defense’s
argument, that the right to have an abortion should be considered absolute and at the full
control of the woman to decide, at any time, to have an abortion performed. The courts decided
that the right to privacy cannot wholly prevent states from regulating abortion.
In their final decision, the court ruled that the constitution did not grant the rights of a
citizen to a fetus, saying, “the unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons in the
whole sense." Further, the courts cited the idea of Substantive due process, which protects
certain rights unrelated to legal procedures and prevents the government from infringing on
people’s inalienable rights, such as personal autonomy, bodily integrity, self-dignity, and selfdetermination. The precedent set is that in the first trimester of pregnancy (1-13 weeks), states
cannot ban abortion. In the second trimester (14-26 weeks), regulations may be imposed by the
state that are reasonable and related to the health of the mother. In the third trimester (27-40
weeks), abortion can be prohibited or restricted once the fetus reaches the “point of viability”, as
long as there are exceptions if the mother’s life or health is in critical danger. RVW effectively
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granted women bodily autonomy, while not directly encouraging or discouraging the act of
having an abortion.
The case, also, worked effectively in further dividing Americans based on their
fundamental beliefs of morality and the integration of religion into government systems and
laws. This divide created two distinct sides of the argument and pushed Americans to choose
whether they believe life begins at conception or birth. The argument against abortion was
deemed Pro-life, as supporters agreed that human life begins at the moment of conception, and
therefor abortion can be equated to murder. Religious beliefs propagated this idea throughout
American society, which now have become so intertwined with the American government that
the idea of the separation of church and state is more similar to a daydream than to reality. An
article posted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, gave the counterargument
that RVW, “represents a tragic failure of the government, an abdication of its duty to defend the
vulnerable and innocent.” This means that because of the moral demands put upon believers,
they argue that since life begins at conception, the fetus is the equivalent to a citizen, and
therefore, is protected by the Due Process Clause of 14th amendment, which has set the
precedent within the court of America since the 1800’s, granting Americans the right to privacy.
Therefore, to those who are pro-life, the court decision of RVW legalizes the murder of babies
who cannot advocate for themselves. Agree or disagree, it can be justified that everyone has
the right to their own opinions and beliefs, however, the pro-life stance does not just say
Christian women cannot have abortions, but rather all women cannot have an abortion, no
matter if do not share in Christian practices.
The pro-choice argument is more individualistic than the argument above; It differs from
the Pro-life argument in that those who are pro-choice either believe that life begins at birth (or
late pregnancy), and therefore, a fetus’ life morally cannot be prioritized over the will of the
mother, or they believe that the choice of having an abortion is individual to each woman and
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said choice should solely lie with the woman. Here is where the modern controversy around the
abortion issue becomes morally complex and the solution becomes unattainable. Should
people’s core religious beliefs influence important aspects of American government? The issue
becomes nearly unsolvable, as those who believe abortion is murder have a divine demand to
not encourage the sin of murder, and therefore cannot morally side with the pro-choice
argument, even though the argument allows for anyone to practice their own personal beliefs.
It is near impossible to be a woman and not have to have deep emotions towards the
issue of pregnancy and abortion. Justice Blackmun, when presiding over the RVW court stated
himself, “We forthwith acknowledge our awareness of the sensitive and emotional nature of the
abortion controversy, of the vigorous opposing views, even among physicians, and of the deep
and seemingly absolute convictions that the subject inspires.” For hundreds of years, us women
have been conditioned to prioritize everyone else over ourselves; a woman must be a wife to
her husband or a mother to her son, which has perpetrated the idea of women as childbearing
objects and not people. This societal conditioning has made the issue of abortion so complex
and fundamentally intertwined to who we are as women, that we should be truly scared for our
liberty resting in the slimy hands of the government.
Although the American government has consistently been notoriously hypocritical in its
actions, the absurdity of their actions is so heightened by the pro-choice argument, that the
basic ideas of the separation of church and state have reverted to those held by Americans in
the 1910’s, when women held absolutely no bodily autonomy or societal freedom to make their
own choices. Holding pro-life ideals indirectly encouraged the oppression of women’s power as
citizens and people, and directly attempts to interfere with the liberty granted to all Americans. In
the first amendment of the constitution, the establishment clause prohibits the state from
establishing a religion. This clause effectively outlines the gravity of the idea of the separation of
church and state. Our founding fathers, themselves, found it of the utmost importance to
immediately and legally state that America must be independent of a state sponsored religion in
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order to avoid a divine government and the corruption of this divine power like in the Church of
England. Here is where hypocrisy rears its ugly head. Legislators and judges, whose job is to
objectively implement legislation that is beneficial to Americans, put their personal religious
beliefs above their duty to serve. The fact that they believe abortion is unethical is not what
presents the problem, as people are permitted to practice the religion of their choice and have
their own ideology. The problem emerges for me, when the people in power try to force their
own beliefs upon all others. It wholly disregards the almost one hundred fifteen million three
hundred twenty-five thousand Americans who religiously identify as not Christian, and it reverts
us, as people, to times when religious moral obligation was used to justify everything from
racism, sexism, homophobia to murder and genocide.
Representation, not just in religious sects, is critical in an effective democratic system of
government, and yet cases like RVW aren’t decided by the people they directly affect. The
Supreme Court that RVW was argued to, reargued to, and finally decided by, was made up of
all older white men. While I believe that the case decision was the correct one, that doesn’t
negate the fact that the judges who were given the enormous power and responsibility of
deciding the most poignant cases in our entire judicial system, can NEVER understand the true
impact that Roe v. Wade's decision has because they do not represent the demographic it
directly affects. Thus, it seems again we as women are pushed back into an age where our
freedoms and rights are at the whims of men, who cannot accurately understand the complex
nature of pregnancy and abortion.
Supreme Court Justice, Harry Blackmun’s, statement, “In addition, population growth,
pollution, poverty, and racial overtones tend to complicate and not to simplify the problem,”
eloquently summarizes how the issue of abortion is not equally impactful to all Americans, but
rather has heightened or lightened effects depending on a person’s sex, race, and
socioeconomic status. It is easy, when analyzing a case like RVW, to generalize the effects of
the case equally to all women. It is, however, important to note that the implementation of harsh
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abortion restrictions has a much worse effect on women of lower socioeconomic status and
women of color, specifically. Laws that restrict abortion work, also, to suppress lower class
women as they remove all opportunities for them to make any decision other than to keep the
baby, which is, in often cases, against the will and needs of the mother. The RVW precedent
also aids in allowing women, especially those in neglected communities, to have family planning
options, and not be made to care for children which they don't have the proper means to raise.
This just furthers the cycle of poverty and actively works to further oppress women of color and
low economic status, more than societal and governmental behaviors already do. If everyone
had the means to travel and pay for an abortion where it is not banned, the impact of the
individual state’s laws would be less significant. This however is not the case, as demonstrated
by the testimony of Jane Roe in RVW. Women living in poverty in a state with harsh abortion
laws are, then, not only restricted an abortion, but also are induced by poor sex education
practices and lack of proper access to family planning resources like birth control or condoms.
Dangerous consequences follow from this, as women may seek an abortion from an unlicensed
person, who can put their life in danger if the abortion is not performed correctly. What RVW
does and why it is so important is that it simply allows women the option to freely choose the
future they want for themselves, whether that be to have children or not.
For this reason, new legislation being pushed in congress and the courts aiming to
restrict and criminalize abortion, puts at risk the fundamental rights and freedoms of women,
that we are promised by the constitution and by basic human decency. The Texas Heartbeat
Act, for example, has recently been garnering controversy, which is especially disquieting as
government representatives are trying to bring RVW back to court and get it overturned. With
the implementation of the Heartbeat Act in Texas, the agendas of pro-life lawmakers is
noticeably moving higher and higher, now, coming back to the supreme court. The Heartbeat
Act, or Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) was signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott on May 19,
2021. The law bans abortion after any fetal cardiac activity is detected (5-6 weeks) and allows
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anyone to file a lawsuit against those who provide abortions, as well as those who aid in helping
someone gain an abortion, such as driving someone to the abortion clinic.
This is a remarkably harsh act, as signs of pregnancy often show up after 6 weeks, and
it is common for women not to know they are pregnant for upwards of 8 weeks. Furthermore,
since there are already restrictions on how quickly abortion appointments can be sought out,
even if a woman does know before 6 weeks, there is a chance that she would still be prevented
from attaining a legal abortion because of the tedium of scheduling the separate ultrasound
before the abortion appointment, which is required by Texas law. This challenging scheduling
adds hundreds of dollars to the already six hundred-to-two-thousand-dollar cost of an abortion,
and adds obstacles, which more adversely affect women of color, women living on low incomes,
and women who live far from the city or do not own personal transportation, as these all present
potential delays to getting proper abortion care.
In addition to this, the act also circumvents the precedent set by RVW, as it punishes
women for trying to get an abortion and monetarily penalizes people who would support them.
Anyone, who “aids and abets” an abortion, whether that be performing it, driving someone to
their appointment, or helping pay the cost, can be sued for $10,000 for each abortion by an
unrestricted amount of people, and while this may be legally sound, but it is illegitimate as it
bypasses precedents set in the supreme court through loopholes and disingenuous means,
breaking the Precedent stare decisis doctrine that states that the courts will adhere to a
precedent from past cases - RVW - in their decision making. As mentioned in previous
paragraphs, these laws are implemented by powerful white men, who push their own personal
agendas onto everyone they legally can, without the proper representation of the entire
population of people which it would affect. Laws like the Heartbeat Act encourage, legally, false
accusations against and the wrongful manipulation of women rights granted to us by the
Supreme Court.
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However, despite the rising number of states ignoring the RVW precedent and
manufacturing laws that intentionally and borderline unconstitutionally skirt said precedent, there
are people fighting back against these laws in court. This is exemplified by the ongoing court
case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s health on the issue of whether all pre-viability prohibitions
on elective abortions are unconstitutional. The case was brought against Thomas E. Dobbs, the
State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health, by the Jackson Women's Health
Organization and its doctors, after, in 2018, Mississippi legislature passed a law called the
Gestational Age Act. The Gestational Age Act bans abortions, with few exceptions, 15 weeks
into the fetus’ gestational period. The Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only licensed
abortion facility in Mississippi, argued against the law and requested an emergency temporary
restraining order, which was granted, later, by the district court. The court's decision granted the
clinic’s motion and effectively blocked the enforcement of the Mississippi law for lack of
evidence of a fetus’ viability at 15 weeks. Further, the court cited the precedent stare decisis - a
doctrine saying that the courts will adhere to the precedents set by previous cases rulingssaying, “stare decisis is a foundation stone of the rule of law.” The Supreme Court’s precedent
prohibits states from banning abortions before the baby is viable, and therefore the state of
Mississippi’s implementation of the Gestational Age Act was rightly deemed unconstitutional.
Cases like Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which
reaffirmed the right to abortion up to 24 weeks of a pregnancy, work to uphold the rule of the
law, and prevent the personal religious agendas of representatives from attempts to skirt the
precedent of RVW.
It is for cases that shine the light on how vital the precedent of the RVW decision is.
Legislators who are trying to have RVW overturned now that the Supreme Court has a majority
number of judges who are pro-life - seven of the nine justices are or were raised catholicpresent to us a concerning vision of the imminent future. Currently, six of the nine Justices have
gone on record with the opposition to abortion rights, and only five justices are needed to create
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a new ruling of the court. Despite the fact that the overturning of supreme court decisions is
rare, there is a high chance that if officially brought to the supreme court, RVW will be
overturned. This is the case because, although, in the past justices were relatively more
moderate, the state of the American political system has become so fundamentally divided on
issues, that it has pushed people to adopt definitive, harsh, and extreme views on both sides of
the political spectrum. The idea of a moderate government, representing both political parties
equally, and compromising with each other on legislation that is best for all Americans, has
become a figment of the past. This shift from the middle to the extremes means that RVW can
feasibly be overturned in the near future, opening up the issue of abortion back up to
representatives and judges who have no intention of compromising their own beliefs for the
betterment of society.
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“Roe v. Wade Case Summary: What You Need To Know.” Findlaw,
“Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).” Justia Law,
Stanford Law Review. “Substantive Due Process as a Two-Way Street.” Stanford Law Review,
12 Apr. 2019, https://www.stanfordlawreview.org/online/substantive-due-process-as-a-two-waystreet/.
"Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization." Oyez, www.oyez.org/cases/2021/19-1392.
Accessed 4 Apr. 2022.
Harmon, Stephanie. “Precedent and the Rule of Law: Spotlight on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's
Health.” Center for Reproductive Rights, 17 Nov. 2021, https://reproductiverights.org/supremecourt-case-mississippi-abortion-ban-rule-of-law/.
“The College of Liberal Arts the University of Texas at Austin.” College of Liberal Arts - The
University of Texas at Austin, https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/txpep/research-briefs/senate-bill8.php.
“Roe v. Wade and Its Impact.” Ushistory.org, Independence Hall Association,