Women’s health is world health

Grace DeKoker, Editor-in-Chief

In the wake of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice, Democrats have lost the Supreme Court majority. A Republican ideal for many years has ben to overturn Roe v. Wade, which, among other things, recognized that a woman’s right to privacy “is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”

In 1969, a 21 year-old woman named Norma McCorvey discovered she was pregnant, and did not want the child. She went to Dallas, Texas, where she was advised to lie to medical officials and say she was raped in an attempt to have an abortion. At the time, Texas law allowed abortion in cases of rape and incest, though her plan was unsuccessful because there were no police reports to back up her alleged and fake rape. Furthermore, the Texas statute allowed abortion only ”for the purpose of saving the life of the mother, ” and as a last-resort rather than an option for women to have. McCorvey was desperate, and decided to seek out an illegal abortion, though she was unsuccessful in finding someone to perform it. Eventually, she was referred to attorneys Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington. In 1970, Coffee and Weddington filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas on behalf of McCorvey (under a fake name, Jane Roe). The defendant in the case was Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade, who represented the State of Texas. June 17, 1970, a three-judge panel of the District Court unanimously declared the Texas law unconstitutional, finding that it violated the right to privacy found in the Ninth Amendment.

McCorvey wasn’t satisfied yet. The case reached the Supreme Court later in 1970. After a first round of arguments, all seven justices tentatively agreed that the Texas law should be struck down, but on varying grounds. Chief Justice at the time Warren Burger gave the task of writing the Court’s opinion in Roe to Justice Harry Blackmun, whose preliminary draft targeted the vagueness of the laws surrounding abortion in Texas. Blackmun felt that his opinion was not indicative of his more liberal colleagues’ views, so in May 1972 he proposed the case be pushed back and reargued.

The case was reargued on October 11, 1972. Weddington continued to represent Roe, and Texas Assistant Attorney General Robert C. Flowers replaced Jay Floyd for Texas. Blackmun spent the summer recess perfecting his opinion, and even spent time researching the history of abortion at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. There were two abortion-centered cases being considered at the time, but a justice pushed for Roe to be the lead of the two. Blackmun finalized his opinion, and the Court issued its decision on January 22, 1973, with a 7-to-2 majority vote in favor of Roe.

Blackmun created a trimester framework on behalf of the court, in order to balance the right to abortion with the government’s two legitimate interests of protecting the mother’s health and protecting the “potentiality of human life,” or the fetus. The trimester framework laid out when abortion would be acceptable, and when it wouldn’t be, some of which was left up to the states to specify. A few minor adjustments have been made since then, most of which have been made to increase the rights of the mother in such a situation.

It was wrong that McCorvey lied about being raped. But it was terribly sad that she had to, in order to try and get an abortion in her home state.