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calendar   Monday - January 22, 2007

On This Day In History

Roe v. Wade: High Court Rules Abortions Legal the First 3 Months
(NEW YORK TIMES) - January 22, 1973

imageimageThe Supreme Court overruled today all state laws that prohibit or restrict a woman’s right to obtain an abortion during her first three months of pregnancy. The vote was 7 to 2.

In a historic resolution of a fiercely controversial issue, the Court drafted a new set of national guidelines that will result in broadly liberalized anti-abortion laws in 46 states but will not abolish restrictions altogether.

Establishing an unusually detailed timetable for the relative legal rights of pregnant women and the states that would control their acts, the majority specified the following:

For the first three months of pregnancy the decision to have an abortion lies with the woman and her doctor; and the state’s interest in her welfare is not “compelling” enough to warrant any interference.

For the next six months of pregnancy a state may “regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health,” such as licensing and regulating the persons and facilities involved.

For the last 10 weeks of pregnancy, the period during which the fetus is judged to be capable of surviving if born, any state may prohibit abortions if it wishes, except where they may be necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.

Today’s action will not affect existing laws in New York, Alaska, Hawaii and Washington, where abortions are now legally available in the early months of pregnancy. But it will require rewriting of statutes in every other state.

The basic Texas case decided by the Court today will invalidate strict anti-abortion laws in 31 states; a second decision involving Georgia will require considerable rewriting of more liberal statutes in 15 others.

Justice Harry A. Blackmun wrote the majority opinion in which Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Justices William O. Douglas, William J. Brennan Jr., Potter Stewart, Thurgood Marshall and Lewis F. Powell Jr. joined. Dissenting were Justices Byron R. White and William H. Rehnquist.

Justice White, calling the decision “an exercise of raw judicial power,” wrote that “the court apparently values the convenience of the pregnant mother more than the continued existence and development of the life or potential life which she carries.”

The Court’s decision was at odds with the expressed views of President Nixon. Last May, in a letter to Cardinal Cooke, he opposed “liberalized abortion policies” and spoke out for “the right to life of literally hundreds of thousands of unborn children.”

But three of the four Justices Mr. Nixon has appointed to the Supreme Court voted with the majority, with only Mr. Rehnquist dissenting. The majority rejected the idea that a fetus becomes a “person” upon conception and is thus entitled to the due process and equal protection guarantees of the Constitution. This view was pressed by opponents of liberalized abortion, including the Roman Catholic Church.

Justice Blackmun concluded that “the word ‘person,’ as used in the 14th Amendment, does not include the unborn,” although states may acquire, “at some point in time” of pregnancy, an interest in the “potential human life” that the fetus represents, to permit regulation.

It is that interest, the Court said, that permits states to prohibit abortion during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy, after the fetus has developed the capacity to survive.

In both cases decided today, the plaintiffs had based their protest on an assertion that state laws limiting the availability of abortion had circumscribed rights and freedoms guaranteed them by the Constitution: due process of law, equal protection of the laws, freedom of action and a particular privacy involving a personal and family matter.

In its decision on the challenge to the Georgia abortion law, the high court majority struck down several requirements that a woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy in that state would have to meet.

Both of today’s cases wound up with anonymous parties wining victories over state officials. In the Texas case, “Jane Roe,” an unmarried pregnant woman who was allowed to bring the case without further identity, was the only plaintiff after the Supreme Court disqualified a doctor and a childless couple who said that the wife’s health would be endangered by pregnancy.

In the Georgia case, the surviving plaintiff was “Mary Doe,” who, when she brought the action, was a 22-year-old married woman 11 weeks pregnant with her fourth child.

Today: The following graph is from: “Roe v. Wade: The divided states of America” (USA TODAY) - April 17, 2006

image


It should be noted that pro-abortion activists (who call themselves “Pro-Choice") have continued to push the limits of the original court ruling again and again to the point where a procedure known as “Intact dilation and extraction” (also known as “Partial Birth Abortion") was developed in 1983 and came into use during the 1990’s in several states. Here is the medical description of the procedure (from Wikipedia):

Preliminary procedures are performed over a period of 2–3 days, to gradually dilate the cervix using laminaria tents (sticks of seaweed which absorb fluid and swell). Sometimes drugs such as synthetic pitocin are used to induce labor. Once the cervix is sufficiently dilated, the doctor uses an ultrasound and forceps to grasp the fetus’ leg. The fetus is turned to a breech position, if necessary, and the doctor pulls one or both legs out of the birth canal, causing what is referred to by some people as the ‘partial birth’ of the fetus. The doctor subsequently extracts the rest of the fetus, usually without the aid of forceps, leaving only the head still inside the birth canal. An incision is made at the base of the skull and a suction catheter is inserted into the cut. The brain tissue is removed, which causes the skull to collapse and allows the fetus to pass more easily through the birth canal. The placenta is removed and the uterine wall is vacuum aspirated using a suction curette.

The procedure was recently banned in 2003 when the House and Senate passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (Public Law 108-105, HR 760, S 3) and was signed into law by President Bush.

In 2005, Norma McCorvey, who was the “Jane Roe” who challenged the Texas anti-abortion law in the famous case, appeared on “Hannity & Colmes” and described how she had become a born-again Christian and was working to pressure the Supreme Court to reverse its 1973 decision. In recent years, she has become a outspoken opponent of abortion, arguing that the procedure may harm women and goes against Christian teachings.


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Posted by The Skipper   United States  on 01/22/2007 at 01:11 PM   
Filed Under: • AbortionHistory •  
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Not that very many people ever read this far down, but this blog was the creation of Allan Kelly and his friend Vilmar. Vilmar moved on to his own blog some time ago, and Allan ran this place alone until his sudden and unexpected death partway through 2006. We all miss him. A lot. Even though he is gone this site will always still be more than a little bit his. We who are left to carry on the BMEWS tradition owe him a great debt of gratitude, and we hope to be able to pay that back by following his last advice to us all:
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