Land of the Free Just Got a Little Less Free: The Overturn of Roe v. Wade

Anti-abortion demonstrators outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., US, on Friday, June 24, 2022. A deeply divided Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and wiped out the constitutional right to abortion, issuing a historic ruling likely to render the procedure largely illegal in half the country. Photographer: Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Brief History of Roe v. Wade

On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court officially overturned the Roe v. Wade case of 1973, limiting the constitutional right of women to undergo abortions. This decision concerns the ruling of a landmark case initially held in 1973 filed by Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe), a pregnant, single woman who was carrying an unwanted pregnancy, and Henry Wade, a district attorney of Dallas county and strong enforcer of Texas abortion laws.

At the time of Roe’s pregnancy, the Texas abortion statutes of 1961 (Articles 1191-1194 and 1196 of the Texas Penal Code) essentially stated that procuring, performing, and funding abortion is punishable by law. Article 1194 especially noted that the death of a mother as a result of abortion or attempted abortion is considered murder. These are the same laws that Roe v. Wade would overturn. However, an exception to these laws lies in article 1196, stating that “nothing in this chapter applies to an abortion procured or attempted by medical advice to save the life of the mother”.

Soon after finding out about her pregnancy, Roe met with two recently-graduated Dallas attorneys, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who were seeking a way to challenge the Texas abortion laws. They filed a case in the US District Court of North Texas for Roe, arguing that state laws were “unfair” and “unconstitutionally vague.” They also declared that the laws diminished her rights of personal privacy protected by the first, fourth, fifth, ninth, and fourteenth amendments. Roe’s team sought a declaration that the statutes were unconstitutional and an injunction to restrict Wade from enforcing the laws.

In June of 1970, the court recognized the statute’s vagueness and ordered that the laws violated the constitutional right to privacy, specifically under the ninth amendment. However, after the courts still denied Roe’s demands for an injunction despite the official violation of the laws, both sides cross-appealed as Wade pursued the statute’s validity and Roe continued to seek injunctions against the statute’s enforcement. Almost a year later, in 1971, the US Supreme Court decided to take on the case only after making decisions on two related cases. One was the Doe v Bolton case, which took place that same day. In December of 1971, arguments of the case began.

After prolonging the case and another round of arguments in the fall of 1972, the court arrived at a 7-2 majority ruling in favor of Roe in 1973. The court solved the vagueness by dividing pregnancy into 3-month trimesters and issuing abortion limits based on which trimester a woman is in. Within the first trimester of pregnancy, the state has no right to regulate a woman’s decision on abortion. The decision is solely up to the woman and her attending physician. In the second trimester, the state may regulate decisions regarding abortion concerning the mother’s health. In the third trimester, the fetus is to have reached a viable state, giving the state power to regulate or prohibit entirely, with all laws presenting exceptions for when abortion is necessary for the health and life of the mother.

The Current Situation

Over the years, the laws have changed a lot, as seen in the Texas heartbeat bill, which made abortions illegal after an embryonic cardiac activity is seen (usually around the 6-week mark; first trimester). However, an even more significant change occurred at 10:36 AM EST on June 24, 2022, as the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, giving each state the power to determine its abortion rights unless Congress acts. A conservative 6-3 majority spearheaded the ruling to uphold a republican-backed Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and a 5-4 ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote in defense of overturning the case:

The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

So far, more than half the states expect to pass laws banning abortions, and some already have! At least 21 states already have restrictions on abortions, making them very likely to ban abortions as soon as possible. Kentucky, Louisiana, and South Dakota are a few states that put the bans to effect immediately after the decision.

Women across the country are responding to this decision, emphasizing the compromise of women’s rights that this decision introduced to America. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is one of these women, as she said:

Today the Republican-controlled courts achieve their dark, extreme goal of repealing a woman’s right to make their own health decisions.

But many people are also wondering where this decision will lead us. Alexander Sanger, the former president of Planned Parenthood New York, said in an interview:

You cannot make abortion go away by criminalizing it. All you do is make it unsafe. You put women at risk.

In the 1950s and 60s, only upper-class women who could travel to other countries for the procedure could afford abortions, thus leaving lower-class women to undergo dangerous “back-alley” or self-induced abortions. The estimated number of illegal abortions in this time ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million. Even before, abortions caused a stark 18% of maternal deaths in 1930, according to Guttmacher Institute.

Who’s to say this overturning won’t spark a similar rise in maternal mortality? 

So what’s next for America? Many people are worried that the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade could give way to other extremist ideas such as banning LGBTQ+ marriages and contraceptive restrictions. This overturn has shown that the US government has abandoned concepts of free will and self-autonomy, causing many to realize that our time is now. We must speak out, we must protest, and we must fight with all our will to save this country from the significant devolutionary path for the sake of OUR fundamental liberties, OUR bodily sovereignty, OUR health, and OUR lives. OUR bodies are OUR decisions, and in no circumstance regarding this matter is it the place for anyone else to condition OUR birthright of autonomy.

Works Cited

Gold, Rachel Benson. “Lessons from before Roe: Will Past Be Prologue?” Guttmacher Institute, 14 Sept. 2018, 

Person, and Andrew Chung Lawrence Hurley. “U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade, Curtailing Abortion Rights.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 24 June 2022, 

“Roe v. Wade.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 

“Roe v. Wade.” Oyez, Accessed 24 Jun. 2022.

Shafer, Ronald G. “Who Was Jane Roe, and How Did She Transform Abortion Rights?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 5 May 2022, 

Totenberg, Nina, and Sarah McCammon. “Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade, Ending Right to Abortion Upheld for Decades.” NPR, NPR, 24 June 2022,