Roe V. Wade’s Divisive Past

the controversial decision is still being called into question


Grace Slagle

In the current political climate, many issues are frequently talked about. Topics such as the COVID 19 pandemic, climate change, and other social and political unrest are debated heavily between all parties. One issue that is perhaps more controversial than most is abortion in the United States. You may know the two standpoints of pro-life and pro-choice. You may be aware that women’s rights could be called into question with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But what do you know about the history of Roe v. Wade, the case that made abortion legal in the United States?

The case began in Dallas, Texas in 1970 when a lawsuit was filed by the attorneys of Jane Roe, a woman looking to get an abortion, against Henry Wade, Dallas’ District Attorney. At the time the case was filed, abortion was illegal on all grounds except to save an endangered mother-to-be’s life. Jane, whose real name was Norma McCorvey and who came from poverty and a difficult background, disagreed with this. She took the stance that a woman should have the agency to choose whether or not they wanted an abortion (pro-choice view). 

The case was finally decided in 1973 by the Supreme Court, when the abortion ban that had blocked McCorvey three years before was lifted. It legalized abortion nationally, ruling that restricting abortion in such a way was unconstitutional. 

So how does this all connect? History and its context have an extreme connection to current social issues. Roe v. Wade still affects our politics, and many people still disagree with it, challenge it, reflect on it, and much more. And according to Planned Parenthood, “73% of the American public oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.”

However, President Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court could change how abortion rights are reflected in the American government. Barrett holds very religious views, having taught at Notre Dame University. Though she has been somewhat cryptic during her hearing, she is strongly pro-life and doesn’t support abortion. If she is confirmed to the Court, Barrett could overturn Roe v. Wade. The law would then move down to state governments. And in Texas, a state that has a history of conservative views when it comes to abortion, it’s possible a woman’s right to choose could be denied. 

Sexism and women’s issues will never not be important. The simple fact is that abortion laws in the United States have a long and turbulent history. What about the rest of the country? Interestingly, 41 European countries allow women to get abortions “on request,” while 6 do not, according to The Center For Reproductive Rights. The pro-life governments are in the minority and across the board, European women are given the right to choose.

The issue essentially lays in the same balance it did nearly a half-century ago. The uncertainty and the clashing of conservative and liberal values have not subsided and are making louder noise than ever. Abortion is certainly a controversial issue, and to get anything done, the best thing to do is act. Vote if you can, petition, march, inform yourself. It begins with learning about the history of laws like this one. Fight for what you believe in.