What is Roe v. Wade?  

A leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision suggests the country’s highest court could be poised to overturn the constitutional right to abortion, allowing individual states to more heavily regulate or even ban the procedure.

Roe v. Wade is the name of the lawsuit that led to the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion in the United States. The majority opinion found an absolute right to abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy.

What does ‘Roe v. Wade’ refer to?

Jane Roe was a pseudonym for Norma McCorvey, who was 22, unmarried, unemployed and pregnant for the third time in 1969 when she sought to have an abortion in Texas. By the time the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in her favor, McCorvey had given birth to a girl whom she placed for adoption.

Who were Roe and Wade?

Henry Wade was the district attorney of Dallas County, Texas. It was his job to enforce a state law prohibiting abortion except to save a woman’s life, so he was the person McCorvey sued when she sought the abortion.

The plaintiff alleged that Texas law was unconstitutionally vague and violated her constitutionally protected right to personal privacy. The question before the U.S. Supreme Court was: Does the Constitution recognize a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy by abortion?

What did the court decide in 1973?

At the time of Roe, abortion was broadly legal in just four states and allowed under limited circumstances in 16 others. Constitutional rights trump state laws, so the court’s decision nullified the bans in the remaining 30 states.

What was the pre-Roe landscape in the U.S.?

Blackmun was still on the court in 1992, when it heard Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a challenge to Pennsylvania abortion laws that included a 24-hour waiting period. The conservative-leaning court unexpectedly upheld the right to abortion —while also making it easier for states to impose regulations.

How have later decisions altered abortion rights in America?

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. It challenges Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks.

What is this new case that’s poised to topple Roe?