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Roe v. Wade (1973)

In Brief

Roe v. Wade (1973): Court announces right to abortion under the U.S. Constitution

1n 1854 Texas law prohibited abortion except "for the purpose of saving the life of the mother." "Jane Roe" (Norma McCorvey) was denied an elective abortion under the law. She filed suit claiming the Texas law deprived her of constitutional rights.

The Supreme Court ruled in her favor, saying the Texas law violated her constitutional right to abortion. The Court acknowledged that the Constitution does not explicitly mention a right to abortion but said such a right was part of the "right to privacy" (another implied right in the Constitution, according to Griswold and Eisenstadt, above.)

The central holding of the Court was that abortion must be permitted for any reason a woman chooses until the child becomes viable; after viability, abortion must be permitted if necessary to protect a woman's "health." The Court incorporated its broad definition of "health" in Doe v. Bolton, below.

The Court also concluded that a fetus is not a person for purposes of the Constitution and therefore does not have a constitutional right to life.

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