The name of the case Roe v. Wade is familiar to many people in the United States. So is its main impact, to establish a constitutional right to abortion — which it did exactly 40 years ago today.
That said, many fewer people know the details, both of the factual case and of the case’s finding. Do you?
What did abortion law look like at the time?
At the time the facts immediately behind the case started, abortion statutes varied by state, though most states restricted abortion significantly. In Texas, where Norma McCorvey (“Jane Roe”) lived, the law prohibited “procuring or attempting an abortion” except to save the mother’s life.
Who was “Jane Roe,” and why did she sue?
“Jane Roe” was Norma McCorvey, a single woman who learned she was pregnant. In 1970, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington brought suit on her behalf under the alias of Jane Roe. They asserted that the Texas law violated the Constitution on the grounds “that the Texas Abortion Laws deprive married couples and single women of the right to choose whether to have children” (N.D. Texas Opinion of U.S. District Court June (17,) (1970) – Per Curiam:). Continue reading