Roe versus Wade is one of the best known Supreme Court cases.
The issue is whether a healthy woman has a right to end a pregnancy through an abortion. In Texas in the early 1970s, state law barred such operations.
A 22-year-old pregnant woman living in Texas questioned whether the law was constitutional. For this case, the woman was called “Jane Roe.” Roe was not married. She had little money or education. She wanted to end the pregnancy safely.
So Roe brought legal action against a state official, Henry Wade, for the right to get an abortion at any time, for any reason.
Roe both failed and succeeded.
By the time her case reached the Supreme Court, she had given birth and put the baby up for adoption. And the justices rejected her argument that women have an unrestricted right to abortion.
But a majority said women were permitted to end a pregnancy in the first 13 weeks. That decision, they argued, was protected by a constitutional right to privacy.
Legal experts, activists, lawmakers, and other Americans have debated the ruling ever since.
But the debate did not persuade justices to overrule Roe versus Wade. In 1992, another abortion case came before the Supreme Court. By a narrow majority, the justices upheld the earlier decision.
Kelly Jean Kelly wrote this report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
overturn - v. to decide that a ruling or decision is wrong and change it
uphold - v. to judge a legal decision to be correct : to decide not to change a verdict