Roe v Wade 49th Anniversary: Analysis

January 22, 2022 marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v Wade. It might be the landmark ruling’s last anniversary. 

In 1969, Norma McCorvey, who is known in the case as Jane Roe, sought out a safe and legal abortion in Texas. At that time, however, women in Texas could only get an abortion if their life itself was at risk. She challenged the law, arguing that the right to privacy protects a woman’s right to an abortion.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in her favor, striking down the Texas law in a 7 to 2 vote. It effectively legalized abortions across the United States. 

For decades before, women had to seek out illegal abortions. A patchwork-like approach to abortion laws like existed before the landmark Roe v Wade precedent, with only some states protecting a woman’s right to access a safe abortion. Some traveled far for underground clinics for access to even an illegal abortion. Some women died in the process.

Last year, Texas passed one of the most restrictive abortion laws. It effectively makes private citizens bounty hunters, incentivizing them to sue anyone and everyone who could help someone get an abortion, from Uber drivers to providers. 

Yesterday, the Supreme Court said that the Texas law could continue to remain in effect indefinitely, in a huge blowback to women’s rights and abortion rights.

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to speed up the ongoing court case and declined to order a federal appeals court to return the case to the federal judge who had previously temporarily blocked the enforcement of the law until the legality of it was heard. Therefore, the ban is likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future. 

Texas is just one of 21 states that are currently keeping their fingers crossed that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v Wade when it hears the Mississippi case challenging it, to take place in June. The Mississippi case could roll back limits on abortion laws that were cemented by Roe v Wade. If it rules in favor of the anti-abortion law, other states have “trigger laws” that will go into effect immediately upon the ruling. 

Nationwide polls, however, suggest that the vast majority of all Americans support abortion rights. Despite this, conservative GOP leaders and the conservative-stacked Supreme Court seem intent on rolling it back. 

If this is the last year of Roe v Wade, women will find it difficult to have access to safe and legal abortions. Adding to the challenges will be state-specific barriers, transportation to the centers that provide abortions, and a lack of childcare coverage. 

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